A mixture of relief and disbelief greeted the guilty verdict in the sex trafficking trial of singer R. Kelly, the most high profile musician brought down in the #MeToo era.
Kelly, once one of the biggest selling R&B singers with hits like “I Can Believe I Can Fly,” was convicted on all nine counts after some 25 years of using his fame and wealth to lure underage girls and women for sex.
“We hope this verdict brings some sense of justice to the brave survivors who came forward,” tweeted the MuteRKelly campaign that was founded by two Black women in 2017 to try to get his music off the airwaves.
Lifetime television and the producers of the award-winning 2019 documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” which highlighted the harrowing experiences of multiple women, echoed those sentiments.
“We commend the survivors for their bravery in speaking out and sharing their stories. Regardless of what the verdict is, they have opened up important conversations on sexual abuse that needed to happen,” Lifetime and the documentary producers said in a statement.
Kelly, whose music is still available on streaming platforms, still has supporters, some of whom gathered outside the court in Brooklyn during the trial to cheer lawyers and jeer prosecutors.
“They don’t wanna see a Black man winning,” wrote a poster on Twitter called Zapac Zhakur on Monday under the hashtag #FreeRKelly.
“They should’ve let the world see the trial I don’t trust any of this I don’t trust any of those women they are all lying,” tweeted another supporter, Samara Central, who complained that the five-week trial was not televised.
Kelly, now 54, was dropped by his record company RCA in early 2019 shortly after the Lifetime documentary was aired.
After the documentary was broadcast, some of the musicians who had previously collaborated with him, including Lady Gaga, Celine Dion and Chance the Rapper, issued apologies or asked for those recordings to be taken down from streaming services.
Kelly’s music has largely disappeared from radio airplay but is still available on streaming platforms. Data from music tracking service MRC showed that streams had remained largely steady between 2017 and 2021, at about five to six million a week.
Music publication Billboard reported last month that Kelly, whose last album was released in 2016, was trying to sell the rights to his back catalogue but had yet to find a buyer.
Merck Mercuriadis, whose Hipgnosis Songs Fund has recently bought the rights to songs from the likes of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, said he was not interested in R. Kelly’s catalogue.
“We have no interest in the R Kelly catalogue. There is a strong principle here of supporting the feelings and beliefs of our songwriting community – both women and men – that is more important than economic opportunity,” Mercuriadis said in a statement on Monday.