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Chance the Rapper: “Making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake”

In Surviving R. Kelly, Chance says engrained prejudice against black women protected Kelly from consequences.

Chance The Rapper Holds News Conference At Chicago City Hall
Chance the Rapper at a news conference in October 2018.
Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Slowly but surely, some of the biggest names in music are turning against R. Kelly.

In Lifetime’s recent docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, a deep dive into the past 25 years’ worth of accusations of sexual abuse against the R&B legend, John Legend declared, “Time’s up for R. Kelly.” And in the series’ final episode, which aired January 5, Chance the Rapper joined in as well.

Chance has worked with Kelly multiple times, most notably when he featured Kelly on his 2015 track “Somewhere in Paradise.” But now he’s saying that he regrets working with Kelly.

Chance originally spoke out against Kelly in a May 2018 interview with Jamilah Lemieux for the website Cassius, but the interview was never published. (This was due, Lemieux said on Twitter, to her departure from the publication.) Instead, segments of the interview appeared in the final episode of Surviving R. Kelly.

“Making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake,” Chance says plainly in the interview.

Chance also muses on why he felt comfortable working with Kelly in 2015, and comes to the conclusion that it was probably because he’s been culturally conditioned to ignore the plight of black women.

“We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression,” Chance says in the full interview, available on Rolling Stone’s website. “But black women are exponentially [a] higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women. Usually, ni**as that get in trouble for shit like this on their magnitude of celebrity, it’s light-skinned women or white women. That’s when it’s a big story. I’ve never really seen any pictures of R. Kelly’s accusers.”

Chance’s theories line up with one of the well-established narratives about why R. Kelly has been able to continue comfortably on with his career despite 25 years’ worth of accusations against him: Most of the women he’s been accused of hurting are black women, and American culture tends to ignore them.

“I don’t believe that anyone would have allowed R. Kelly, a black man, to allegedly abuse white girls in that way,” Lemieux said in an interview with Vox in 2017. “I hate to even make the comparison, because an abused girl is an abused girl and nobody deserves that sort of treatment. I think all girls should have the relative level of protection that is often — not always, but often — extended to white girls, specifically class-mobile ones. But everything about this story reminds me of how much it takes for a black girl to be believed or to be taken seriously.”

Said Jim DeRogatis, the reporter who broke the R. Kelly story, to the Village Voice in 2013, “The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.”

You can read a full timeline of the accusations against R. Kelly on Vox.