CHICAGO (CBS) — Singer Erykah Badu is clarifying comments she made during a Chicago concert, which many interpreted as support for R. Kelly, amid the fallout from a documentary detailing widespread allegations of sexual abuse.
While performing at the Aragon Ballroom on Saturday, the crowd booed when Badu said she was praying for Kelly, who has come under increasing scrutiny following the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” in which multiple women accused Kelly of physically, sexually, and mentally abusing them, and operating a “sex cult” that held women against their will.
“I dunno how everybody else feel about it but I’m putting up a prayer right now for R,” Badu said at Saturday’s concert. “I hope he sees the light of day, if he done all those things that we’ve seen on TV, and heard those ladies talk about. I hope he sees the light of day and comes forward.”
Fans at the Aragon ballroom immediately started booing, prompting her to say, “What y’all say, f*** him? That’s not love.”
“What if one of the people that was assaulted by R Kelly grows up to be an offender, we gonna crucify them?” she added.
Fans at the concert took to social media to criticize Badu’s comments, accusing her of defending Kelly.
Sunday night, Badu posted on Twitter that her comments had been taken out of context.
“I love you. Unconditionally,” she wrote. “That doesn’t mean I support your poor choices. I want healing for you and anyone you have hurt as a result of you being hurt. Is that strange to you ? That’s all I’ve ever said. Anything else has been fabricated or taken out of context.”
Kelly has been silent on social media ever since he was dropped from his music label. RCA Records, owned by Sony Music, decided to part ways with the R&B singer on Friday.
Meantime, the first woman to publicly accuse R. Kelly of sexual abuse has said she never should have introduced her family to Kelly.
In 2002, the singer Sparkle, whose real name is Stephanie Edwards, claimed her niece was the underage girl in an infamous sex video featuring R. Kelly. Although a jury acquitted R. Kelly, the Lifetime docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” now credits Sparkle with shining a light on some of his alleged abuses.
“Be Careful,” Sparkle’s duet with R. Kelly in 1998, was the No. 1 R&B hip-hop song for six weeks. About four years later, their professional relationship crumbled amid accusations Kelly was sexually abusing Sparkle’s then 14-year-old niece.
Sparkle said she initially wanted Kelly to help her niece become a rap artist.
“I didn’t just throw my niece to the wolves,” she said. “I introduced my entire family to Robert, not just my niece… My sister and my brother-in-law brought her down to the studio.”
In an emotional interview in the docuseries, Sparkle said she “should have never introduced my family to him.”
“Why do you still blame yourself?” Duncan asked her.
“I just feel partially responsible for the introduction,” Sparkle responded.
She said she became concerned when her niece started showing up at Kelly’s studio unaccompanied. Sparkle claimed she even called Child Protective Services. Her worst fears, she said, were confirmed when she saw a video of what she believed was Kelly and her niece engaged in a sex act.
“The guy comes over, he shows me the first few seconds of the tape, and it’s her. I don’t need to see anymore,” Sparkle said.
Sparkle was a key prosecution witness at Kelly’s trial for child pornography. But her niece, her sister and her brother-in-law , who had become Kelly’s guitarist, refused to testify. Kelly was acquitted in 2008.
“I was kind of ostracized, if you will,” Sparkle said, referring to her family.
“Is it your understanding that people in your family settled or had some sort of agreement with R. Kelly?” Duncan asked.
“I don’t know if any money was exchanged, you know, from Robert to them to shut up. Or if they signed something. I don’t know if he threatened them. I don’t know anything. They’re not talking,” Sparkle said.
She said she’s not sure if her niece is with Kelly, but she’s still concerned about her safety if her niece still interacts with him.
“Because mentally… the girls… he’s got them brainwashed,” Sparkle said. “I’m really scared of that.”
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, told CBS News Sparkle’s claims were “absurd.” “Sparkle is using her rejected allegations (jury did not believe her) to try and jump start her failed career,” he said. “It is beyond transparent.”
Asked how much of the Me Too movement played in her decision to speak out, Sparkle said, “I wish they were along for the ride way back when in 2001 when I came up.”
“I feel sometimes that black women… we don’t get the same, you now, notoriety or interaction, so to speak, as our white counterparts, and I wanted that to change,” Sparkle said.
“What do you think is so different about this moment culturally now?” Duncan asked.
“They’re believing now. They’re listening more,” Sparkle said. While she said she’s not sure what’s next, she hopes Kelly gets help.
“He really needs to get help, and then they can send him off to jail,” Sparkle said.
Sparkle released a new single titled, “We are Ready,” around the time the Lifetime docuseries began airing. In it, she sings about how she will no longer suffer in silence. Kelly has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and no new criminal charges have been filed against him.
Don Russell, an adviser to Kelly, claimed multiple record labels are interested in working with him after he was dropped by RCA Records. He told Rolling Stone magazine: “I think he’s outgrown RCA. He’s ready for the next level of life, anyway.”
Protesters demanded that RCA ditch the R&B legend, after “Surviving R. Kelly” detailed years of sexual abuse allegations.