A collection of new songs from R. Kelly that briefly appeared on Spotify and Apple Music on Friday was an “unauthorized” release of stolen music, the incarcerated R&B singer’s attorney said.
Jennifer Bonjean, a lawyer for Kelly, told The Washington Post that the 13-track album is “music of Mr. Kelly’s that is in the hands of people who should not have it.” The songs — all recorded before Kelly’s imprisonment — appeared on the digital platforms Friday and were taken down within hours, leaving many listeners surprised and confused.
Bonjean said Kelly’s master recordings were stolen around the time of his arrest on sex crime charges in February 2019, potentially via recording equipment or a hard drive. She declined to identify potential culprits.
“People have stolen his music before, so this has happened, but usually it shows up on YouTube or it’s usually, like, a track,” Bonjean said. “It was unusual because it was streaming on Spotify and Apple. We still don’t know why they started streaming it.”
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Representatives for Apple Music and Spotify did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Post. Speaking to Variety, a Spotify representative said: “This content has been removed from the platform at the request of the distributor.”
The songs, collectively billed as “I Admit It” on the streaming services, included tracks titled “Air,” “I Found Love,” “Freaky Sensation” and “The Last Man Standing,” according to screenshots posted to social media. The album concluded with “I Admit It (I Did It),” a 19-minute song previously released on SoundCloud in July 2018. The track, on which Kelly addresses the sexual abuse allegations against him, was split into three parts when it appeared on the digital platforms Friday.
Billboard and Variety reported that the album was released by the label Real Talk Entertainment and uploaded through Ingrooves, a Universal Music Group distributor that both outlets said is now cutting ties with Real Talk. The songs reportedly were released via a Real Talk sub-label called Legacy Recordings, which has the same name as a Sony Music label.
A representative for Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings confirmed to The Post that it did not release the songs. Representatives from Ingrooves and Real Talk could not immediately be reached for comment.
Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in June after a New York jury found him guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering, charges stemming from allegations that he abused women and minors over nearly three decades. A Chicago jury convicted him in September of child pornography and sex abuse charges in a second federal trial, with his sentencing set for February.
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A chart-topping recording artist, Kelly released 14 studio albums from 1993 to 2016 and won three Grammys for his hit “I Believe I Can Fly.” He became one of the highest-profile entertainers to face legal consequences for sexual misconduct amid the #MeToo movement.
Bonjean said she spoke Friday to Kelly, who is being detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, to inform him of the leak.
“His criminal cases are first and foremost,” Bonjean said. “But yes, this has always been on our minds, and it’s very difficult to figure out who has [the music]. It’s a matter of how do you go about getting it back.” She said she believed a complaint had previously been made to police about the masters, “but there’s not much of an appetite on the part of law enforcement to do anything with it.”
Bonjean added: “It’s not [Kelly’s] primary focus, but it is something that needs to be prioritized at some point and we’re trying to put together a team to get to the bottom of it.”