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Copyright 2006 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.

All Rights Reserved Chicago Sun Times April 23, 2006 Sunday Final Edition HEADLINE: Keeping up with R. Kelly BYLINE: Jim DeRogatis and Abdon M. Pallasch, The Chicago Sun-Times BODY: CONCERT PREVIEW R. KELLY When: 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Sold out In December 2000, the Sun-Times first reported that Chicago R&B superstar R. Kelly has used his position of fame and influence to have sexual relationships with underage girls. Eighteen months later, on June 5, 2002, Kelly was indicted on charges of making child pornography after the newspaper received a videotape, which police say shows him having sex with a 14-year-old girl. Prosecutors and Kelly's defense lawyers have since spent a record-breaking 46 months in discovery and pre-trial motions for the case, which could land the singer in prison for up to 15 years if he is convicted. But a trial date still has not been set. Through it all, Robert S. Kelly's career has flourished. The 39-year-old singer sold a million copies of his last album, 2005's "TP3: Reloaded"; hit new heights with his epic "Trapped in the Closet" operetta, and is midway through the "R. Kelly as Mr. Show Biz in the Light It Up Tour," which brings him to the 3,400-capacity Chicago Theatre for two sold-out shows Wednesday and Thursday. "Robert believes in our system of justice, and he looks forward to his day in court," Kelly spokesman Allan Mayer said last week. "He's confident that when all the facts come out, he's going to be shown to have not been guilty of any crime." THE BUTT OF JOKES Yet while Kelly waits for the start of his official trial, he continues to be judged in the court of public opinion. Consider a few of the many high-profile, non-official "verdicts" rendered in the popular media by his fellow AfricanAmerican superstars. - While hosting the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2003, comedian Chris Rock joked, "Now you have to watch where you sit everybody. You can't have 50 Cent nowhere near Ja Rule; you can't sit Jay-Z near Nas. You got the Olsen twins over there, so then you gotta put R. Kelly way up there!" - In the 2004 movie "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," barbers Calvin (Ice Cube) and Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) argue about playing music in the shop. "Anything but R. Kelly, please," Eddie says. "Somethin' wrong with that boy. He need some serious help!" One patron defends Kelly, arguing that he's been "set up" by the media and prosecutors. "He was set up [all right]," Eddie replies. "He set up the camera. That's what he did." - Comedian Dave Chappelle mocked Kelly in several episodes of the enormously popular "Chappelle's Show." One

skit involved a parody of a Kelly music video titled "Piss on You," while another about jury selection in the case found the comedian urinating at the witness stand while shouting, "And that's from the heart!" (The videotape at the heart of the Kelly case allegedly shows him urinating on an underage girl before having sex with her.) - Last November, cartoonist Aaron McGruder devoted an entire episode of his animated series "The Boondocks" to "The Trial of R. Kelly." As supporters of the singer danced in the courtroom, the show's 10-year-old star Huey chastised the jury: "You wanna help R. Kelly? Then get some counseling for R. Kelly. Don't pretend the man is a hero!" "The jokes that entertainers like Chappelle and Chris Rock make about Robert and his situation -- Robert understands that that's what these guys do," Mayer said. "When you're a public figure like him, and you're involved in a situation that, whatever else it might be, is inherently ridiculous, people are going to comment on that. He doesn't take it personally." BROTHERLY ACCUSATIONS Perhaps most troubling of all is a new interview in the premiere edition of Dhrama, a DVD magazine about hip-hop and R&B that has been available via the Internet since February. In the lengthy interview, Carey "Killa" Kelly claims his older brother offered him a bribe to lie in court, implying he was asked to claim that he was the man on the videotape, not R. Kelly. "I got a call a year, year and a half ago from my older brother who wanted me to do some s--- pertaining to this case that was going to leave me behind bars," Carey Kelly says on the DVD. "I turned it down. The nigga offered me $50,000, a bull---- record deal and a house to lie, to perjure myself in a court of law, and I felt this s--- wasn't worth it." Carey Kelly goes on to accuse his brother Robert of chronicling his real-life obsession with underage sex in songs such as "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number," the hit he wrote for Aaliyah, the female protege R. Kelly illegally wed in 1994, when she was 15. The marriage was annulled a short time later. "He's been telling [people], 'I've got a problem, because if I love this girl and she's 12, that's all that matters,' " Carey Kelly says. "He's been saying it in his songs, and that's what makes him the genius that he is. He speaks s--- that other motherf-----s who are on his level can relate to. "And I say to America, the criminal justice system: If you let that nigger off, he's going to do it again, trust me. I bet my life on it." By his own admission, in the Dhrama interview and others, Carey Kelly has battled drugs and spent time living on the streets, and he resents his superstar brother for failing to help him launch a musical career of his own. Carey's manager did not respond to numerous requests for an interview with his client. "This is not the first time Carey has made ridiculous accusations against his brother," Mayer said of the DVD. "We're not going to dignify them with a comment." Prosecutors have been in contact with Carey, but they declined to say if he will be called as a witness. A PALL OVER THE TOUR The controversy surrounding Kelly hangs over the current tour. Almost every review has mentioned the charges against the star, and the way that he seems to reference them in his stage show. "At a few points during the show, Kelly played up his outlaw status, saying that unnamed people were trying to keep him from being too raunchy, but he was going to do what he wanted," a reviewer wrote in the Newark Star-Ledger on April 14. "A segment where he was supposedly arguing with authorities backstage (with a microphone capturing every word) hardly seemed believable." On April 15, the Washington Post added: "Neither the kiddie-porn charges he's facing in his hometown of Chicago nor Kelly's inherent weirdness ... seem to have deterred his female fans, who are legion and remain unflinchingly loyal." PROTESTS IN TEXAS In Austin, Texas, last month, 15 members of a group called Feminists of Color United protested Kelly's appearance at the University of Texas' Bass Concert Hall by chanting, "We love R&B, not child pornography!" "His arrogance isn't wasted on us, that he's touring and singing about sex while these charges are unresolved," said Courtney Desiree Morris, a graduate student in anthropology who led the protest. She also helped draft an open letter

published in the Daily Texan addressing "sexual violence against women of color and sexism in communities of color." Undaunted by the Texas protest, the only one of its kind during the tour, Kelly fronted a live band and performed medleys of his many hits throughout a 90-minute show, including raunchy numbers such as "Bump n' Grind" and "Sex in the Kitchen." At one point, he slapped an imaginary lover before feigning violent sex with her. "They told me to contain myself, and 'no touching yourself there,' " Kelly told the Austin crowd. "But I know you want me to be myself and do my show." Mayer said that as of last Monday, Kelly has sold out seven of the 49 dates on the tour, and ticket sales for the others have been between 80 and 90 percent of capacity. But a concert industry expert said the numbers aren't as impressive as they sound. "There is no way that an artist who has sold that many albums should be playing venues this small and not be filling all of them," the industry professional said. "There's no doubt that this [controversy] is having an impact." jimdero@jimdero.com apallasch@suntimes.com GRAPHIC: Photo: CAREY KELLY: Offered bribes?; Photo: Scott Gries/Getty Images; While waiting for trial, R. Kelly went on tour, including this show last week at Radio City Music Hall.; Photo: Stuart Ramson/AP; MR. SHOW BIZ: R. Kelly's hometown troubles haven't hurt ticket sales, this week's Chicago Theatre shows are sold out. LOAD-DATE: May 24, 2006