R Kelly has been accused of holding several women against their will in what has been described as a "cult". The Ignition (Remix) singer has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct towards underage girls over the past two decades but has never been convicted of a crime.
In an explosive piece published by Buzzfeed News, the mothers of three young women accuse Robert "R" Kelly, 50, of predatory behaviour towards their daughters, while three former members of the singer's entourage back up their allegations with similar claims.
One mother, named only as J, alleges that her 19-year-old daughter, whose identity has been kept anonymous, spent over two hours with R Kelly backstage at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California on 23 May 2015, not long after first meeting him at a show in Atlanta.
J admits she was aware of R Kelly's history of child sexual abuse allegations but was not concerned for her daughter's safety. J has since shut down her businesses to investigate her daughter's whereabouts and even shared information with the FBI and police in two states. However, the teen is not deemed a missing person as the youngster has stated she is happy to live with R Kelly.
The mother told the publication: "It didn't really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number ... but you don't think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song."
Recalling the last time she and her husband Tim saw their daughter, J added: "It was as if she was brainwashed. [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. I don't know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening."
Three previous members of R Kelly's entourage, Cheryl Mack, Kitty Jones and Asante McGee, claim at least six women live in properties owned by the musician in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs. The trio allege that R Kelly controls how the young women live, including what they eat, how they dress and when they sleep, bathe and engage in sexual activities – which he records.
Among the women alleged to be living in R Kelly's Duluth, Georgia house, include a 31-year-old 'den mother' who trains newcomers on how to pleasure R Kelly. This woman had been high school best friends with the girl who appeared in the videotape that landed R Kelly on trial in 2008. Another is said to be an 18-year-old singer who is described as R Kelly's "favourite, number one girl".
McGee states: "R Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet. But Robert is the devil."
R Kelly's lawyer, Linda Mensch, responded to Buzzfeed News about the allegations in their article, stating: "We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life. He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that."
The Buzzfeed article was written by Jim DeRogatis, a former Chicago Sun-Times reporter who has followed R Kelly's career and personal life for the last 20 years.
In 2002, a video surfaced of a man alleged to be R Kelly engaging in lewd sexual acts with an underage girl. DeRogatis was reportedly handed the two tapes which he then turned over to the police.
Six years later, a Chicago jury found R Kelly not guilty on 14 criminal counts, including possession of child pornography. In the 1990s, widespread reports suggested that the songwriter married r'n'b singer Aaliyah when she was aged 15, but this has never been officially proven.
In August 2016, R Kelly came under fire once again after reports emerged claiming the I Believe I Can Fly singer was dating 19-year-old model Halle Calhoun.