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R. Kelly timeline: Chicago upbringing, rapid rise to stardom and years of sexual abuse charges, suits and rumors

Here is a brief history of the singer’s rise and troubles:

Jan. 8, 1967

Born in Chicago on the South Side, Robert Sylvester Kelly was one of five children and grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing complex.


He attends Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park for a time and sang in a Baptist church choir but never graduates. As a teen he brought a portable keyboard to CTA train stops and sings for tips.


Signs a contract with Jive Records and releases “Born into the 90’s.”


Releases album “12 Play” along with No. 1 single “Bump N’ Grind.” The album sells 8 million copies.


Kelly helps launch the career of teen R&B singer Aaliyah, who releases the album “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” The pair secretly marry though the marriage certificate falsely claims that Aaliyah is 18. Kelly is 27. Reports say the marriage is annulled within a few years.


Kelly marries dancer Andrea Lee. The couple has three children.

December 1996

Tiffany Hawkins sues R. Kelly in civil court. She says she met the singer in 1991 when she was a Chicago high school sophomore and he was 24 years old. She said their sexual relationship began several months later.

March 1997

Kelly seems to address his turmoil onstage during another artist’s UIC Pavilion concert: “It amazes me when I look back eight months ago — cars, women, money, the media. I had everyone’s attention. Some may think it’s a gimmick, but I tell you, here stands a broken man. Every day I seem to be falling in love with the Lord. I’ve come to find out that whatever it is you want, it’s in the Lord. I used to be flying in sin — now I’m flying in Jesus.”


R. Kelly performs “I Believe I Can Fly” at the Grammy Awards in 1998. Kelly won three Grammy awards at the show. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Wins three Grammy awards. “I Believe I Can Fly” appears on “Space Jam” soundtrack and Kelly gains a huge mainstream audience.

Also, in 1998 according to later reports, Kelly settles a lawsuit with Hawkins, who accused him of engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor.

April 6, 1998

Kelly is cited for playing his car stereo too loud on Clark Street downtown. The charges are later dropped.


Kelly, releases “TP-2.Com,” which goes triple-platinum.

February 2002

The Chicago Sun-Times receives a videotape, sent anonymously, that allegedly shows Kelly having sex with a minor.

March 2002

Kelly’s album with Jay-Z, “The Best of Both Worlds,” is released. It sells only 1 million copies by June, a low number for Kelly.

April 2002

Kelly settles out of court with a former Epic Records intern Tracy Sampson, who alleges Kelly induced her into a sexual relationship while she was a minor. In another April 2002 suit, a woman claims she was coerced by Kelly into having an abortion.

June 2002

R. Kelly is escorted by a Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff deputy after being indicted on 21 counts of child pornography on June 5, 2002. (Michael Wilson/AP)

Kelly is charged with 21 counts of child pornography connected with the videotape received by the Sun-Times. He is released on $750,000 bail.

October 2002

“Ignition,” Kelly’s sexually explicit first single from “Chocolate Factory,” spends many weeks on various Billboard singles charts.

January 2003

During a court-approved visit to Miami to shoot a music video, Kelly is arrested and charged with 12 additional counts of child pornography. He is released the same day on $12,000 bail.

February 2003

Kelly’s sixth album, “Chocolate Factory,” debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, selling more than 532,000 copies in its first week. It eventually goes double-platinum.

March 2003

A Florida judge throws out photographs that were the basis of the child pornography charges, saying they were illegally seized from Kelly’s home. Florida prosecutors drop all charges.

June 2003

Kelly wins the BET award for best male R&B artist.

R. Kelly, receiving the Best Male R&B Artist award at the 2003 BET Awards. (Kevork Djansezian/AP)

December 2003

Kelly takes home four top prizes at the Billboard Awards, including Hot 100 producer, R&B producer, Hot 100 songwriter and R&B songwriter.

Kelly performing at the 2003 Billboard Music Awards. (Joe Cavaretta/AP)

January 2004

Kelly nominated for an NAACP Image Award, sparking criticism considering the charges against him.

February 2004

Cook County prosecutors drop seven of 21 child pornography charges.

June 2004

Kelly allowed by judge to go on two-month tour while he awaits trial.

R. Kelly, left, and Jay-Z perform at Allstate Arena in Rosemont in the first stop of their 2004 tour. (Brian Kersey/AP)

July 2006

The case is delayed after judge Vincent Gaughan falls off a ladder and breaks bones in his back.

Feb. 2007

Trial is delayed again as Kelly undergoes emergency surgery for a burst appendix.

Sept. 2007

The trial is postponed yet again after the prosecutor gives birth.

Kelly passes through security at the Criminal Courts Building on Sept. 27, 2004, for an appearance related to the child pornography charges against him. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

May 2008

Jury selection begins, with the trial starting on May 20. In opening statements, prosecutors show the controversial videotape.

A courtroom sketch of R. Kelly during his child pornography trial in May 2008. Kelly is seated with attorneys Ed Genson, right, and Sam Adam, Jr. (Courtroom sketch for the Chicago Tribune by Cheryl A. Cook)

June 12, 2008

The trial comes to a close with the prosecution again showing the videotape.

June 13, 2008

After 7 1/2 hours of deliberating, the jury acquits Kelly. He bows his head and weeps, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus,” Kelly said softly as the clerk read off each not guilty.

R. Kelly waves to supporters as he leaves the Cook County Criminal Courts Building after his acquittal of child pornography charges. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune)

July 2011

The singer has emergency throat surgery for an abscess on one of his tonsils.

June 2012

Tax liens filed in Cook County say Kelly owes the Internal Revenue Service nearly $5 million in unpaid taxes dating as far back as 2005.

July 2013

Kelly headlines the final night of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park and encores with “I Believe I Can Fly,” while white-dove balloons fill the sky.

Kelly performing at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

January 2017

Kelly says he won’t perform at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. “Despite the rumors circulating online, R. Kelly will not be performing at this year’s inauguration ceremony. Any reports stating otherwise are simply untrue,” Kelly said in a Twitter post.

July 2017

Three sets of parents claim Kelly is holding their daughters in an abusive “cult,” according to a BuzzFeed News report. Parents claim Kelly “brainwashed” their daughters and some were living with him at his Chicago recording studio.

April 2018

Following protests, Kelly is removed from the lineup of a concert at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After the concert is officially canceled, the singer invited Chicago fans to party with him at the Ocean Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Bedford Park.

May 10, 2018

Spotify removed R. Kelly’s music from its playlists, citing its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct.

May 12, 2018

Angelo Clary flies to Chicago with his wife from Florida after receiving a report that their daughter was at Kelly’s Near West Side studio, the Chicago location at the center the BuzzFeed report. Clary told the Tribune police near the studio threatened to arrest them and appeared to be friendly with the bodyguards.

The Chicago Police Department said there was no record of reports or in-car camera footage of the incident and denied a Tribune request for body camera video.

May 15, 2018

After not showing in court, Kelly loses a federal lawsuit against Comcast Spectacor, which runs the Macon Coliseum in Georgia, alleging the venue failed to pay him $100,000 for his concert there.

May 18, 2018

Pitchfork announces it “was wrong to book R. Kelly to perform at our festival in 2013 and we regret doing so,” and says it is partnering with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network to “to raise awareness and funds to support the fight against sexual violence.”

May 22, 2018

Faith Rodgers files a lawsuit in New York against Kelly, accusing the singer of sexual battery, knowingly infecting her with herpes and locking her in rooms for punishment.

July 23, 2018

Kelly releases a 19-minute song called “I Admit,” addressing accusations of sexual misconduct against him.

“How they gon’ say I don’t respect these women, when all I’ve done is represent (30 years)/ Take my career and turn it upside down, ’cause you mad I’ve got some girlfriends (girlfriends),” he sings. He also addressed accusations that he held women in a “sex cult.”

“Said I’m abusing these women, what the f— that’s some absurd sh–/ They’re brainwashed, really?/ Kidnapped, really?/ Can’t eat, really?/ Real talk, that sh- sound silly.” And he had some words for Chicago journalist Jim DeRogatis, who has reported on Kelly’s alleged misconduct for years.

“To Jim DeRogatis, whatever your name is (whatever your name is)/ You been tryna destroy me for 25 whole years/ Writin’ the same stories over and over against/ Off my name, you done went and made yourself a career/ But guess what? I pray for you and family, and all my other enemies/ I’m not gonna let y’all steal my joy, I’m just gonna keep on doing me.”

Dec. 4, 2018

A screening of Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” evacuated in New York City over a gun threat. A number of accusers were in attendance, along with families who had accused Kelly of holding their daughters.

Jan. 3, 2019

Lifetime debuts six-hour series “Surviving R. Kelly.” The documentary traces Kelly’s rise as the “Pied Piper of R&B” and the accusations of sexual abuse that have dogged Kelly for years.

Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, who identified a female relative and Kelly as the teenage girl and man engaging in sex acts on a videotape at the center of Kelly’s Chicago child pornography trial, told the Tribune she believes she did the right thing by testifying against the R&B superstar

Demonstrators gather near R. Kelly’s Chicago studio to call for a boycott of his music after the airing of the Lifetime series “Surviving R. Kelly.” (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Jan. 5, 2019

Chance the Rapper, who didn’t participate in the documentary but was quoted, tweets an apology for working with Kelly: “The quote was taken out of context, but the truth is any of us who ever ignored the R. Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of black women and girls.”

Jan. 8, 2019

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, citing “deeply, deeply disturbing” allegations in the Lifetime documentary calls on any accusers to come forward. Foxx said her office cannot launch an effective prosecution without the cooperation of victims and witnesses.

Jan. 9. 2019

Chicago Department of Buildings inspectors try to gain access to Kelly’s Near West Side recording studio because the city had received a 311 complaint about people living at the property, which is zoned commercial, a city spokesman said.

The same day, protesters gather outside the studio.

Hours after the rally, Kelly was spotted at a South Side club, crooning “Bump N’ Grind.”

Demonstrators rally in response to abuse allegations lodged against R. Kelly on Jan. 9, 2019, outside his recording studio at 219 N. Justine St. in the Near West Side community. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Jan. 10, 2019

Organizers of the Spring Break Jam concert, set to take place in April at the Illinois State Fairgrounds with Kelly as “host,” have their application denied because of security concerns, according to officials.

The same day, Chicago-based radio station 95.1 FM announces a ban of Kelly’s music. CEO Lamont Watts said: “As a leader of a team where women contribute unselfishly, in a business where the majority of our audience is women; as a son, a brother and a husband of a devoted family; and to hear and see the pain and suffering that is real for so many, effective immediately, we will no longer play the music of R. Kelly.”

Jan. 11, 2019

Lady Gaga apologizes for working with R. Kelly on the 2013 song “Do What U Want.” “I’m sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young, and for not speaking out sooner,” she wrote on Twitter.

Kelly’s estranged daughter, Joann Kelly, who goes by Buku Abi, posted a long statement on her Instagram story on Thursday: “I do apologize if my silence to all that is happening comes off as careless. That is my last intention. I pray for all the families & women who have been affected by my father’s actions. Trust, I have been deeply affected by all of this. However, it has been very difficult to process it all. Let alone gather all the right words to express everything I feel.”

Separately, on Jan. 11, a Cook County Circuit Court judged allowed the city ato access his Near West Side recording studio after reports that people were living there, in violation of city codes.

A bedroom in R. Kelly’s Chicago studio. (Chicago Department of Buildings)

Jan. 14, 2019

Faith Rodgers, one of the women who accused Kelly of sexual misconduct in “Surviving R. Kelly” said at a news conference that she received threats and retaliation from the singer.

Jan. 18, 2019

Kelly is dropped by Sony music. “No external announcement of the move is planned in the immediate future, says a source, who added that the company took its time to wade through the issues ‘responsibly’ and avoid legal ramifications,” according to Variety. The singer was removed from the RCA Records website Friday morning.

On the same day, Variety reports that Kelly’s former manager Henry James Mason turned himself in to Georgia authorities on a charge of threatening a man who alleges that Kelly has indoctrinated his daughter into a sex cult.

Jan. 19. 2019

A few songs into her show at the Aragon Ballroom in the Uptown neighborhood, Erykah Badu says she is praying for Kelly. Like millions of other people, concertgoer Venessa Gonzalez, 35, said she watched “Surviving R. Kelly” and was surprised Badu would talk about Kelly in Chicago. “Midshow, she decided to bring up R. Kelly and how Chicago feels about R. Kelly and everybody started booing.”

Jan. 22. 2019

Judge orders Kelly to only use his Near West Side studio during business hours and ordered the second-floor living quarters to be shut down until further notice as city inspectors allege a laundry list of building code violations, including fire hazards, dangerous staircases, an illegal steam room and sauna as well as evidence that people were living in the warehouse space despite it being zoned for commercial use.

Feb. 22, 2019

Kelly is indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, court records show. A county judge issued a warrant for Kelly’s arrest Friday morning, according to the records. Kelly surrendered to Chicago police shortly after 8 p.m. and spent the night in lockup. The following day he is ordered held on $1 million bail.

R. Kelly turns himself in at 1st District police headquarters in Chicago on Feb. 22, 2019.

Feb. 25, 2019

Kelly pleads not guilty on the 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, charges he sexually abused four victims, three of them underage, over a span of a dozen years.

March 5, 2019

In his first TV interview since being charged with sexual abuse, Kelly denies having sex with underage girls and holding women against their will.

“I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my (expletive) life!” Kelly told Gayle King during the interview.

“CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King remains seated during her interview with R&B superstar R. Kelly in Chicago on March 5, 2019. (Lazarus Jean-Baptiste/CBS)

March 9, 2019

Kelly walks out of Cook County Jail for the second time in two weeks — this time after coming up with more than $160,000 in overdue child support.

Singer R. Kelly addresses the media after walking out of Cook County Jail on March 9, 2019, after paying more than $160,000 in child support. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)

March 13, 2019

Kelly attends a closed-door hearing at the Daley Center with his ex-wife over child support.

Singer R. Kelly walks into court at the Daley Center for a hearing on his child support case on March 13, 2019. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

March 15, 2019

Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood rules cameras will be allowed in a courtroom for hearings in the sex abuse charges facing Kelly.

April 7, 2019

Kelly gives a 28-second performance at a club in Springfield.

April 23, 2019

After failing to show up in Cook County Circuit Court to answer allegations he sexually abused an underage girl in the late 1990s, Kelly loses a civil lawsuit by default. The next week, Kelly says he wants the decision reversed, saying he was neverly properly notified of the lawsuit’s existence.

May 30, 2019

Kelly is charged with 11 new counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse, Cook County court records show. Four of the new counts charge Kelly with aggravated criminal sexual assault — a Class X felony that carries six to 30 years in prison on conviction.

June 6, 2019

Kelly pleads not guilty to a slew of new charges alleging he sexually assaulted a teenage fan who met him at his child pornography trial a decade earlier. The 11-count indictment, unveiled the previous week, replaced charges filed in February centering on an alleged victim identified as J.P. “Surviving R. Kelly” participant Jerhonda Pace, who said she began a sexual relationship with Kelly when she was a minor, says the new charges are related to her claims.

R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to a new indictment before Judge Lawrence Flood at Leighton Criminal Court Building on June 6, 2019. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Pool)

July 11, 2019

Kelly is arrested in Chicago on new federal charges alleging child pornography and obstruction of justice, including bombshell allegations that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover child-sex tapes and pressured witnesses to change their stories before his pornography trial that ended in acquittal a decade ago.

Aug. 5, 2019

Minnesota authorities charge Kelly with two counts of prostitution and solicitation involving a girl under the age of 18 over an alleged 2001 incident.

Sept. 4, 2019

A federal judge in Chicago sets an April 27, 2020, trial date for Kelly, who is accused of sexually abusing minors and conspiring with two associates to pay off and intimidate witnesses against him.

Oct. 2, 2019

A federal judge in New York sets a trial date of May 18, 2020, for Kelly, who is charged with racketeering, kidnapping and sexual exploitation of a child.

Dec. 4, 2019

A Cook County judge orders Kelly to stand trial on Sept. 14, 2020, on criminal sexual abuse charges.

Dec. 18, 2019

Kelly pleads not guilty in a Chicago federal courtroom to a new indictment brought in New York alleging he bribed an Illinois official to get a fake ID for 15-year-old singer Aaliyah Haughton a day before he married her in 1994.

Jan. 2, 2020

“Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning” premieres on the Lifetime network with more women accusing Kelly of abuse.

Feb. 14, 2020

A superseding indictment alleges Kelly sexually abused a girl identified in new federal charges only as “Minor 6.”

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