According to a report by Billboard magazine on Friday afternoon, R. Kelly has been dropped by RCA Records. The move comes in the wake of a documentary series called Surviving R. Kelly that aired on Lifetime and cataloged more than 25 years of accusations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kelly by a number of women, including seven who were interviewed on camera.
Kelly, who has long been one of the most prominent performers in R&B, continues to maintain his innocence, but in the weeks since the documentary began airing, protests – many affiliated with the social media hashtag #MuteRKelly — and calls for the label to sever ties with the singer have intensified. On Wednesday, protesters delivered a petition including more than 200,000 signatures asking for RCA and its parent company, Sony Music Entertainment, to drop the singer. While RCA and Sony have not confirmed to NPR that Kelly has been dropped, he was removed early Friday from the label's website.
Kelly's labels stood by him through previous public allegations, including a 2008 trial on charges of child pornography, after he was accused in 2002 of making a video of himself having sex with a girl who was aged 13 or 14 at the time. He was acquitted of all charges. Kelly was signed to Jive Records in 1991. That label was folded by Sony Music into RCA in 2011.
"This is a huge victory for the survivors who came forward, both in Surviving R. Kellyand before, and all young Black women, who are systematically undervalued in our society," said Arisha Hatch, the managing director of campaigns at Color for Change — one of the organizations that has been part of the #MuteRKelly campaign — in a statement released to the press. "This victory belongs to the survivors of his abuse — their brave testimonies played a critical role in pushing RCA to drop R. Kelly."