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Artist or Predator? It's Time to Look Beyond the Music

It goes without saying that nobody is perfect. 

People make mistakes, ranging in their severity. Artists are no exception to this. Recently, recording artists R. Kelly and Drake’s history of sexual misconduct have been unearthed. The media has even brought attention to these issues; a docuseries entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” was released by Lifetime, describing Kelly’s sexually abusive actions towards both minors and adults, and a video of Drake kissing and making inappropriate remarks towards a 17-year-old on stage when he was 23 is circulating the internet. 

This release of information has prompted many to take actions against the two artists. Regular people and activists alike have sworn off both artists’ music. The #muteRKelly movement spread like wildfire on social media. Even famous companies have withdrawn support from R. Kelly; Spotify recently took his music off all their company playlists and stopped recommending it to listeners. 

Spotify’s move, while bold and widely supported, was not popular with everyone. On May 10, 2018, rapper and public figure 50 Cent turned to Twitter to give his opinion on the matter. “Spotify is wrong for what (they’re) doing to (artists) like R. Kelly and xxxtenacion. (They’re) not even convicted of anything.” It is technically true that Kelly has not been convicted of anything. But this is mostly because of legal technicalities. 

According to AJC.com, a pop-culture blog, R. Kelly was arrested and “placed on trial for having sex with a 14-year-old girl in 2008.” He received an acquittal on the grounds that his victim would not cooperate with prosecutors; this can be a common reaction of sexual abuse victims who are being asked to relive their trauma in a public space like a courtroom.

While R. Kelly has never been convicted of any sort of sexual misconduct, and neither has Drake, for that matter, there is overwhelming evidence that suggests the two artists may be guilty. There is video evidence of both artists committing different forms of sexual assault and harassment. A whole plethora of women, including R. Kelly’s ex-wife, ex-girlfriends, and his former music teacher, have spoken out against him, and told the world about his numerous acts of sexual abuses.

So why do people continue to support them?  It could be the nostalgia attached to their music. Many millennials grew up on songs like, “Ignition,” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” And Drake’s songs such as, “Started From the Bottom,” and “In My Feelings,” still hold a special place in many Gen-Z kids’ hearts. In other words, it’s not completely about the music; it’s about the memories made at the time of these songs. It can be very hard to detach oneself from an artist, if one has a sentimental attachment to the songs. 

However, fond memories aside, when we listen to artists like R. Kelly or Drake on Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora, they are monetarily rewarding these artists. Our plays, purchases, and streams give these people money and enable them to keep doing horrible things. This can be hard to admit, but it’s the honest-to-God truth.

We can’t keep giving sexual predators and abusers our money. It only encourages them and gives them power. This is important to remember, especially with the rise of movements such as “Me Too” and “Time’s Up.” We need to support survivors, not their abusers. 

So, before you start to play that new R. Kelly single or Drake album, take a long and hard look into their histories. Think before you continue to support these artists. Think about what your one Spotify stream or one iTunes purchase translates to. The more popular these artists become, the more powerful they become. This power can be abused, especially in a sexual manner. Stop supporting abusers and predators. It’s time to believe survivors.

Evangelia Suleiman is a student at Gorham High School and is a regular contributor to Raise Your Voice.