In the aftermath of the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, listeners everywhere are rethinking their relationship with R. Kelly and his music. Music business institutions are also facing pressure to cut ties with the singer as he faces investigation and possible criminal charges for the alleged behavior outlined in the program.
Kelly’s label, RCA Records, still lists him as being on their roster, though they have not sent out a press release about him since October, 2016. The label has faced public pressure for years to drop Kelly—pressure that is only ratcheting up in recent days.
As important as his future with RCA is, equally crucial is the way some people still hear R. Kelly’s music in 2019: on the radio.
The amount of airplay Kelly has received has been in a free fall since Surviving R. Kelly began. According to Billboard, the number of all-format radio impressions of his music dropped nearly 85 percent between the first night the series aired and the Monday following its conclusion.
This is the continuation of a longer trend: his spins fell roughly 40 percent over the course of 2018. But Surviving R. Kelly seems to have given additional momentum to the movement to get him off of radio. Stations across the U.S., from Seattle to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Savannah to Dallas, have removed R. Kelly’s entire catalog from their playlists. And iHeartMedia, which owns over 850 stations, is the subject of a new campaign to remove Kelly’s music from all of them.
The #MuteRKelly movement, unsurprisingly, has heard plenty of similar stories from DJs—both the radio and live performance variety. “#MuteRKelly has received countless emails from DJs around the country who are joining us in boycotting R Kelly’s music,” they say in a statement to Complex. “Many shared their stories of having not played him in years, or arguing with clients about why they wouldn’t play R Kelly despite audience requests.
“What’s more impressive to us, however, are the stories from DJs about playing R Kelly in the club and immediately being booed until they turned it off. The masses are waking up, and it’s in MASS action that we see real and lasting change.”
The rap stars Kendrick Lamar and Drake lead the list of nominees for the 2019 Grammy Awards announced Friday, but right behind them is a crop of young and less heralded artists, notably women, after years of friction about diversity, including a major dust-up over gender representation after the last ceremony.
The Instagram star turned rapper Cardi B, the folk singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, the left-of-center country singer Kacey Musgraves, and the R&B artists H.E.R. and Janelle Monáe are among the women who will compete for album of the year against some of hip-hop’s biggest names. Lamar received eight nominations — including his fourth for album of the year — for his role as executive producer of the soundtrack to Marvel’s “Black Panther,” and Drake was nominated seven times in connection with his blockbuster double album “Scorpion” and guest appearances. Rounding out the category is “Beerbongs & Bentleys” by the 23-year-old rapper and singer Post Malone.
But each of the big four general field categories — record of the year, song of the year, album of the year and best new artist — is dominated by women, including six out of eight acts up for best new artist: Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith. (The others are the country singer Luke Combs and the retro-rock band Greta Van Fleet.)
Neil Portnow, the president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, said in a statement that “reflection, re-evaluation and implementation” were the “driving forces” behind recent changes to the show’s processes, and therefore its nominations. Portnow, who will step down in 2019, drew ire from prominent women in music, some of whom called for his resignation, after the 60th annual Grammy ceremony in January, when he told reporters backstage that women in music needed to “step up” if they wanted recognition in the industry.
Amid the backdrop of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against harassment and professional inequality, only one woman, Alessia Cara, won a major award in one of the televised categories this year and Lorde, the only female nominee for album of the year, was not offered a solo performance slot. A report published before the show found that of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards, just 9 percent were women. (Portnow later said he regretted his wording, and that his comments had been taken out of context.)
A mob of people swarm Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican rapper, yelling his name. “Oh my god, he’s so sexy,” one teenage girl squeals. Another, in complete shock, shouts: “I touched him.” But Bunny isn’t fazed. Dressed in a maroon Alexander Wang anorak jacket with matching shorts, long tan socks, brown Gucci hiker boots, and mirrored sunglasses, with his fingernails painted yellow, he flashes a smile and takes selfies with them.
In certain New York City neighborhoods, Bunny might not be as recognizable. Not here, though. Throughout the shoot for this cover, the predominantly Latino residents of the area surrounding Brooklyn’s Knickerbocker Avenue followed his and Colombian artist J Balvin’s every move. Some even managed to find the nondescript bar where we filmed, waiting outside for hours and screaming every time the door swung open. They wanted to catch a glimpse of Bunny, the 24-year-old Latin trap king, and Balvin, reggaeton’s answer to Drake.
Reggaeton’s long been a fixture in the Spanish-speaking world, but in 2004 it exploded in the U.S. with Daddy Yankee’s hit “Gasolina,” off his album Barrio Fino. The genre’s had its ebbs and flows since then, but it has recently found a massive new market, thanks in part to the global success of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” remix featuring Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee—the most streamed song ever—and, of course, Balvin’s steady hit-making and Bunny’s arrival.
Last year, Balvin (real name José Álvaro Osorio Balvin) released his megasmash “Mi Gente” with French DJ and producer Willy William, followed by a remix featuring Beyoncé. Both songs were everywhere; the original currently has over 2 billion views on YouTube, while the remix has over 79 million. But those two songs weren’t just major successes on the charts. More than that, they helped other Latin rap artists, like Bunny, cross into the mainstream.
Born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, Bunny started his career by uploading songs to SoundCloud while still a student at the University of Puerto Rico. But in two short years, he’s become a phenomenon. “Soy Peor,” the track that established the Latin trap sound, caught the ear of the U.S. audience; it’s been streamed 13 million times on SoundCloud. Balvin’s “Si Tú Novio Te Deja Sola”—a song Bunny first composed with the artist in mind—has been nominated for a Latin Grammy. He’s collaborated with big-name American artists like Nicki Minaj (“Krippy Kush”), Cardi B (“I Like It”), Chris Brown (“Dime”), and Drake on an unreleased song.
Together, Balvin and Bunny are leading the charge in bringing reggaeton to the American market once again. The best part about that is they’re doing it on their own terms—a new sound, painted fingernails, eccentric outfits. We haven’t seen anything like them before, but if you ask them, that’s the point.
Bad Bunny and J Balvin, two of reggaeton’s most recognizable faces, are Complex’s latest cover stars. They sit down with Rapetón editor-in-chief Angel “El Guru” Vera to discuss how they first met, the rise of Latin trap, and what they think it takes to be an icon. Bunny also explains why he hasn’t released an album and reveals that he has an upcoming joint album with Balvin.
T.I. has often compared himself to 2Pac, and the claim makes sense in that both have touched on enough topics to fill 100 Wikipedia pages. Tip’s 10th proper album, Dime Trap, loudly silences any concerns over what he has left to say. The album functions as a compelling retrospective of T.I.’s life and career while proving he’s far from finished.
Billed as a “TED Talk for hustlers,” Dime Trap‘s thug motivation qualities are evident. “Looking Back” finds the Rubberband Man giving hustlers and civilians some tough love: “Tell me what you gon see when you looking back at yo life/Won’t be worth a damn if you ain’t living it right.” His words could easily come off as judgmental if Tip weren’t so transparent about his old hell-raising habits: “In Vegas, fightin’ police, me and Jeezy and ‘em/Hit the strip, Fatburger, did my thing again/All I do is kick back, blow gas and smile/Reminiscin’ ‘bout the days I was young and wild.” Tip’s front-porch reflections position him as the elder statesman he’s become and imbue Dime Trap with a sense of well-earned wisdom.