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Step, step, step right off the stage, R., and into the loving arms of the law.

Many, many years ago, back when I was still known as the Disco Godfather, I was at a club where the deejay was dreadful.

Dude was so bad that there were only two or three couples on the dance floor. Even though the club was for grown folks, his music seemed aimed at adolescents.

"Why doesn't someone tell him he stinks?" I asked before approaching his turntable and asking, as diplomatically as possible, "Say, homes. You got any Frankie Beverly back there?"

That's when I found out why everyone else merely sat around grousing and grumbling. He turned down the music and proceeded to spew the vilest epithets imaginable, calling me names that, had there not been a huge Hennessy-swilling henchman beside him, we'd still be fighting over.

As I left the club that night, his insults still singeing my earlobes, I vowed to never again make a request of a deejay, ask anyone to change their car radio station or complain about someone else's choice of music.

Until now.

As a new year begins, there are certain people we - society - should leave behind or at least hold up to the opprobrium they deserve:

● people who don't vote but complain about the state of things

● people who let their unaccompanied small children serve themselves at Golden Corral's Chocolate Wonderfall

● people who still listen to R. Kelly's music

That's right. Anyone who thinks it's still acceptable to enjoy the musical stylings of Robert - a.k.a. "R." - Sylvester Kelly is a heartless idiot. When you think of the psychological damage he has done to countless young girls - and the psychological damage they may as a result do to their children because that's all they know - who but a heartless idiot would seek enjoyment from his music?

If you think that grooving to the syncopated backbeat on "Step in the Name Love" - the last R. song that I can name - is worth overlooking the myriad credible allegations made against R., it's time to check your priorities.

When "Step" came out in 2003 and was playing in a friend's car, I asked her how she could justify deriving any joy from a man who has been accused of sexually, physically and psychologically abusing a countless number of underage girls.

This woman, a Wall Street Journal reporter, replied "That's my jam, though."


She isn't the only one willing to separate R's execrable character from his music: the music streaming service Spotify reported that requests for R.'s music are up 16 percent since the disturbing documentary series Surviving R. Kelly aired recently.

Even before watching as much of the Lifetime documentary as I could stomach, I knew about his reported fondness for underage girls and his Houdini-like ability to escape punishment for his criminal preferences. I also knew of the infamous sex tape about which, if you have to ask, don't ask.

Women - most were girls when they met him - said in the three-night documentary that they were abused, separated from their families, forbidden to talk to anyone but "Rob."

Someone else said he had informants within the Chicago Police Department who would let him know when the posse was closing in on his mansion to conduct a "wellness" check on one of his underage paramours.

Of the six-hour series, I could only get through the first hour.

Mark Anthony Neal watched all of it. Neal, professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University and the smartest man I know, said "It's worth watching (even though) it gets progressively worse. We need to watch it because this is a conversation worth having.

"The first conversation is whether R. Kelly needs to be in jail, and the second conversation is about predators.

"He's not the only one; he just happens to be famous," he said.


Kelly has been called a "generational" talent: I'd call him something else.

When one looks at the abuse he has inflicted upon young women, we can definitely say he is a generational destroyer who should be step, step, stepping into a prison cell - or, at the least, off the stage.

It is impossible for anyone to claim they care about women and girls while still supporting R. Kelly.




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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