R. Kelly's first recordings since being accused of sexual relations with minors arrived in stores last week, and a serious decline in sales suggests a possible backlash toward the singer.
Best of Both Worlds debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart but sold less than half of what Kelly's last album, TP-2.com, and Jay-Z's Blueprint sold in their first weeks (see "Got Charts? Jay-Z & R. Kelly, Cornell & Rage: Dynamic Duos Well, Maybe Not").
Perhaps the best of pop the latest Now That's What I Call Music compilation simply got the best of the R&B and hip-hop royalty (see "Now 9's Star Power Outshines Jay-Z And R. Kelly's Best"), or maybe the widespread bootlegging of their highly anticipated collaboration hurt them (see "Bootleggers Get The Best Of Jay-Z, R. Kelly"), but their peers believe Kelly's sex scandal is at least partially to blame.
Although he has yet to be charged, a videotape that allegedly shows Kelly having sex with an underage girl has circulated on the Internet, making it hard for anyone to put the issue aside. And while the Chicago Police are still investigating the authenticity of the tape, which was handed over after it was sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times, some are already considering it evidence against the singer, who has also been accused of having sex with other minors.
"I've been hearing a lot of talk on the radio [in Los Angeles] from stations that are saying they're not going to play his records ever again because they saw the video and he's a sick bastard," Dr. Dre said Wednesday. "But I don't know if it's true. I only know what I've heard. I haven't seen the video, nor do I want to see it because there's a kid involved. That's where I draw the line. You can do almost anything except touch kids or something like that. That's a no-no, you know what I'm saying? If he's guilty, he's over. I'm just waiting for the results."
Dre recently produced a track for his latest protégé, R&B singer Truth Hurts, that features Kelly. The song was a strong candidate to be her first single, but it was put aside at least partially because of Kelly's situation, according to Truth Hurts.
In an MTVNews.com poll (see "Poll: Does The R. Kelly Sex Scandal Matter?"), 37 percent of Kelly's fans said they are creeped out by the allegations and will not buy his music, but 63 percent said the singer should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Some artists, such as Fat Joe, whose single "We Thuggin' " features Kelly, are supporting the singer.
"He's like this sex-driven dude, so automatically that makes him guilty because his image is caught up like that," Joe said. "As far as I'm concerned, I hope it's a rumor. I wish him the best."
Meanwhile, newcomer Tweet, whose single "Oops (Oh My)" is red hot, said she refuses to judge him.
"That's between him and God," Tweet said. "I can't judge anybody, but if there was something going on and something happened, then I would say that he would need some help, but not totally turn our backs on him."
One thing is for sure, the R. Kelly scandal has given his foes fodder for their battle rhymes both on record and on the stage.
Sisqó, whom Kelly mocks on The Best of Both Worlds, attacks the singer on his new "This Is Heart," with one of his protégés in the Associates rapping, "Let me remind you of that ish you did/ The 'world's greatest'? whatever/ Ain't nothing but a child molester" (see "Sisqo Shoots Back At Nas, R. Kelly On 'This Is Heart' ").
Nas, a rival of Jay-Z's, referenced Kelly at a performance Wednesday in Los Angeles, noting, "We ain't touching no little kids onstage. It ain't no Best of Both Worlds."
Jay-Z has only commented vaguely on the scandal, saying last month, "We're entertainers, man. [My] new album coming out in November is [called] The Gift and the Curse. We accept the good with the bad. It is what it is" (see "Jay-Z On The R. Kelly Scandal: 'It's The Gift And The Curse' ").
A few days after the Sun-Times broke the news on February 8, Kelly denied the allegations and suggested the tape was blackmail that he did not give in to (see "R. Kelly Proclaims Innocence In Teen Sex Scandal").
Kelly's name can be cleared, some believe, if the videotape proves to be bogus or if the girl turns out not to have been underage.
"If the truth comes back and he's not guilty, he can definitely recover," Dre said. "I think people will open their arms out to him again, because then it becomes just him on tape having sex, that's it. We've all seen other stars and what have you do that before. Look at Tommy Lee and Pamela Lee. They were glamorized for it."