In early October 2017, Hollywood’s world was turned upside down when industry giant, Harvey Weinstein was taken down after the New York Times published a story detailing decades of sexual assault allegations against him. In the months that followed, women everywhere began sharing their experiences of sexual assault both in and out of the workplace. Notable actresses in the industry, came together to form the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, providing monetary assistance to those wanting to take legal action against sexual abusers in their respective workplace. This new awareness and sense of unity among women led to the fall from grace of men who previously thought of themselves as untouchable. These men include, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, James Franco and many others.
Although many believe progress has been made, there are many more who wonder why in the music industry, alleged abusers seem to be thriving still in this new MeToo era. Musicians such as XXX Tentacion, Kodak Black and R. Kelly have been accused of violence against women, however unlike in the film and television industry, the court of public opinion has not turned against them and their careers have not been negatively impacted. In 2016 Kodak Black was charged with the sexual assault of a teenage girl and XXX Tentacion was charged with aggravated assault of a pregnant woman. The trail for both of these incidents have yet to take place, so neither one has been proven innocent or guilty and their crimes remain alleged crimes. Despite these accusations, XXX Tentacion’s first studio album “17,” released in 2017, reached number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, his second studio album “?”, released in early 2018, reached number 1 and his third and final album “Skins”, released late 2018, also reached number 1. Similar to XXX Tentacion, Kodak Black has also received success despite the allegations against him. In 2017 his debut album “Painting Pictures” premiered at number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and his second album in 2018 “Dying to Live” debuted at number 1.
A prime example of the music industry’s willingness to look the other way is R. Kelly. In late 2018, Lifetime released a six part documentary series about R. Kelly’s controversial past and his cycle of abuse of young girls. The series featured over fifty interviews from activists and industry people such as Tanara Burke, John Legend, Sparkle and Wendy Williams as well as members of Kelly’s family. The series sparked outrage after outlining how the radio continued to play his music and fans continued to overlook his behavior, claiming he could never have committed those acts despite the video evidence. Even years later in the MeToo era, his continued behavior is still pushed aside to make room for the rise of his record sales. Earlier this week R. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse after four victims, ranging from age 13-16 came forward with their accusations.
It will be interesting to see what the turnout will be this time, as it is not Kelly’s first time facing charges. In 2003 he was arrested and tried on 21 counts of possession of child pornography, in which he was depicted having relations with minors, but was found not guilty and thereafter embraced by the music industry. His career did not falter one step and his behavior continued. In the new hyperaware and politically correct culture it will be interesting to see which side of the coin the verdict will land on. The court of public opinion, at least in the world I live in, is very much against R. Kelly, but it is hard to predict the outcome in his case. Just take the rise in his record sales after the premiere of the Lifetime documentary as an example that it is hard to change people’s minds, especially when it comes to a musical icon. R. Kelly continues to deny the allegations as he has done for all these years.
I guess all we can do is wait and see if the music industry will catch up to the rest of the world, or if it will stay stuck in the past.