A Tale of Two Music Producers: Kanye West and R. Kelly
By: Richard Caldwell
Kanye West and R. Kelly are two of music’s biggest producers. However, their impact on pop culture continues to separate the two and have adverse effects on both of their careers. As polarizing figures, both music producers are highly praised amongst the African American community. The only difference is that one producer seems to be able to get away with more harmful acts than the other. Neither musician should be able to freely dabble in malicious behavior, but they both should be held to the same standard. The problem is that standard isn’t being applied across the board and now it’s forcing a new question to be asked. How much damage does a celebrity have to do before being reprimanded for their actions?
Both of these music producers would look identical if you close your eyes and compare them. R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” easily holds the same weight as Kanye West’s “Heard Em’ Say” and R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest” can easily be replaced by Kanye West’s “Good Life”. Musically they are similar as both producers have topped record charts and been nominated for a multitude of awards. They even both hail from the same city of Chicago. However, there is still one major difference between the two and it’s a noticeable one. The African American community embraces and uplifts R. Kelly more than they do Kanye West, but why is that?
On paper one would think that Kanye West shouldn’t have anything to prove to the African American community. He’s well educated, the son of a former activist and college professor, a rap star and he even produced songs on classic Jay-Z albums. All the boxes are checked, but the community still has a love-hate relationship with him. R. Kelly on the other hand has been a r&b mainstay for most of his career, consistently provided hit music for the nightclubs and radio stations, and also recorded a joint album with Jay-Z. The African American community loves R. Kelly more than they do Kanye West, but why is that.
The answer to the question is simple, but its effects are more harmful. Most of the African American community sees more of themselves in R. Kelly than they do Kanye West. R. Kelly is the guy who grew in the neighborhood. He’s the music producer who wasn’t supposed to become a music superstar. He has that inner city swagger and bravado. He carries a confident with him that can only be obtained by grew up in an urban environment. Kanye on the other hand is what most deem to be a child prodigy. Most people see him as being someone who grew up in a nice home. The future music megastar has been working on his musical craft since a young age, is fluent in multiple languages and even attended art school before later dropping out to pursue his music career. Most African Americans don’t believe they could be Kanye West, but do believe they can be the next R. Kelly. However, being the next R. Kelly can result in a big problem.
Recently Kanye West caused controversy with his opinions on slavery. The African American community haven’t taken the comments lightly and are attempting to rid themselves of the famed music producers. Some individuals are open minded, but most don’t have the tolerance to hear him out. During a sit down with TMZ Live, Kanye West would state that “slavery was a choice”. He later cleared up the comments, but the African American community doesn’t care to accept the apology. Many see the claims as being a form of blasphemy and no longer care for the famed entertainer. West’s opinion on slavery wasn’t the best, but to think his opinion on slavery is worse than the claims of sexual assault being levied against R. Kelly is ridiculous.
For years women have been coming forward claiming to be sexually assaulted by R. Kelly. Many people in the African American community forgave R. Kelly after he was acquitted during his child pornography trial. The famous producer was accused of having sex with an underage woman and recording the lewd sexual acts. After his acquittal R. Kelly continued to release hit records, but that hasn’t stopped more women from coming forward. In recent years, he has been accused on kidnapping a man’s wife and taking her on tour with him, still has been dating women twice his age and has been accused of running a sex cult. R. Kelly is being accused of training women as young as 14 and 16 years old to become his sex puppets. Claims state that R. Kelly keeps the women in his many homes throughout the country and mentally abuses some while physically abuses others. The allegations are so bad that the BBC recently did a documentary in an attempt to find answers. The documentary was done because no criminal charges have been made against a person who seems to be a habitual offender of criminal offenses. Why is that and why hasn’t the African American community rallied against R. Kelly in the same fashion as they did Kanye West?
These are questions that need to be answered by a community that claims to love their and will speak up against any other community if they feel they are wronged. Why is R. Kelly so special, but Kanye West is expendable? Why would one hoard a sexual predator while throwing away a critical thinker. These important questions need to be addressed by the African American community if we ever want to truly progress. In reality, Kanye West isn’t a bad person, but his comments were controversial. R. Kelly ‘s actions seem to be the polar opposite of his words, but he’s being praised as a God. The time is now for African Americans to decide if this is their God of the future.