R. Kelly’s Illegal 1994 Marriage to Aaliyah Leads to Bribery Charges in 2019

The singer allegedly bribed a government employee

R. Kelly protest
New charges have been filed against R. Kelly.
Marc Nozell/Creative Commons

In 1994, R. Kelly married the R&B singer Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time. This took place in the wake of her album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, whose title has taken on numerous unpleasant connotations in light of what we now know about Kelly. The marriage — and the producer/musician relationship between the two — both ended the following year. But a question has persisted over the years: How, exactly, did Kelly make a clearly illegal marriage happen?

New charges have been filed against the controversial musician which offer some insight into just that. At The New York Times, Nicole Hong reports that Kelly was charged with bribing a government employee in order to procure a fake ID for Aaliyah. Hong writes that the investigation is comprehensive:

In the Brooklyn investigation, prosecutors have obtained marriage and annulment records for Mr. Kelly and Aaliyah, as well as Aaliyah’s birth certificate, according to a court document filed late Thursday.

The bribery charge has been added to the ongoing federal investigation of Kelly, which also includes charges of producing child pornography, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Given that the charges against Kelly include accusations that he bribed witnesses in his 2008 trial, this latest development feels less like a watershed moment and more like yet another reminder that he is a deeply predatory human being and has been for a long, long time.

Following her 1994 debut, Aaliyah released two more albums — 1996’s One in a Million and a self-titled 2001 album — before her tragic death in a plane crash in August of 2001. Writing at Pitchfork earlier this year, Rawiya Kameir wrote that “among the most common refrains about the singer was that she was ahead of her time.” Kameir noted another unsettling fact: Aailyah’s album produced by Kelly is the only one of her releases available on streaming services.

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