R. Kelly is looking for a home for a new finished album, according to multiple sources. The controversial rapper was dropped by longtime label RCA/Sony recently, after multiple accounts of sexual abuse, including with minors. But who would risk the wrath of the #MuteRKelly movement and actually sign him?
Opinions are mixed, but in an industry known to often put profits over morality, it seems likely that someone would take the leap.
After all, Kelly is one of the best-selling music artists in the United States, with over 30 million albums sold both here. He has released 12 solo studio albums, and sold over 75 million albums and singles worldwide. Streams for Kelly actually went up 116% after a daming Lifetime series aired.
But because of the controversy, at least some of the media outlets used to promote any new release will likely be off limits. It's hard to imagine commercial radio or late night TV shows booking Kelly, though a 60 Minutes style show might agree to an interview with some performance clips. Even Kelly's live performances would be limited, with many venues and promoters refusing to be associated with the fallen R&B star.
Streaming services would almost certainly make new R. Kelly music available. Spotify has already said that its traditional promotional vehicles, like official playlists, would be off limits; and other streamers are likely follow suit.
A new release would certainly generate press. While much of it would focus on Kelly's abusive behavior, it would alert fans to it availability. YouTube is also a notoriously open platform.
Who Would Sign R. Kelly?
Certainly no label related to Sony would touch it; and it's hard to imagine a major label group like Universal or Warner Music wanting to tarnish their image. But there is almost certainly an independent label who would make an offer.
And in the digital age, Kelly could go direct. Thus far, most independent aggregators have only filtered for extreme hate speech.
“It would be very surprising if some label did not sign him,” im Caparro, a former chairman of Island Def Jam Records told Rolling Stone, while adding that he does not condone any of Kelly’s behavior. “He’s too big of a talent and there’s too much pressure to ignore the commercial aspects. He’s still R. Kelly, and there’s going to be interest and drawing power from that.”
photo: Andrew Steinmetz [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons