Sony Music Entertainment Drops R. Kelly
RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, has now dropped R. Kelly from its roster.
The development closely follows the airing of a docu-series detailing R. Kelly’s sexual abuse allegations. The 6-part Lifetime series, titled Surviving R. Kelly, focused on a long string of accusations, including those involving brainwashing and near-slavery of women.
The documentary also prompted several survivors to come forward, none of which made R. Kelly (real name Robert Sylvester Kelly) look good.
RCA Records has not issued a statement on the matter, though R. Kelly has been removed from the label’s website as of this (Friday) morning. Variety has indicated that RCA will continue to work Kelly’s back-catalog; the artist and label have been working together since Kelly’s career started in the early 90s.
A number of artists, including Lady Gaga, have recently moved to distance themselves from Kelly. Gaga pulled a recent collaboration with the r&b superstar, titled ‘Do What U Want,’ from various streaming services. Other artists also moved to remove past collaborations (or cancel new ones).
Meanwhile, pressure continued to mount against RCA to drop the singer.
That included protests outside the Sony Music Entertainment offices this week, as well as an online #DropRKelly petition that surpassed 100,000 signatures.
A separate trending hashtag, #MuteRKelly, also emerged.
Previously, RCA had decided not release any new Kelly material. The decision to drop the artist means that R. Kelly’s 2016 release, 12 Nights of Christmas, will be his last on the label.
The move was likely a difficult one for RCA Records. Kelly himself has not been convicted of any crimes, which technically makes Sony’s decision a morality call. Previously, Spotify waded into those tricky waters by removing artists that violated its self-determined decency standards, with R. Kelly and XXXTentacion pulled. That prompted an overwhelming backlash, particularly from the hip hop community, with XXXTentacion ultimately reinstated onto the platform and Spotify ditching the initiative.
Whether Kelly decides to fight back with a lawsuit is unclear at this stage. Certainly, the singer would have grounds for unfair termination, given the lack of an actual criminal conviction (or contractual violation).
Earlier this year, the r&b singer announced that a new album was on the way. It looks like that release will now be a direct-to-fan or indie label release, if it reaches the light of day.