Why John Legend Was the Only Artist to Speak Out Against R. Kelly in Lifetime Docu-Series

The project focuses on women who allegedly underwent sexual, mental and physical abuse by the singer, who has denied any misconduct.

By Corinne Heller Jan 04, 2019 4:22 PMTags
John Legend, R. Kelly Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Glamour; Prince Williams/WireImage

John Legend says speaking out against R. Kelly in the Lifetime docu-series Surviving R. Kelly was an "easy decision," calling the fellow singer a "serial child rapist."

The project premiered on Thursday and focuses on women who allegedly underwent sexual, mental and physical abuse by the singer. Kelly has denied any misconduct and in addition, his lawyer has threatened to sue Lifetime, according to TMZ. Kelly has not commented publicly on Legend's latest remarks about him.

"R. Kelly has brought so much pain to so many people," Legend says in the docu-series. "#TimesUp for R. Kelly."

After the first episode aired, Legend tweeted on Friday, "To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn't feel risky at all. I believe these women and don't give a f--k about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision."

Stars Who Have Spoken Out Against R. Kelly

Legend was not the only music artist to be asked to take part in Surviving R. Kelly but he was the only one who agreed to do so.

"When it comes to celebrities, It was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated [artistically] with Kelly to come forward," the show's executive producer, Dream Hampton, told the Detroit Free Press. "We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle. (They're) people who have been critical of him. That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me."

"We should all thank my friend @dreamhampton for her very necessary work to create #SurvivingRKelly," Legend tweeted. "These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice."

Legend had also spoken out in the past against Kelly; Last April, the Time's Up movement pledged support for a #MuteRKelly campaign, which began after the abuse allegations came to light, and Legend also tweeted in support of it. The following July, Kelly released the track "I Admit," which addresses the allegations and also mentions the "All of Me" singer.

"I admit it / I love Steve Harvey. John Legend, and Tom Joyner / They're doing good in their lives right now / Why would they wanna tear down another brother (tear down) / Women show black men some love (yeah) / 'Cause black men, we go through enough (oh)," Kelly sings.

In 2017, several parents of alleged victims claimed the singer was keeping their daughters against their will in an abusive "cult." One of the women named, Jocelyn Savage later told TMZ she was "not being brainwashed." Kelly's attorney had said in a statement at the time that the singer "is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him" and "unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."

"I Admit" includes the lyrics, "I admit that I am not perfect, I never said I was perfect / Said I'm abusing these women, what the f--k that's some absurd s--t / They're brainwashed, really? / Kidnapped, really? / Can't eat, really? / Real talk, that s--t sound silly," and "What's the definition of a cult? / What's the definition of a sex slave? / Go to the dictionary, look it up / Let me know, I'll be here waiting."

Hampton told Shadow and Act that "John Legend was the only one" who participated in the docu-series, adding that she had also asked Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim.

"But they all said no," she said. "I mean, most people just don't want to touch it. I remember Ahmir ["Questlove" Thompson] was like, 'I would do anything for you but I can't do this.' It's not because they support him, it's because it's so messy and muddy. It's that turning away that has allowed this to go on."

On Thursday, a Twitter user asked Questlove why he declined to talk about Kelly for the docu-series.

"I always thought Kels was trash," the musician replied in a tweet that have since been deleted. "My reason for declining the R.Kelly docu that I support 10000000 percent is I didn't wanna be in the 'good times' portion of the doc, like stanning for his 'genius.' I was asked to talk about his genius. I do not nor have I EVER stanned for him...That quote makes it look like I'm protecting him. I'm thinking 'damn I don't wanna be the one guy I always am in documentaries fawning over someone I detest. So make ZERO mistake on my positioning.'"

Hampton later responded to Questlove on Twitter, and also deleted her own tweets.

"I'm sorry that this quote has caused you grief," she wrote. "You didn't want to talk about him, no one did. But I think that not talking abt him has been a kind of pass, which is what I said. Didn't mean for you to stand out in that quote...I didn't ask you about his 'Genius.' I've never thought he was a genius. I asked you to come on camera and say the same thing you said on Twitter. I told you I need Black male allies."