John Legend had no qualms about speaking his mind in the new, six-part documentary series, Surviving R. Kelly.
The Lifetime series, which was directed by filmmaker Dream Hampton and began airing on Thursday, features interviews with over 50 people — including several women who claim to be victims of sexual misconduct by Kelly, and more who claim to have witnessed impropriety between the artist and his then-underaged protege, Aaliyah. R. Kelly has long denied the allegations against him.
The series also features sit-downs with some of Kelly’s peers in the music industry, among them Legend — who addressed the artist’s rise to success, specifically with his massive 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” from the Space Jam soundtrack.
“‘I Believe I Can Fly’ is a powerful song and it inspired a lot of people,” Legend noted. “It was just massive.”
However, the singer also spoke candidly about the allegations against Kelly, which have long been a part of the embattled performer’s controversial legacy. “R. Kelly has brought so much pain to so many people,” Legend said in one of his interviews. “Time’s up for R. Kelly.”
After the first part of Surviving R. Kelly aired on Thursday, Legend tweeted about his appearance in the series, reiterating his support for Kelly’s alleged victims.
“To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn’t feel risky at all,” he wrote. “I believe these women and don’t give a f**k about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision.”
“Also I’m happy to support the work of people like my friends at @ALongWalkHome who have been speaking out on behalf of the survivors for a long time,” Legend added. “We should all thank my friend @dreamhampton for her very necessary work to create #SurvivingRKelly. These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.”
Speaking with Shadow and Act in an interview published on Thursday morning, Hampton opened up about the difficulties the production faced finding celebrities who were willing to speak out.
“John Legend was the only one,” Hampton revealed. “I asked Jay-Z, I asked Mary J. Blige, I asked Lil Kim, Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle… I mean, most people just don’t want to touch it. I remember Ahmir [“Questlove” Thompson] was like, ‘I would do anything for you but I can’t do this.’ It’s not because they support him, it’s because it’s so messy and muddy.”
“It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
Questlove addressed Hampton’s comments on Twitter on Thursday, explaining his reasoning for not wanting to appear in the docuseries.
“I always thought Kels was trash,” The Roots drummer wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “My reason for declining the RKelly docu that I support 10000000 percent is I didn’t wanna be in the ‘good times’ portion of the doc, like stanning for his ‘genius’. I was asked to talk about his genius. I do not nor have I EVER stanned for him.”
Hampton fired back, quoting Questlove’s tweet and adding, “I didn’t ask you about his ‘Genius.’ I’ve never thought he was a genius. I asked you to come on camera and say the same thing you said on Twitter. I told you I need Black male allies.”
Ahead of the show’s premiere, Kelly’s lawyer, Brian Nix, sent a legal warning to Lifetime threatening to sue the network if they didn’t pull the docuseries, TMZ reports. According to the letter published by TMZ, Nix claims that many of the allegations made in the documentary are false, and further alleges that Lifetime knowingly included false accounts.
In response, the network defended their series with a brief and pointedly worded public statement, sharing, “Lifetime has always been a brand that champions women’s stories. The documentary will air as scheduled.”