It’s not unusual for artists to address their lives in their music, or to promote their innocence in a scandal by dropping a verse or two in a song or on a mixtape, and R. Kelly is no different.
His new song, provocatively titled “I Admit,” addresses accusations lodged against him of sexual misconduct, pedophilia, operating an abusive “sex cult” and other charges that have appeared in the press and in his lawyers’ inbox. The song also addresses the music streaming service Spotify’s removal of Kelly’s music from service-sponsored and curated playlists.
The sheer volume of scandals attached to his name can be measured by the song’s length. “I Admit” is 19 minutes long.
Over a repetitive keyboard figure and with ample use of Autotune on his vocal, Kelly brings up incidents in the middle of verses that find him cast as both a victim and conqueror. In one of the first such references, he discusses cheating on an unnamed girlfriend:
Won't say no name, I'm not a snitch
But one night at the Ritz, did some shit I shouldn't of did
Went and fucked a nigga's bitch
I admit, I admit that I did
I fucked my girlfriends best friend
Yeah I tapped that in the back of my Benz
This admission of guilt comes of simultaneously as apologetic and braggadocious, a common duality throughout the song, as when he sings, “How they gon' say I don't respect these women, when all I've done is represent / Take my career and turn it upside down, 'cause you mad I've got some girlfriends.”
The story of Kelly’s alleged sex cult, exposed in a BuzzFeed article by Chicago journalist Jim DeRogatis, is addressed in several lines. “What's the definition of a cult?” he asks. “What’s the definition of a sex slave? / Go to the dictionary, look it up / Let me know I'll be here waiting.” Kelly then continues, describing some of the acts in which he engages with “some girls,” like spanking them and branding them.
Kelly even calls out DeRogatis by name in one sequence:
To Jim DeRogatis, whatever your name is
You been tryna destroy me for 25 whole years
Writin' the same stories over and over against
Off my name, you done went and made yourself a career
But guess what? I pray for you and family, and all my other enemies
Elsewhere, he claims Jocelyn Savage — whom Kelly is accused of kidnapping — was actually introduced to him by the same parents who made that accusation:
Her father dropped her off at my show
And told this boy to put her on stage
I admit that she was over age
I admit that I was feelin' her and I admit that she was feelin' me
I admit that that's the shit that comes with being a celebrity
I ain't chasing these ladies, no
These ladies are chasing me, yeah
Kelly makes mention of Spotify, after they “took me off they playlist,” as well as Steve Harvey, John Legend and Tom Joyner, who have spoken out against him, in the aftermath of his scandals.
“I Admit” also contains lines in which Kelly says he was sexually abused as a child. “Now, I admit a family member touched me,” he sings, “From a child to the age 14, yeah / While I laid asleep, took my virginity / So scared to say something, so I just put the blame on me.”
Though the overarching tone is defensive, Kelly does ask for support (“I'm calling on my hood, come walk by my side”) and even offers himself as an inspiring figure for the youth of his hometown of Chicago:
Instead of judging me, y'all should be using me
To help these kids, raise them out of depression and poverty
Now I'm not saying I'm no savior, but I can be an inspiration
This is an invitation
It’s difficult to imagine there’s much more for Kelly to say, but there’s no word on whether “I Admit” will be a standalone single, or the opening salvo in a series of songs addressing his public relations woes. This is, after all, the same man who dropped 33 “chapters” of “Trapped in the Closet” from 2005 to 2013.