R. Kelly in his own words
interview took place in May, 2002.)
For the last
three months, R. Kelly has been facing serious allegations of
statutory rape and child pornography, involving a videotape which
surfaced that allegedly shows the singer having sex with an underage
girl (Chicago police continue to investigate the matter). While
the singer has defended himself via local Chicago media, he had
yet to address the matter on a national level — until last
to speak with MTV News' John Norris on Thursday morning (May 9)
in Atlanta, with one stipulation — MTV News could ask him
anything, so long as we didn't whip out the videotape in question
and make him look at it. Even though we could ask anything, he
didn't necessarily answer everything (on the advice of his lawyer,
who was also in the room). Kelly did open up about having what
he called a "problem with women," for which he said
he's seeking help. Despite this, he categorically denied being
the man in the tape — a tape which he said he has not yet
seen — and insisted it must have been doctored. Here, Kelly
talks about the scandal, the backlash and the effect both have
had on him.
It's been three months since this videotape surfaced at the Chicago
Sun-Times, and it's now in the hands of the Chicago police. For
the most part during that time you haven't said anything. Can
you tell me why you decided to speak out now?
R. Kelly: For the fans. For me. My life, my family. Of course
lawyers tell you when things like this happen you don't say a
word. From the beginning I wanted to speak — believe me,
I was gritting my teeth every time I would hear something negative
about me or something that's not true about me. It hurt me and
I wanted to say something really bad, but unfortunately, even
now I have one hand tied behind my back. But I had to come out
and say something, because I know my fans are out there and they
want to hear me talk. Everybody else wants to hear me talk. I
wanted to hear myself talk.
and your lawyers have already stated that no videotape exists
of you engaged in sex with an underage woman.
understand you haven't seen this one tape in question.
I was told you don't want to see it. Is that right?
Kelly: I have
no interest in seeing anything that I know I haven't done. It
would make me look bad to go look at something that is not me.
don't have any desire to see this so you can refute it?
when all of this is over I'd say, "Well let me see that thing,
let me see what it is," but right now it doesn't make sense
for me to want to see something that is not me. First of all,
if it's as disgusting as people say it is and as crazy as people
say it is ... I have no interest in seeing some man with a woman
whether she's underage or not underage, I have no interest in
sex in general is not that unheard of. One could argue that Pam
and Tommy Lee's careers were revived as a result of their tape
coming out. Have you ever taped your sexual encounters?
done a lot of things that I regret. I've done a lot of things
that are wrong. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of time to lay
out all of my sins. I got a lot that's in me that I'm dealing
with personally, and I'm seeking help. I've been talking to a
pastor, Reverend Meeks in Chicago, and he's been counseling me
on some personal things that I'm going through. But I'm not a
guy that would do what people are saying. There are a lot of people
out there saying that R. Kelly is a monster, and I just think
there are a lot of people out there that are misinformed about
who I am.
said you've done some things wrong. I wouldn't call videotaping
sex something wrong, but would you rather not talk about whether
that's something you've done in the past?
claims her 14-year-old niece is the girl on the tape in question.
Kelly says he was 'like a godfather' to the girl ...
Kelly: I'm not gonna lie. I'm not gonna sit here and say I'm some
angel or some perfect guy, but there's things that people have
done in their lives that they regret, and I'm no different. I'm
a human being, and I want people to know that I'm no angel here
but I'm no monster either. I'm no guy that would do this.
there are other tapes that now have been out, not only with the
paper and the police, but out on the street as well, that purport
to show you in sexual situations with women, whether they are
of age or underage. Is it possible that some of those tapes are
actually depicting you?
Kelly: I'm not gonna say yeah or nay to that, because there's
a lot of things that I've done in my life that I truly regret,
but I'm no criminal.
know this industry, and I know that there are people offering
all kinds of things to you when you've achieved any degree of
success, and I know how easy it is to capitalize on those offers.
When you've been in situations with women, has the question of
whether they've been of age been a concern to you? Is that something
you want to make sure is cool before you get involved with someone?
has always been a question in my mind most of the time, but I'm
not gonna sit and lie. I'm not gonna I.D. people, because most
of the times I meet women it's in clubs, and in clubs they're
supposed to be 21 and over. A lot of times when I meet a woman
it's coming from an aftershow party. I go to the party and there
are all kinds of women there and they're after you, and sometimes
I'm after them, too. And those are the things I'm trying to change,
those are the things I'm trying to work on, being with the wrong
crowd or being around a lot of women all the time and that whole
thing. The success can get out of hand and it has gotten out of
hand. I believe that's one reason why this has gotten out of hand.
you know, Stephanie Edwards, or Sparkle, as she's known, has come
out and said that the young woman on the tape in question is her
niece, and she said her niece was 14 at the time that this videotape
was made. Do you have any response to that?
Kelly: Sparkle has a very good reason to be mad at me right now.
We had a business relationship and it didn't work out because
she wanted to have somebody else produce her after her first album
was a hit, and I just didn't understand that. It's not an ego
thing, but I'm the top, I'm one of the top producers out here,
and I told her, "I produced this and I'm not gonna let somebody
else produce your album. I'm producing your album." And it
became a very big deal, and I believe a big part of it was that
she was in a relationship with this producer, and it started going
downhill ever since. She started thinking that I'm trying to tell
her what to do in the next album and she quit, she left the company
and her career went downhill. I've gotten little threats from
her and now she hates me and it's my fault.
seems like an awfully long way for her to go to carry out the
vendetta. To bring charges of this nature against you, that's
is very serious.
you know her niece?
you have any kind of relationship with her niece? Was it friendship
Kelly: I was
like a godfather to her.
it never crossed the line into anything sexual?
parents, in fact, have denied that she is the young woman in the
denied it. Her mom and her dad denied it. And a few other people
that have seen it have denied it. But that's not on TV. I wish
that was on TV as much as the other thing was.
you guess that this is some kind of fabricated tape? Perhaps it
was produced with someone who looks like you, or it's something
that someone has put together?
not a professional in that area but I do know this: It's not me,
and if it's gotten me to this point sitting in this chair talking
to you about this, then it's obvious someone who is real good
at doctoring or whatever did this.
the police contacted you yet or questioned you?
I haven't talked to the police yet.
you willing to cooperate in whatever they may need to clear yourself
man, I haven't skipped town. I'm right here working on my album
and I'm trying to just move on with my life.
ask that because sometimes investigations in cases like this can
get pretty personal and the questioning can get pretty embarrassing.
Are you ready for that kind of stuff?
already embarrassed. It's out there and everybody knows it's R.
isn't the first time allegations of this nature have come up.
Several years ago Tiffany Hawkins came forward, and that case
was settled. And more recently, Tracy Sampson, another young woman,
came forward and that was settled as well. In some people's minds,
to settle a case implies that there is some kind of guilt on your
part, as I'm sure you realize. Can you talk about why you chose
to settle those cases?
Kelly: I can understand why people would think that. You suppose
if someone were innocent they'd be ready to fight. But I want
people to know that there's a difference when you're famous. And
I wish I hadn't settled those. I can't do anything about that
now, but my lawyers told me at the time that I should settle because
I had a lot of things going on, some hits were out at the time
and it was R. Kelly rising. And at that time those people came
at me the lawyers said it was best for me not to go on with this
because it could mess up my career or whatever, and now I regret
that. I wish I would have fought. If it was today I'd fight that,
I truly would fight that.
thing that's at me now, people claiming whatever they're claiming,
I'm fighting it. I'm not settling that because I feel like I y come
forward with some allegations against you. She's claiming that
not only was she a victim of sexual abuse, but that you coerced
her into having an abortion.
not. First of all, whoever this girl is, she has two names. Two
different names were fighting that case. We're fighting that case
and we're going to win that case because there are a lot of lies
know that a lot of these cases involve young women alleging that
Robert Kelly used his influence, his promises of career possibilities
or perks with the goal of getting them in bed. Does it concern
you that this builds a certain reputation for you?
it's just about young girls, that's just not me, because I haven't
done that. But as far as women in general, I do honestly believe
that your fame has a lot to do with why you get with women. I
walk into a club and I can come out with two or three women, and
that's a problem for me. I was living the life of R. Kelly, but
that's something that I'm working on. I'm trying to change that
part of my life and make it better. I'm trying to take one step
at a time doing that.
have been rumors floating around for years. I hear people talk.
You hear people talk. Does it concern you that people are believing
this maybe because they've heard stories for years that Robert
prefers young women?
Kelly: I haven't
heard "Robert prefers young women." I haven't heard
that rumor. That's a new one on me, but I know I got a reputation
out there and I really do believe because of the two lawsuits
in the past that I settled, I do believe that me being famous
has left a trail of people trying to come at me, and then rumor
got around also that I settle things. I pay money to make it go
away. That's why I really wish I hadn't done that.
you expect more people will come out of the woodwork who you'll
have to deal with?
Yes. I really do. I don't think this is over because it started
something that's just unbelievable. Everybody is calling. Some
people call now but they don't call back after the lawyer tells
them to go screw themselves. They don't call back. Some call back.
Some don't call back. Some call back and keep calling then they
don't call back no more. Some are calling and they're not going
have heard people say that you do like younger women. Is that
a mistaken impression? You don't necessarily prefer young women
to women your age?
I go into a club, if I see a young lady that's looking at me and
I'm looking at her, and the whole eye contact thing happens and
she happens to be sexy to me or attractive to me, then I may approach
her. A lot of times I don't get to approach them because they're
think when people talk about Robert and young women a lot of them
point back to 1994 and everything that went on with your marriage
to Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time. Can you comment at all on
Kelly: I won't. Because Aaliyah is gone now and out of respect
for her and her mom and her dad, I will not discuss Aaliyah.
don't think it's relevant except in the sense that people might
say, "Well there you go. Another example of how Robert likes
young, even underage, women."
was a whole other situation, a whole other time, it was a whole
other thing and I'm sure that people also know that. But because
she's not here and because of her mom and her dad and the respect
that I have for her and her family I will not discuss her.
Best of Both Worlds had a big splashy debut and there were a lot
of high expectations for that record. Do you feel at all personally
responsible for what has to be considered a disappointing performance
chart-wise so far for that album?
at all, because I believe in my fans and I know that my fans believe
in me. They still play my music. My music is still selling. That
lets me know that this situation didn't affect that. But I believe
that people got into my personal business in the studio and got
a CD maybe six months before the project came out and started
bootlegging it, big time. If there were a way we could check the
bootlegging, I believe it would be the biggest bootlegging situation
must concern you when you hear about a radio station here or a
community group there calling for a boycott of R. Kelly music.
Kelly: I only know of one, and that really hurt me. It really
hurt me because those people don't know me. They've never seen
me and I've never seen them. And I said to myself, this has gotta
be some kind of set-up to hurt me, because why would someone be
on TV breaking my CD when they don't know the facts, when I haven't
been charged and when nobody has said, "You're guilty"?
Why break my CD? I've given you 13 years of me and my music.
until proven innocent, like the song you did with Jay-Z said.
and this is America. I've always said I've got a few issues that
I'm dealing with. In my music, I cry. It's a cry. People that
listen to me know that. They know my heart is honest about the
fact that I'm no angel here. I'm trying to come out. I got songs
that are great, beautiful, "I Believe I Can Fly" songs
and I got these "Bump N' Grind" songs, but that's a
that has always left this kind of impression that there are two
sides to R. Kelly.
are two sides to all of us. Everybody's struggling with something.
Nobody's perfect. We're all human and I'm dealing with something.
And I'm not ashamed to say I have a problem with women. But I'm
not these things that people are saying about me.
you say a problem with women, is this the problem you've been
talking to your pastor about?
that, and also just the problem with myself. Sometimes I get egotistical
and I don't wanna be like that. Sometimes I'm R. Kelly and I really
just wanna be Robert. Sometimes I'm influenced by people. You
know what I'm saying. Sometimes I wanna take a drink, sometimes
I don't, and sometimes I may do it because somebody says, "Hey
man, let's go drink." I'm growing and it's a part of growing.
You start seeing yourself for who you really are because you start
seeing life for what it really is and you start having kids and
a family and a wife and stuff. You don't want to hurt the ones
love and you don't want to make the same mistakes.
it sounds like you do have regrets about some of your behavior
over the last few years, as far as women are concerned.
as far as women or partying too much. It's not just women. Of
course I have no shame in saying I love women, and I do and I
probably always will, but I have a problem with trusting people,
just like I have a problem being around the wrong people and this
has led me to something like this. You know, people taking my
CDs out of the studio and selling them. There's an album out there
right now that they claim is my album and it's all over the place.
Somebody got it out of my studio because I got too many people
in the studio. These are things that I'm trying to change in my
life. The women thing. The so-called friends thing. I probably
spend like $2 million a year just on Chinese food and pizza for
everybody because I got these 10 people in the studio that don't
sing or that don't produce.
there anything you'd like to say to your fans, friends or anyone
— even the Sparkles of the world — about all of these
accusations being leveled against you?
Kelly: First of all, I want to apologize to my fans for all of
this and thank them for being there for me through thick and thin.
Because even in the past my fans have always been there for me
and I just want to ask them to focus on my music and don't focus
on this, just focus on the music, focus on my talent and get through
this with me. And I want to ask people out there to pray for me,
not just that I come through this situation, but that I be the
man that I want to be and a better person.
you scared of the possibility of prison time?
I'm scared of the whole situation.