Despite his trial and all that tribulation, R. Kelly remains a man of the people. The legal people, that is.
"I have some 19-year-old friends. But I don't like anybody illegal, if that's what we're talking about, underage," he said recently when asked during an interview with BET News whether he has a thing for teenage girls.
A half-hour special, featuring the R&B star's first public sit-down since being acquitted on child pornography charges in June, aired last night on the cable network.
While BET correspondent Toure didn't directly address the accusation that, nearly a decade ago, Kelly made a videotape of himself having sex with a then-13-year-old girl, he did ask the "Trapped in the Closet" purveyor—who continued to tour and make platinum-selling albums while being investigated by Chicago authorities for years—about his state of mind throughout the ordeal.
"To be honest, I felt like I was in jail the last seven years," Kelly said. "A lot was taken away from me...It was hell. I wouldn't wish it on nobody."
Admitting that he was nervous "as hell" that he would be found guilty, Kelly said that he was "very prayerful" in court.
"Verdict day...I couldn't describe it and I wouldn't wish it on—if I had a worst enemy, which I don't."
He just has many, many 19-and-over acquaintances.
"When you're me, when you're R. Kelly, everybody wants a piece of you, and if you don't give 'em a piece they'll find a way to get a piece of you one way or the other," the Grammy winner said, giving his take on how he became the target of such shady accusations.
"I've been blackmailed a billion times in my career—before the trial, during the trial, after the trial...I've been sued for stuff that—ridiculous things, you know. At one point in my life, I was an ATM machine...People would come up and push whatever, and if it don't come out they'll go tell somebody this or they'll go run and say this, run and say that. I'm used to that."
On second thought, however, he added, "You know, you don't get used to it."
But now, with an acquittal under his belt and wielding a message for his fans—"Have your own opinion of what you think about me"—Kelly feels more than ready to put this chapter of his life behind him.
"It's time for me to move on," he said. "I can't keep answering these questions. If you was charged with something and you were found innocent, then you can't be found guilty for being found innocent."
The Chicago-bred singer is back in the studio working on his next offering to the smooth-groove gods. And, wisely, Kelly is opting to keep it clean(er).
"I'm really trying to make this album...a little bit different," he said. "Take a little bit of the edge off, you know? And, you know, clean up a few lyrics if I can."