It just got a little more difficult to listen to R. Kelly on Spotify: As first reported by Billboard on Thursday, the streaming service has removed the singer’s music from its editorial and algorithmic playlists. This comes in the wake of the #MuteRKelly movement, which has gained steam in recent weeks as a campaign demanding that several prominent entities within the industry, including RCA and Spotify, cut ties with the singer, who for decades has been accused of preying upon, grooming, and sexually abusing underage girls. Kelly’s many albums remain on Spotify, and his songs can still be found on playlists created by individual users and third-party services like Filtr U.S. But that requires one to actively type the words R. Kelly into the search engine (in which case, you might want to re-evaluate your life choices) or just happen to stumble upon it on someone else’s ’90s-themed homemade playlist.
OK, so it’s still not at all difficult to listen to R. Kelly on Spotify, but it’s a start. The company has identified the singer as falling under its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct, which states, “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.” Vice president and head of content Jonathan Prince told Billboard, “we’ve decided that in some circumstances, we may choose to not work with that artist or their content in the same way—to not program it, to not playlist it, to not do artist marketing campaigns with that artist.”
The decision serves to highlight just how difficult it will be for a service like Spotify to fully distance itself from an artist like Kelly, whose prolific work is so deeply embedded in the fabric of the ’90s and early ’00s. The self-proclaimed “Pied Piper” has a catalog of songs written and produced for other artists that runs so deep it has its own Wikipedia page—it would be impossible to fully erase his legacy, even if Spotify removed all of his solo albums and singles, without also nearly erasing an entire genre of music from that time period. And so while solo hits like “Bump and Grind” may not be found on its I Love My ’90s R&B playlist, for instance, Aaliyah’s “Back and Forth,” which was written and produced by Kelly and also features his Diddy-like vocal ad-libs in the background, seems to remain for now. (Kelly, who also wrote and produced her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, was illegally married to Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27. It was annulled soon after.)
Does that mean Spotify and others like it couldn’t stand to go a step further in minimizing the amount of money he’s presumably collecting in royalties by axing his solo work all together? Probably. But even as mere baby steps, the move (along with the recent concert cancellations) demonstrates that maybe the tide of public opinion is finally turning against Kelly for good.