The spontaneous arrival of the Observatory's Soulquarius festival last week sent plenty of hearts a flutter with the promise of the most stunning R&B/hip-hop lineup to come through OC since, well, ever. From perennially influential songstress Erykah Badu and '90s Top 40 queens Brandy and Monica to PBR&B millennials Jhene Aiko, Roa James and The Internet, this fest touches on various segments of young R&B and hip-hop fans.
The problem is that the festival's headliner R.Kelly is also known for allegedly touching on young fans…in ways that the law doesn't appreciate. We've all seen the headlines and heard all the tasteless jokes about the R&B Lathario's laundry list of past sexual assault allegations against underage females. But the reality behind a torrid history of young girls coming forward with horror stories about Kelly's behavior makes the Observatory's choice to put him on the bill a very controversial one. Days after the lineup came out, a growing group of festival goers got pissed enough (pardon the pun) to start a petition against R.Kelly as the headliner of Soulquarius.
In addition to collecting 1,000 signatures online, the petition's creator, Jamie Thompson, issued this statement:
The Observatory venue of Orange County released an awesome lineup for their SOULQUARIUS event February 18th, with the exception of R.Kelly. Despite an endless flood of abuse allegations and widespread knowledge of his notorious “romance” with the late singer Aaliyah, who was age 15 to his 27 years, Kelly has maintained a relatively successful career. It's this sort of nonchalance and casual embrace of abusers that rests at the fulcrum of rape culture, violence against women, and in this case, misogynoir. 2017 is around the corner and many of us still have to look on in disgust as a proven predator, rapist, and serial abuser of young Black girls and women remains embraced in the world of music. Stop booking this man. Stop supporting this man. There's great power in having a voice. Let's send a message that the music is not “separate” and the abuse of girls and women is *never* okay, no matter who you are or how many timeless ballads you've contributed to the world.
Though there's obviously a public outcry regarding Kelly's inclusion in the festival, it's not likely the Observatory will remove Kelly from the bill which also includes more than a couple other artists with criminal pasts, or a history of pimpin' hoes, etc. (*cough*Suga Free *cough*). And besides, given the way Beach Goth went down just a couple months ago, people who go to this should be more worried about hordes of sweaty strangers bumping and grinding against them than R. Kelly himself.
But does the festival's headliner really need to be taken off the lineup for the sake of keeping the sanctity of Soulquarius intact?