The new issue of GQ features an extended interview with R. Kelly, a rare enough occurrence that writer Chris Heath feels compelled to bring it up in the opening paragraphs of the piece. The reason this is such a remarkable event is because, as you probably already know, there’s a lot for R. Kelly not to comment about: The nature of his relationship with a 15-year-old Aaliyah when he was 27, for example, or the infamous video of a man who looks a whole lot like Kelly urinating on a woman who looks a whole lot like a 14-year-old girl, a video that led to him being tried—and acquitted—on child pornography charges in 2008.
And, for the most part, Kelly does avoid commenting on these things in the interview. He even claims to never have heard of Dave Chappelle, when Heath asks him about the Chappelle’s Show parody “Piss On You” as a sort of sideways approach to talking to him about the charges. Overall, Kelly displays the same outward eccentricity with an undercurrent of predatory creepiness that has made him such a cultural lightning rod, equal parts “my lawyers have advised me not to comment” and comparing himself to a flying car.
But he does let a few, honestly quite sad facts slip through. Like the revelation that he was regularly sexually abused as a child by a female relative, and that he long ago forgave the person in question: “As I’m older, I look at it and I know that it had to be not just about me and them, but them and somebody older than them when they were younger, and whatever happened to them when they were younger,” he says. “I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don’t know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family.”
Obviously, given Kelly’s history a statement like that has some pretty loaded implications. He broke the curse, though, he claims—by being like Bill Cosby. “Generational curse doesn’t mean that the curse can’t be broken. Just like having no father, that’s a generational curse,” he says. “Which is why, when my kids were born, I was Bill Cosby in the house. You know, the good one.” Maybe Kelly doesn’t know about the charges against Cosby, though? He does claim to not know who Dave Chappelle is. No, he does know, and here’s what he thinks:
I’m a fan of Bill Cosby’s from the Bill Cosby show, of course—who’s not?—and for me to give my opinion on something that I have no idea if it’s true or not, all I can say is that it was a long time ago. And when I look on TV and I see the 70-, 80-, 90-year-old ladies talking about what happened when they were 17, 18, or 19, there’s something strange about it. That’s my opinion … If God showed me that they were telling the truth, I would say that’s wrong. I don’t care if it was a zillion years ago. But God would have to do that, because God is the only one can show me that. No man can tell me that. No woman can tell me that. And when you wait 70 years, 50 years, 40 years, to say something that simple, it’s strange. You know why I say that is because it happened to me, and it wasn’t true.
The interview also has Kelly claiming that he actually does sleep in his closet sometimes, making the title of Trapped In The Closet more literal than most would assume. So while we can’t tell you whether or not it’s okay to dance to “Ignition (Remix)“ given Kelly’s past, we can tell you this: His inner life seems very strange.