Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Well, sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.

As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is I, Andre Grant, and the one-and-only Ural Garrett. Collectively, we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”

Is R. Kelly Protected By His R&B & Hip Hop Peers?

Andre: R. Kelly calls himself the “pied piper” of R&B. There was an interview back in 2007 that caused quite a stir when he said in Hip Hop Soul Magazine, “I’m the Ali of today. I’m the Marvin Gaye of today. I’m the Bob Marley of today. I’m the Martin Luther King, or all the other greats that have come before us. And a lot of people are starting to realize that now.” All that before Spin called Double Up “perhaps the finest piece of pop music of this generation.” The album sold some 380K the first week and would go on to go platinum

Kelly is awash in the embrace of his community, now. In June of 2002, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department kicked in the door of Kelly’s family home and dragged him through his arrest. This after the infamous sex tape ended up in the hands of the Chicago Sun-Times. Things only get more bizarre after that. The tape caused outrage. 1998’s “I Believe I Can Fly” had come only four years earlier, and allowed Kelly to go from an act with, mainly, an African-American audience to one with cross-over appeal. That song will be played now, ad-nauseum, forever. If aliens land and want to destroy earth it should be played to dissuade them. Independence Day could have ended so much faster.

He was arrested on 21 counts of child pornography. Twenty-one. The trial was postponed for over six years. The presiding judge in that trial, the honorable Judge Vincent M. Gaughan once refused to throw Kelly in jail for going on tour all over the country without telling the court and for getting bagged in Utah with his tour bus going 101 mph. That same judge is handling the case of the police officer who shot Laquan McDonald.

In a circus of a trial, despite the judge trying to keep a tight reign on the proceedings, the defense managed to muster an “it wasn’t me!” narrative that seemed to somehow work. The key witness, the woman on the tape (said to be Lisa Van-Allen), refused to testify and so did her parents. A 27-minute video, then, was not enough. He was acquitted for what jurors at the time called a “lack of evidence.”

But Kelly is beloved, and he is beloved in part because he carries within him the twin tenets of the black mythos in America. He is overwhelmingly talented. He has succeeded despite all the tragedy in his life through sheer force of will. In the recent, and explosive, GQ interview when he almost irredeemably seems to try and protect Bill Cosby and hilariously forgets who Dave Chappelle is, he says something else. Something telling. He recounts his own childhood sexual abuse at the hands of more than one close family friend or family member. There was the family friend who offered him money to masturbate for him. Then the relative who raped him. He said this abuse lasted for nearly seven years. This isn’t new. Soulacoaster, his memoir, came out in 2012. But it puts into focus the life and trials of a man who is, although acquitted, a person I would not allow near a child and whose ability to create is only matched by his ability to destroy.

Kelly has faced enough to last multiple lifetimes. But then he said something else that was more interesting.  “I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don’t know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family. Not just started with her doing that to me.” The victim has become the perpetrator, despite Kelly claiming otherwise. All of this is overwhelmingly sad but contextual. And context is here whether we like it or not. He’d go on to say that curses can be broken. That he broke the curse of poverty in his family. And that he, himself, has been the Bill Cosby of The Cosby Show to his children (and not the monster we all found out he recently was).

Since the trial and the acquittal, he’s pumped out work at a rapid pace. And a great number of folks in the industry continue to work with him. There is a reason why most of them are in the “urban” world. And this is the reason, I think, why fans continue to flock to Kelly despite the egregiousness of the crimes he was deemed not guilty for. For many, his story still represents hope. And even for many in music, his talent must come off as some kind of eerie gift-from-god. So I’m not going to call the peers who work with Kelly enablers or participators in the sexual violence that he’s perpetrated to others. But I am saying that the possible reason for others not giving up on Kelly, for not shunning him, has to do with the Kelly’s jumbled view of love. In that same interview, he said he loved Aaliyah, who was 15-years-old when he married her.

Whatever this article says, Kelly will continue to get work. But that doesn’t mean he should without others thinking about just how heavy the accusations against him have been.

Ural: R. Kelly continues to prove that age changes perception over time. When the scandal first broke, I heard about his alleged fondness for underage females almost the same way most young black men heard it. Working at a local barbershop part time during my junior high and high school years always meant occasional meetings with the bootleg man. One thing I’ll never forget is how much he instantly sold out of the R. Kelly sex tape DVDs every time he came around for a few months. By the time my birthday came around, it made sense to find myself eventually selling a few bootlegs. For those who understand, there was a time when having a CD Burner and Kazaa made for an easy money maker. So yes, this even meant eventually selling the infamous tape at my catholic high school. By the time an El Salvadoran-American chick I was crushing on told me I could go to jail for life on child pornography distribution charges, my time in the game was over. What did I know? I saw others profiting and thought it was fine. After that, throwing out the remaining inventory and erasing every incriminating file became a viable option.

I saw several of the videos besides the one in question. In my honest opinion, the guy on that tape is R. Kelly without a doubt and the unidentified female on the receiving end of a golden shower was below legal age. Then, I immediately started thinking about those rumors regarding him and Aaliyah. Didn’t seem like a problem because after that scandal, which included Vibe publishing the marriage certificate, no one cared much. He was enabled by not only his very vocal fanbase but by his own peers as well. There isn’t an artist from his era to today who doesn’t consider Kelly to be one of the greatest R&B singers of all time. Getting one’s song written by the Chicago-native or nabbing a feature can mean instant success. For those who don’t understand the magnitude of his reach, just check out his Discogs page. Just last year, he had several high profile features on projects including Ty Dolla $ign’s Free TC, and Chance The Rapper’s Surf and Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq soundtrack. His last album Buffett had guest spots from Jhene Aiko, Juicy J, Jeremih and Lil Wayne, among others.

After growing into an adult, this was my grand introduction into having comprehensive knowledge of rape culture’s mechanics. Similar to this week’s other news regarding Life or Death PR head Heathcliff Berru being ousted following sexual assault allegations that were reported and backed by other women, many of his peers knew but failed to do anything. Makes sense, the publicity firm was home to D’Angelo, Odd Future and a host of other high profile clientele. Killer Mike left Life or Death alongside releasing a statement making his message very clear of where he stands on issues like these. With that in mind, what current generation artist wouldn’t want that R. Kelly co-sign?

Listening to R. Kelly’s music is fairly difficult because of how creepy it sounds considering the facts. Hearing “Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number” and “Seems Like You’re Ready” is flat out awkward now in the most uncomfortable way possible. The fact that he felt comfortable diving more into his own personal history of sexual abuse means he himself is bursting from the seams mentally. It’s safe to assume, as Hannibal Buress’ viral Bill Cosby joke turned national attention to the news, that he’d already been known about for decades at this point, Wendy Williams’s critically hated Aaliyah television biopic did something right. It introduced millions of women attached to The Lifetime Channel a look into something that was well hidden behind urban music mythos. The only thing missing is actual proof backing up eye witness accounts, which could be seen as shaky in the Internet era. Even for journalistic purposes, there isn’t a person alive who would want to be caught with the infamous video on their hard drives or homes unless they want a visit by the FBI. If events were to happen now, in the social media generation, his life would be similar to Subway Jared at the moment. Keeping things a thousand, similar to DJBooth Managing Editor Nathan S, “It’s Not Okay To Listen To R. Kelly.”

And yes, he was acquitted and found not guilty. Who cares? The killers of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till were as well.

Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.

Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.