Surviving R. Kelly, the Lifetime documentary series, features over 50 interviews. Oddly for a musician, only two fellow artists are featured: John Legend and Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, executive producer Dream Hampton said many artists were asked to be interviewed but declined. “When it comes to celebrities, it was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated with Kelly to come forward. We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle,” she said. Little Monsters and the Beyhive have been at war ever since on the matter. Gaga collaborated with Kelly on “Do What You Want” in 2013, and Beyoncé’s husband made two albums with Kelly. Both artists have disavowed him since then, yet refused to comment for Lifetime.
In an interview for Shadow and Act, Hampton said Questlove was approached for the doc, but declined. “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,” she said. In since-deleted tweets, Questlove said that he declined to be interviewed because he thought he was only being asked to praise Kelly and not condemn him: “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 disputed this version of events in tweets that have also been deleted.
Hampton called John Legend a “hero” for speaking out, a label he rejects. “To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn’t feel risky at all,” he tweeted. “I believe these women and don’t give a fuck about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision.”