The music world was shaken to its core on Monday morning, when Buzzfeed posted an article about R&B singer R. Kelly. The article touched on Kelly’s controversial past with underage women, but the biggest bombshell was the revelation that he’s been running an abusive “cult” of young women in Atlanta.
The article paints him as “a puppet master” who’s been controlling every aspect of these women over the past few years. Needless to say, people are shocked to hear this news, with many calling for Kelly’s arrest. To learn more about his alleged cult, and the women who’ve experienced it, here are five fast facts you need to know.
1. Kelly is Said to Operate His ‘Cult’ in Georgia
According to Buzzfeed, Kelly splits his time between his home in Trump Tower in Chicago and his suburban house in Atlanta. The latter is said to be where he keeps his cult of young women. Two people who formerly worked for Kelly, Asante McGhee and Kitti Jones revealed that they had had sexual relations with the singer, and that during this time, he controlled every aspect of their lives– including their phone and social media accounts.
“They were not allowed to take photos with Kelly or of the rooms where they were living,” writes author Jim DeRogatis. Both McGhee and Jones subsequently left their position within the last five years. Jones also revealed that if she or any of the other women broke Kelly’s “rules,” they would be verbally and physically punished.
This included one incident in 2013 when Kelly held Jones against a tree and slapped outside of a Subway sandwich shop because she had “been too friendly” with the male cashier. McGee added “R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet, but Robert is the devil.”
2. Several Women Are Believed to Be Living in Kelly’s ‘Guest House’
Among the women reportedly living in Kelly’s “guest house” included:
– A 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. She had been best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried in 2008. She recently parted ways with Kelly, these sources say.
– A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s scene for seven years.
– A recent arrival, a 19-year-old model who has been photographed in public with Kelly and named on music gossip websites — a rarity among the women in his circle.
– An Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009, when she was 19. (She is now 26.)
– And an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida. Cheryl Mack said the Florida singer is the Kelly’s “favorite; his number-one girl.”
3. Kelly’s Former Assistant Cheryl Mack Says He’s a ‘Master at Mind Control’
Cheryl Mack, who previously worked as Kelly’s personal assistant, provided even more testimony as to how the singer runs his cult. She claims that Kelly calls the women his “babies,” and they are required to call him “daddy: in return. They are also required to ask his permission to leave their assigned rooms in Georgia, where they have no phones or contact with the outside world. DeRogitas writes that Kelly them new phones that are only activated to contact him.
“This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” explains Mack, “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go to the bathroom… [Kelly] is a master at mind control. He is a puppet master.” Additionally, Mack claimed that Kelly regularly told the women to dress in jogging suits because “he doesn’t want their figures to be exposed” and he “doesn’t want them to look appealing.”
4. Some Concerned Parents Have to Recover Their Daughters
While the identities and full names have been stricken from the record to protect them, several parents have come forward to voice their concern over Kelly’s influence. One such couple, referred to as “J” and “Tim” in the article, recount how their daughter– as aspiring singer– landed a huge break working with Kelly. “In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her, it didn’t really hit home.”
Buzzfeed reports that the last time they saw their daughter was in December 2016. “It was as if she was brainwashed,” J added, “She looked like a prisoner– it was horrible. I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her.”
5. This Isn’t the First Time Kelly Has Faced Legal Controversy
While there have yet to be any legal action taken against Kelly, this is far from the first time he’s dealt with a sexual controversy. According to CBS Local, he married a fifteen-year old Aaliyah in 1994, which was illegal in the state of Chicago. The marriage was eventually annulled by her parents the following year. Nearly a decade later, in 2002, a tape of Kelly having sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl was released to the press in Chicago. In June of that year, he was arrested and charged with 21 counts of child pornography.
It took a record six and a years for the case to go to trial, and when it finally did, in 2008, Kelly was acquitted of all charges. A key witness in the trial, Lisa Van Allen, told E! Online that the singer’s celebrity status was a major factor in his acquittal. “Star power. Definitely,” she said, “I came forward. I told the truth. That’s basically it. That’s all I could do. I’m disappointed.”