A previously unreleased album by disgraced US R&B singer R. Kelly, who is serving a 30-year sentence for sex offenses, dropped Friday on the Spotify and Apple Music platforms, a recording that the music press described as a bootleg.
The release of the album, called "I Admit It," was first reported by the celebrity entertainment site TMZ. It featured 13 tracks, including the 19-minute title song, which had been published on SoundCloud in 2018 before Kelly was convicted of sex crimes against teenage girls and producing child pornography.
Spotify did not respond to an AFP request for comment and a few hours after the initial reports by TMZ and the Hollywood Reporter, the disc was no longer available on either music platform.
Questioned by Variety, a representative for Sony Music, which owns Kelly's musical rights, said the album had been briefly and unofficially made public, which, according to Variety, meant it had been a bootleg copy.
A lawyer for Kelly, Jennifer Bonjean, told Variety the singer and his entourage were not behind this release and that her client "is having intellectual property stolen from him."
The singer, known worldwide for his hit "I Believe I Can Fly" and who sold 75 million records, was found guilty in September 2021 in a New York court of having masterminded a "system" of sexual exploitation of young women for three decades, including teenage girls.
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For these sexual crimes, the federal court in Brooklyn sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
Last September, a court in Chicago, Illinois, found him guilty of production of child pornography and embezzlement from a minor.
He could face a sentence of 10 to 90 years in prison, according to federal prosecutors in Illinois.
The lawsuits against Kelly were seen as a major milestone in the #MeToo movement, as the majority of plaintiffs in the case were Black women.
For decades, Kelly's stellar career had been dogged by rumors and suspicions of sexual violence. He had long managed to silence them with financial agreements that included confidentiality clauses.