Who is R. Kelly? Singer’s net worth, songs, age and wife - as he is found guilty in sex trafficking trial

The ‘I believe I can fly’ singer illegally married the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27

Singer R. Kelly appeared at his hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Picture: Getty)

‘Ignition’ singer R. Kelly has been found guilty of a string of sex offending charges following a five week trial in New York.

The disgraced musician pled not guilty to all accounts, including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 54 year old has been accused of sexual exploitation over several cases, with the first accusations being brought against him in 1998.

So, who is R. Kelly, what songs is he best known for and what has he been charged with? This is what you need to know about the sex offender, ahead of his sentencing next year.

Who is R. Kelly?

Robert Sylvester Kelly was born on January 8, 1967 in Chicago, Illinois.

He is the third of four children born to professional Baptist church singer Joanne Kelly, Robert joined his mother in the choir when he was eight-years-old.

His father was absent and the family grew up in a social-housing project, Kelly’s high school music teacher Lena McLin described Kelly’s childhood home: "It was bare. One table, two chairs. There was no father there, I knew that, and they had very little."

Aged eight, he also lost his first girlfriend, Lulu, who he said drowned after being pushed into a river by older children while she was playing with Kelly. He called her his first musical inspiration.

At the age of 11, Kelly was shot in the shoulder - it is believed the bullet is still lodged in his shoulder. He claimed he was shot by older children who attempted to steal his bike but a family friend said he shot himself while trying to take his own life.

Kelly also claimed in his 2012 autobiography ‘Soulacoaster’, that he was sexually abused from the age of 10 by a male family friend, he was abused by a female family friend from the age of 14 and throughout his teenage years.

Kelly attended Kenwood Academy where he pursued basketball, until his music teacher Dr McLin advised him to take part in a talent show and focus on his musical talents. Dr McLin remained Kelly’s vocal coach and spiritual adviser throughout his career.

He gained national recognition in 1989 when he, along with Marc McWilliams, Vincent Walker and Shawn Brooks, participated on the talent TV show Big Break. The group made were called MGM (musically gifted men).

They performed All My Love, and Kelly went on to win the $100,000 grand prize. The group then debanded and Kelly joined Public Announcement, an R&B band.

By 1993, Kelly had gone solo and released his first solo album, 12 Play.

Who is R. Kelly’s wife?

According to reports, Kelly illegally married a minor in 1994. Kelly, 27, married 15-year-old artist Aaliyah upon bribing someone to provide his wife with a fake ID which claimed she was 18.

Kelly had been introduced to Aaliyah by her uncle, Barry Hankerson, just three years prior when she was 12 years old.

In 2019, a video taken less than a year before the wedding emerged which showed Kelly admitting Aaliyah was only 14. In 2021, he admitted having sexual relations with a minor which related to his relationship with Aaliyah.

Aaliyah pictured at the MTV awards in 2001 (Picture: Getty Images)

The couple divorced in 1998, Aaliyah later died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. She was 22 years old.

In 1996, he married his second wife, Andrea. She mothered his three children before they divorced in 2009. The divorce was filed by his wife in 2005 following a physical altercation with the singer.

What songs is he best known for?

Kelly is best known for songs including "I Believe I Can Fly", "Bump N’ Grind", "Your Body’s Callin’", "Gotham City", "Ignition (Remix)", "If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time” and "The World’s Greatest".

In 1998, Kelly won three Grammy Awards for "I Believe I Can Fly” and became the most successful R&B artist of the 1990s.

He has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making one of the world’s best-selling music artists.

R. Kelly performing at a concert in the Barclays Center in New York, in 2015 (Picture: Getty Images)

Billboard magazine considered Kelly the most successful R&B artist in history, in the period up to 2010.

In 2012, he was listed as the 55th best-selling music artist in the United States, with over 32 million album sales.

What is R. Kelly’s net worth?

Kelly is now thought to be worth -$2million, due to owing large sums of money to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

At the peak of his career, it is estimated that Kelly was worth around $100million.

What do his most recent charges relate to?

The most recent charges brought against Kelly were made in January and July 2019.

On 27 September, Kelly was found guilty of all charges by a jury, having protested his innocence and claimed social media was to blame for the allegations.

In July 2019, he was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors from New York and Chicago on 18 charges, including child sexual exploitation, child pornography production, kidnapping, forced labour, racketeering, and obstruction of justice.

He was first denied bail in October 2019 and denied bail release again in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trial began on August 18, just under six weeks later, on 27 September the jury found Kelly guilty of 22 counts.

Lawyers for R. Kelly walk out of a Brooklyn courthouse as jury deliberations continued in the federal trial against the performer (Picture: Getty Images)

These include nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act.

This was not the first time Kelly had been accused of sex offences involving a minor.

In 1998, the first of many sexual offence allegations were made against Kelly. He settled a lawsuit with Tiffany Hawkins for $250,000 after she claimed Kelly had induced her to have group sex with other teenage girls when she was 15 years old.

In 2002, he was arrested on 21 counts of child pornography. A video had also emerged in which he was allegedly seen engaging in sex acts with a minor and urinating on her. He denied being the man in the video.

The girl in the video refused to testify against him and the jury found him not guilty.

Later in 2002, police searched his holiday home in Davenport, Florida. During the search, officers recovered 12 images of an alleged underage girl on a digital camera – wrapped in a towel in a duffel bag – which allegedly depicted Kelly "involved in sexual conduct with the female minor.”

Kelly was arrested in January 2003 but all charges were dropped due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants.

When will he be sentenced?

The judge ordered that Kelly remain in custody pending sentencing, which was set for May 4, 2022.

Season one of Surviving R. Kelly is available to watch on Amazon Prime in the UK.