The arrival of Lifetime’s new docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly, has renewed scrutiny on R. Kelly’s many alleged sexual abuses against young women — as well as brought unwanted attention to the many musicians who have worked with Kelly in the past. Of the artists who were asked to appear in the series, only John Legend agreed to participate (he condemned Kelly as a “serial child rapist”). Now an interview featuring Chance the Rapper, conducted by Jamilah Lemieux of online magazine Cassius, has drawn controversy of its own.
In the May 2018 interview, which was briefly featured in the finale of Surviving R. Kelly, Chance explains why he initially disregarded the controversy surrounding Kelly. “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women,” he was quoted as saying. He goes on to call his 2015 record with Kelly, “Somewhere in Paradise”, a “mistake”.
After drawing some criticism for his comments, Chance took to Twitter to clarify his position. “The quote was taken out of context, but the truth is any of us who ever ignored the R Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of black women and girls. I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out”.
“Anyone mentioning that I have black women in my family is deliberately missing the point”, Chance added. “Regardless of the proximity of beneficial black women in your life, or being black yourself, we are all capable of subconsciously discrediting black women and their stories because its indoctrinated”.
Lemieux also addressed the interview, saying Chance “spoke clearly and unequivocally in support of black women and the victims”.
In response to the ensuing discussion, Rolling Stone (which initially reported on the remarks as used in the Surviving R. Kelly interview) uploaded Lemieux’s full interview with Chance, and provided a transcription of his remarks. Find them in full below.
“Making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake. At the time, it wasn’t even present in my mind that people could feel any type of way about his presence on a track of mine. Here’s the thing: I think for a long time I was only able to understand R. Kelly’s situation and presence in the world when it comes down to his trial and his accusations and his accusers as a victim. I don’t know if that’s because I’m from Chicago or because he made great music or because he is a black man.
We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression. It’s just prevalent in all media, and when you see niggas getting beat up by the police … that’s like a scene you see … like slavery for a lot of people, they envision men in chains, but black women are exponentially [a] higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women. Usually, niggas that get in trouble for shit like this on their magnitude of celebrity, it’s light-skinned women or white women. That’s when it’s a big story. I’ve never really seen any pictures of R. Kelly’s accusers.”