Infamously tight-lipped R&B star R. Kelly sat down for an unprecedentedly open interview with GQ’s Chris Heath. And unlike other interviewers who “make a perfunctory little raid on the subject, touching it just to say they did," Heath didn't dance around the topic of Kelly’s controversial history with statutory rape and child porn charges.
Kelly first explained his reason for keeping his own childhood sexual abuse a secret from his mother, who died in 1993: “I didn’t want that to be something that was in my luggage once I got to my success home, so to speak.”
The abuses, he explains in his 2012 memoir, "Soulacoaster," included a male family friend who asked Kelly to masturbate him, and a female “relative,” who repeatedly assaulted him over the course of several years when he was a child.
“As I'm older, I look at it and I know that it had to be not just about me and them, but them and somebody older than them when they were younger, and whatever happened to them when they were younger,” Kelly said. “I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don't know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family.”
Heath would later return to the idea of a “generational curse,” offering Kelly an opportunity to maybe clarify his meaning in less incriminating terminology. Instead, Kelly, for whatever misguided reason, invoked Bill Cosby.
“Generational curse doesn't mean that the curse can't be broken,” Kelly said. “Just like having no father, that's a generational curse. Which is why, when my kids were born, I was Bill Cosby in the house.”
“[L]et’s be clear there: how we saw Bill Cosby when we were coming up,” Kelly amended.
Heath asked about R. Kelly’s alleged sexual relationship with Aaliyah, who was 15 when she and the 27-year-old Kelly became acquainted.
“Well, because of Aaliyah's passing, out of respect for her mother who's sick and her father who's passed," Kelly said, "I will never have that conversation with anyone.”
Kelly’s patience—and defense—was thinnest, though, when discussing his 2008 acquittal of child porn charges stemming from a half-hour video showing a man who “looked extraordinarily like R. Kelly,” in a location that “bore an extraordinary resemblance to the wood-paneled basement of the house where Kelly lived at the time,” having sex with an alleged 14-year-old girl whom police would eventually identify as his goddaughter. Kelly was found not guilty after the girl and her parents (her father is credited as a guitarist on a number of Kelly’s songs) denied to a grand jury that it was her in the video.
Kelly then became impatient with Heath, who explained that Kelly wasn’t proven innocent, but found not guilty because the prosecution couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the girl in the video was underage.
“When a person is found not guilty, they're found not guilty,” Kelly answered. “And it doesn't matter if it's a murder case, it doesn't matter what case it is, when they're found not guilty, they're not guilty.”
Asked simply if it was him in the video: “Because of my lawyers, to this day I cannot have those kind of conversations.”
But he does maintain that he's been treated unfairly by other accusers, some of whom he has settled with financially out of court: “I think, man, abso-effing-lutely I've been treated unfair. Yes. I'm not, you know, this innocent guy with a halo over his head. No, I love women. Do I like to sleep with underage girls? Absolutely not. I've said it a million times. But do I have people trying to destroy my career? Absolutely.”
Read the full interview here.