UPDATED: A new, official-appearing R. Kelly collection provocatively titled “I Admit” appeared on streaming services — including Spotify and Apple Music — on Friday, although reps for Sony Music, which owns the rights to much of the singer’s catalog, stressed to Variety that the album is an unofficial release (i.e. a bootleg) and did not come from them, even though the copyright line on the album reads “Legacy Recordings,” which is Sony Music’s catalog division.
An attorney for Kelly, Jennifer Bonjean, tells Variety that the singer’s camp is not behind the release either, and that he “is having intellectual property stolen from him.” Kelly is serving a 30-year prison sentence after being found guilty of multiple sexual-misconduct-related charges in New York last year; he is awaiting trial on similar charges in Illinois and other jurisdictions.
The album was removed from Spotify and Apple Music on Friday afternoon: “This content has been removed from the platform at the request of the distributor,” a rep for Spotify told Variety.
A source close to the situation tells Variety that the album was released by the Los Angeles-based label Real Talk Entertainment, which was founded in 2003 and has a lengthy discography including releases by Bone Thugz N Harmony and early ’00s rappers like Chingy, Freeway and Young Buck, although it is not clear how or whether the company acquired the rights to the Kelly recordings, or the rights to the name Legacy Recordings. It seems possible that some or all of the recordings could have fallen outside of Kelly’s contract with his longtime label — Sony Music’s RCA, which parted ways with the singer in 2019 — and Kelly sold or licensed those rights to Real Talk, although that is purely speculation. The album was distributed by Ingrooves, which is owned by Universal Music Group. A source tells Variety Ingrooves has terminated its agreement with Real Talk; reps for both companies did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.
The album’s title comes from a 19-minute song Kelly released in July of 2018 in which, contrary to the title, he essentially denies the longstanding sexual-misconduct allegations against him. The album is a collection of previously released and unreleased material primarily dating from the latter years of Kelly’s recording career, although several of the unreleased tracks have been floating around on the internet for as long as 15 years. He continued to release music as the allegations against him mounted in 2018 and 2019, sometimes through RCA and some on SoundCloud and other services.
While it is surprising that such a controversially titled unofficial release by an artist such as Kelly was posted on the world’s largest streaming platforms without setting off any alarms, hundreds of thousands of songs are uploaded to the services every day, and the copyright says “Legacy Recordings,” which is the name of Sony Music’s catalog division — however, official Legacy releases bear a Sony Music Entertainment copyright.
Variety will have more on the situation as it develops.
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