Review: Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly

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Review for "Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly" by Jim DeRogatis (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ok so I read this. It isn’t a happy read, nor is it something that I would recommend by shouting to all while standing at the corner of two streets during rush hour. However, this book is necessary reading, particularly if you know anything about Robert Kelly, a.k.a R. Kelly, the notorious R&B star with a string of music hits from the 90’s and early 2000’s who has been in the news and in court for sexually abusing women, mostly his young Black female fans.

This book starts at the beginning, with R Kelly’s childhood, his high school years, and his subsequent appearance on the R&B scene as the front man of the group The Public Announcement. It details his marriage to a 15-year-old singer Aaliyah (he was 27 at the time) and how it was downplayed by pretty much everyone (the record company, her family, his reps, etc). The book continues with interviews from many of R Kelly’s victims detailing his physical and sexual abuse, his continued fame, and yes, the infamous video. There is also detailed analysis of his first trial in 2001 over the contents of that videotape, in which Kelly filmed himself raping an underaged girl. Last, there’s details of what has been labeled as his “sex cult,” a group of young women who currently live and travel with him and he supposedly refuses to let contact their families. After over 20 years and 200 pages, you notice a pattern: many blinded eyes, an abundance of willful ignorance, and epic fails at every level. It’s sickening.

I found this book to be well written and researched. Jim DeRogatis, a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, has been following R. Kelly’s case as it has unfolded for the last 20 years. He was the one who received the infamous tape at his news desk. He was also the one who first interviewed several of R Kelly’s victims, years before anyone took any of the abuse allegations seriously. Information on the case was up-to-date, timely, and relevant, with the latest information on R Kelly’s case as of spring 2019.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, especially R Kelly’s fans. Despite the OVERWHELMING evidence of his guilt, I imagine that even 100 books on this subject could not convince them otherwise. But to those who believe his victims and want to see justice for them, this book is all you need

The muse.

For me, the importance of music in my writing experiences can’t be stated enough. When I am sketching a character, my first question is often not what they look like, their age, or even what their name is. My first question, is usually “What would this character be listening to?” From there I get a mental picture (appearance, mannerisms, etc) and slowly begin to bring it into focus. With a character that listens to Miles Davis I may picture a sophisticated, artsy, urbane, hipster-kinda character. If they listen to Nine Inch Nails I may get an elusive, eccentric rebel. It all depends, essentially, on the power of a playlist.

Music helps me shape the plots of my stories as well. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat down to write and that song I’ve heard a million times will play on my iPad and I hear a certain line and think: THAT’S IT. I write it down and begin my planning from there. I will write that lyric down and use it to guide my plot. It’s like a movie playlist. A short story that I wrote recently began with a line from REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” Which is a great opener, by the way, because it leads me into questions that will be answered throughout the narrative. For example, why is this character hurting? Why do they feel everyone else is hurting along with them? And what experiences have they undergone in their life to have such a feeling?

Tomorrow I’m going to post sections of my playlist so you can see what kind of songs inspires me to write. Spotify is a godsend, man…