R. Kelly Found Guilty of Child Pornography Charges in Chicago Federal Trial

A federal jury on Wednesday (Sept. 14) convicted R. Kelly of several child pornography charges in his hometown of Chicago, delivering another legal blow to a singer who used to be one of the biggest R&B stars in the world.

Kelly, 55, was found guilty on three counts of child pornography but was acquitted of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008.

The decision comes after a federal judge in New York sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison in June for racketeering and sex trafficking. Based on that sentence, he won’t be eligible for release until he is around 80.

The Chicago trial was, in many ways, a do-over of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial, with a key video critical to both.

The legal challenges for Kelly — who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a Grammy-winning superstar — are not yet over. Two further trials are pending; one in Minnesota and another in state court in Chicago.

Jurors began deliberating Tuesday after Judge Harry Leinenweber gave them instructions, including explicit descriptions of what constitutes sexual abuse.

Early Wednesday, jurors wrote several questions to the judge, at least one indicating the panelists may be grappling with some of the case’s legal complexities.

One asked if they had to find Kelly both enticed and coerced minors, or that he either enticed or coerced them. Over objections from Kelly’s lawyer, the judge said they only need to find one.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean likened the government’s testimony and evidence to a cockroach and its case to a bowl of soup.

If a cockroach falls into soup, she said, “you don’t just pull out the cockroach and eat the rest of the soup. You throw out the whole soup,” said told jurors.

“There are just too many cockroaches,” she said.

In her rebuttal Tuesday, prosecutor Jeannice Appenteng told jurors to remember the girls and women who have accused Kelly of abuse.

“When you are in the quiet of the jury room, consider the evidence in light of who is at the center of this case. Kelly’s victims: Jane, Nia, Pauline, Tracy and Brittany,” Appenteng said, referring to five Kelly accusers named in charging documents by pseudonyms or their first names.

As Kelly’s fame boomed in the mid-1990s, Appenteng said, his inner circle increasingly focused on doing what the performer born Robert Sylvester Kelly wanted.

“And ladies and gentlemen, what R. Kelly wanted was to have sex with young girls,” she said.

Kelly, 55, was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking in New York in June and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Bonjean described Kelly as a flawed genius who has been functionally illiterate since childhood and was ill-equipped to navigate his celebrity and growing wealth. She said that he was abused as a child also deeply affected him.

Known for his smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and for sex-infused songs such as “Bump n’ Grind,” Kelly sold millions of albums even after allegations of sexual misconduct circulated in the 1990s. Widespread outrage emerged after the #MeToo reckoning and the 2019 Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly.

Kelly and co-defendant Derrell McDavid, Kelly’s ex-business manager, are accused of fixing Kelly’s 2008 trial on state child porn charges by intimidating and paying off witnesses.

Kelly faces four counts of producing child pornography, one of conspiring to obstruct justice by fixing the 2008 trial, one of conspiring to receive child porn, two of actually receiving it and five of enticing minors for sex.

McDavid is charged with four counts — two for receiving child porn, one for conspiring to do so and one for conspiring to obstruct justice by rigging the 2008 trial, at which Kelly was acquitted.

Co-defendant Milton Brown, a former Kelly associate, faces a single count of conspiring to receive child pornography.

Amazon’s Live Radio Platform Amp to Start Funding Creators Who Build Loyal Audiences

Amazon’s live radio arm Amp is launching a monthly fund to reward emerging U.S.-based creators for engaging with the application and building loyal audiences. The company, which announced the fund on Wednesday (Sept. 14), says creators of all types, sizes and experience levels are eligible for the monetary grants.

This is the latest incentive introduced by Amazon to grow Amp, which launched on March 8. A relative late-comer to the burgeoning live audio industry, it has now set itself apart with the newly announced fund as well as shows from artists like Nicki Minaj, Tinashe, Travis Barker, Lil Yachty, Lindsey Stirling and Big Boi; personalities Tefi Pessoa and Nikita Dragun; radio DJs Zach Sang, Kat Corbett, Christian James Hand and Guy Raz; and writers from the music and culture magazine The FADER.

While it is star-studded, Amp is a free platform focused on letting regular users play the role of radio DJ, and the new fund hopes to bolster that mission. Any U.S.-based user can sign on and create playlists of licensed music from participating major labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group — and independent companies like Beggars Group, Believe, CD Baby and PIAS, among many others, and Amp enables users to provide commentary in between tracks and invite callers to join their programs in real-time.

Amp will reward funds to creators who are “building community and culture” on the app “based on consistency of content and meaningful audience engagement over time,” according to a post on the Amazon blog. To be eligible, creators must also have hosted a show in the qualifying month. Selected creators will receive an email the following month with instructions on how to claim their money.

“Creators are the heart and soul of Amp, and the Creator Fund is our next step toward recognizing the commitment of people who are doing what they love by making innovative shows that inspire and entertain,” said John Ciancutti, vp of Amp. “We’ve spent our beta listening to the early adopters of our creator community, and we understand that monetization is crucial for them. The Creator Fund will support loyal creators who are spending their time creating great programming and building a community of followers on Amp.”

Additional information on the creator fund is available here.

Limited-Time Offer: You Can Join Peacock for Just $2 a Month

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Want to join Peacock? NBC Universal’s streaming platform is home to thousands of hours of entertainment. From binge-worthy TV shows to exclusive movies, must-watch sporting events and tons of other programming, Peacock has something for every kind of streamer.

For a limited time only, new subscribers can join Peacock for $1.99 a month for 12 months or subscribe to the annual plan and pay just $19.99 for a year of service. The streaming discount only applies to Peacock’s Premium plan, regularly $4.99 per month or $49.99 a year.

Scoping out the best streaming plans can be time-consuming, but if you enjoy watching TV, it’ll be worth it in savings. No need to wait until Black Friday to score an excellent streaming deal. Below, find details on how to join Peacock under the limited promo and ways to land a free subscription.

How to Join Peacock for $1.99 a Month

Peacock’s special promo gives new subscribers access to Peacock Premium, which is an ad-supported, video-on-demand package, for 12 months at $1.99/month. Subscribe to the Peacock Premium annual plan and pay a one-time fee of $19.99.

To join, click the buy button below and follow the prompts to set up an account. The streaming deal does not apply to current Peacock Premium or Peacock Premium Plus ($9.99/month) subscribers and will end on Sept. 30.

Peacock Premium
$1.99/month for 12 months $4.99/month

What’s Streaming on Peacock?

Apart from original shows and movies, Peacock is the exclusive platform for Bravo. Fans can watch The Real Housewives franchise, Married to Medicine, Below Deck Mediterranean and Peacock Originals such as The Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip and Below Deck Down Under.

Subscribers can stream current episodes of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the upcoming season of The Real Housewives of Potomac and other shows in the franchise as soon as the episodes premiere on Bravo.

Feeling nostalgic? Dip into the archives to watch older episodes from The Real Housewives vault. The franchise will be removed from Hulu this week, making Peacock the only place to access the entire catalog at no extra cost. Paid episodes are available on Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu and Apple iTunes.

Also streaming exclusively on Peacock: The Resort, Love Island USA, One of Us Is Lying, Angelyne, Bel-Air, Dr. Death, The End Is Nye, Last Light, Vigil, Saved by the Bell, We Are Lady Parts, Girls5Eva, Rutherford Falls and Days of Our Lives. In addition to exclusives, subscribers can binge episodes of Yellowstone, The Office, That ’70s Show, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation and other beloved TV series.

Movies available on Peacock include Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: Rise of Gru, Honk for Jesus: Save Your Soul, Halloween Ends and the entire Harry Potter film series.

How to Watch Sports on Peacock: NFL, WWE & More

NFL fans can stream Sunday Night Football games live on Peacock, including the Chicago Bears vs. New England Packers game this Sunday (Sept. 18). Coverage will begin at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. See the full NFL schedule here.

If you’re a WWE fan, you can stream live events and original series, in-ring shows, WWE documentaries, and much more on Peacock. Sports lovers can also watch Premiere League and other sporting events on Peacock. Click here for additional details.

How to Get Free Peacock

Although Peacock has a great streaming deal at just $1.99 a month, the platform does not offer a free trial (there are certain episodes and movies that you can watch for free, but some shows will require an upgrade to the paid tier to continue streaming).

To land a free Peacock subscription, you’ll have to go through a third party such as Xfinity, Cox or Spectrum. Eligible customers can receive free Peacock Premium with select plans.

How do you start watching Peacock? Simply download the app or log-in directly through the website. The streaming platform is available on your TV, laptop or computer, as well as a phone or tablet device. And for those streaming from outside the U.S., Peacock is accessible through ExpressVPN.

Mattel Drops Lawsuit Over Nicki Minaj-Branded ‘Barbie-Que’ Chips

Barbie maker Mattel Inc. has agreed to drop a trademark lawsuit against Rap Snacks over the launch of Nicki Minaj-branded “Barbie-Que” potato chips, just a month after the case was filed.

Mattel’s August lawsuit, which did not name Minaj herself as a defendant, claimed that Rap Snacks made a “deliberate and calculated” choice to infringe the company’s trademark rights to Barbie. But in a filing on Wednesday, the toymaker asked the judge to voluntarily dismiss the case.

The settlement came after Rap Snacks appears to have changed the name of the Minaj-branded chips. In an August post on Instagram, the company advertised a Minaj “Bar-B-Quin'” flavor with the same “honey truffle” flavor as the product previously labeled “Barbie-Que.” No Minaj chips are currently available on the company’s site.

Neither side immediately returned requests for comments on the settlement, including whether Rap Snacks had paid any money to settle the case or had agreed to specific label changes as part of the lawsuit.

Launched in Philadelphia in 1994, Rap Snacks partners with top hip-hop stars to sell branded food products, like Cardi B‘s Cheddar Chips and Master P‘s Creamy Chicken Gumbo Ramen Noodles. The company, which says its products are in thousands of Walmarts and other retailers, has also branded its snacks with stars like Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Migos and many others.

In June, the company announced Minaj’s Barbie-Que Honey Truffle Potato Chips – a riff on her longtime “Barbie” nickname and her “Barbz” fanbase. The launch had a big rollout, with billboards in Times Square and a marketing blitz on TikTok and Instagram.

But just a month later, Mattel filed a lawsuit claiming the name violated its trademark rights to the Barbie brand. In its complaint, the company said it had “immediately engaged” with Rap Snacks to try to avoid a lawsuit, but had been forced to sue as “a last resort to protect its rights and prevent further consumer confusion.”

“Rap Snacks made the deliberate and calculated choice to launch a new product line using Mattel’s famous Barbie trademark,” the company wrote, claiming that the bag’s pink color scheme would exacerbate the problem. “Defendant’s blatant and intentional use of Mattel’s trademark will cause consumers to associate the defendant’s products with Mattel and its Barbie brand.”

The case was not Mattel’s first clash with the music industry (or at least a music industry-adjacent company) over Barbie. In 1997, the toymaker famously sued MCA Records over Aqua’s smash hit “Barbie Girl,” claiming it infringed the Barbie trademark. But a federal appeals court ruled in 2002 that the song – which “pokes fun at Barbie and the values that Aqua contends she represents” – was protected free speech.

Unfortunately for Rap Snacks, that kind of defense would not have worked nearly as well in the case of an actual commercial product. A bag of chips is not afforded the same First Amendment protections as a song, and Mattel could have argued that consumers have come to expect authorized tie-in food products with brands like Barbie.

A rep for Minaj did not return a request for comment on the future of her brand with Rap Snacks.

Trending Up: ‘Queen’ Songs Rule on Streaming, The Weeknd Turns Back the Clock at Radio & Tyler Childers Gets ‘All’ Up on TikTok

Welcome to Billboard Pro’s Trending Up newsletter, where we take a closer look at the songs, artists, curiosities and trends that have caught the music industry’s attention. Some have come out of nowhere, others have taken months to catch on, and all of them could become ubiquitous in the blink of a TikTok clip. This week: The Queen’s death spurs a flurry of related gains on streaming, The Weeknd returns to top 40 with an unexpected hit and both Tyler Childers and Omar Apollo ride TikTok virality to — possibly — their first crossover hits.

Her Majesty Trends From Day to Day

Queen Elizabeth II’s death last week was global news, prompting millions to go into deep mourning, while many others pointed to the monarch’s checkered cultural legacy. But whether they were grieving her or thumbing their nose at her memory, many headed to streaming services to play related rock songs, resulting in huge bumps for a number of Queenly tracks. 

The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead,” a commonly cited track on social media the past week, saw one of the biggest gains, jumping from over 6,000 official on-demand U.S. streams on Wednesday (Sept. 7) to over 114,000 on Thursday, the day of the Queen’s passing – a 1,687% jump, according to Luminate. Also spiking day-to-day were the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” (under 11,000 to over 81,000, a 650% gain) The Beatles’ “Her Majesty” (under 1,000 to nearly 3,000, 269%) and The Stone Roses’ “Elizabeth My Dear” (under 500 to nearly 1,500, 224%). 

Less profound, however, was the impact on streaming consumption for the band Queen, whose catalog only saw a small uptick, from just under 3.3 million on-demand U.S. audio streams on Sept. 7 to just over 3.4 million on Sept. 8 – about a 4% gain. – ANDREW UNTERBERGER


The Weeknd’s New (Old) Radio Hit

A couple months ago, we wrote about how two TikTok-boosted album cuts from The Weeknd’s 2016 LP Starboy were actually generating the most online interest for the superstar this summer – even though he’d released his new Dawn FM full-length just a half-year earlier. While “Die for You” and the Lana Del Rey-assisted “Stargirl Interlude” were both enjoying healthy streaming bumps by July, “Die for You” has officially crossed over as something of a new hit for the Republic artist, with radio fully catching on to the online activity of the synth-drenched torch song.

“Die for You” is up two spots to No. 31 on this week’s Pop Airplay chart, with a 32% gain in plays in the week ending Sept. 11, according to Luminate. Among all stations that report to Billboard’s Radio Songs chart, the track surged by 44% to 3.1 million audience impressions in that span. Meanwhile, its streaming numbers continue to grow — it’s up 7 percent this week, to just shy of 8 million weekly U.S. on-demand streams — and by jumping up 17 spots to No. 52 on this week’s Billboard Hot 100, “Die for You” is threatening to overtake its original peak of No. 43, when Starboy was released in 2016.

Dawn FM, which was released in January, did produce a radio hit in lead single “Take My Breath,” which peaked at No. 8 on Pop Airplay and No. 6 on the Hot 100. But right now, The Weeknd’s biggest hit on either chart is a song that’s six years old — a revival even Kate Bush would likely be impressed with. – JASON LIPSHUTZ


Tyler Childers Soundtracks ‘All’ the Ways His Fans Want to Be Loved

Americana artist Tyler Childers is experiencing a new bump in streams after a pitched-up version of his heartfelt song “All Your’n” (from 2019’s Country Squire album on Hickman Holler/RCA) caught fire on TikTok recently. Users, mostly young women, are using the tune to soundtrack clips that start with the caption “you’re so hard to please” in quotation marks. After, the user will share images and videos of simple ways they want to be loved by a romantic partner or friend. Flowers are the most common want from the video makers – along with love notes, movie nights, FaceTime calls, and more. 

But not all the posts are so serious. One user, for example, followed the same trend, but shared a photo of herself with a twelve pack of Michelob Ultras. Another jokingly shared photos of designer bags, yachts, mansions and other luxury items. Other posts include hiking and nature videos and romantic couples videos made to “All Your’n.” All this has led up to the track steadily gaining in U.S. on-demand streaming over the past month – most recently hiking 19.9% in official on-demand U.S. streams from the chart week ending Sept. 1 (2.5 million) to the week ending Sept. 8 (3 million), according to Luminate. – KRISTIN ROBINSON


Has Omar Apollo Found His Crossover Single?

Alt-R&B singer-songwriter Omar Apollo has become a critical darling this year thanks to debut album Ivory, which earned raves upon its release on Warner in April. With its powerhouse vocals, funk-adjacent grooves and impressive list of collaborators (The Neptunes, Kali Uchis, Daniel Caesar), Ivory has helped Apollo land late-night TV performances and headline a tour across North America. Soon, he might have a breakthrough hit, too.

“Evergreen,” the swaying soul highlight in Ivory’s back half, has been lifted up on TikTok, thanks to a trend built around the song’s emotional climax in the bridge (“You know you really made me hate myself / Had to stop before I break myself / Shoulda broke it off to date myself / You didn’t deserve me… at all, at all, at all”). With users lip-synching to Apollo’s angst, “Evergreen” is up a whopping 356% week-over-week at streaming, with 1.29 million U.S. on-demand streams during the week ending Sept. 8, according to Luminate. Although Ivory debuted at No. 152 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year, Apollo has yet to have a solo song bow on a Billboard chart — that may change if this trend keeps growing. – JL


Q&A: Charlie Cook, VP Country Format at Cumulus, on What’s Trending Up in His World

As we enter the home stretch of 2022, what country radio trend has helped define the year for you?

While the labels have been frustrated with the length of time it takes for a song to get daytime airplay and find its way up the chart, we have found that the longer the better for audience acceptance.

Are there any artists you’re keeping an eye on that you think will be in greater rotation in the near future?

Lainey Wilson is the next superstar for the format. Bailey Zimmerman, Nate Smith – Mitchell Tenpenny is back in the discussion, and I think Jackson Dean has some juice. I have heard some of his next material.

Which song that’s been bubbling up over the past few months do you think is ready for a breakthrough?

“Pick Me Up” by Gabby Barrett, “Everything She Ain’t” by Hailey Witters and “Man Made” by Matt Stell.

Fill in the blank: before the end of 2022, country fans will be surprised by ________.

The new crop of artists moving into the mainstream and taking over their favorite radio station playlists. – JL


Trending Back Then: The MTV Generation Was on the Rise in ‘82, But ‘70s Rockers Still Ruled the Hot 100

Conventional wisdom might have you believe that MTV rendered the dinosaur rockers of the 1970s extinct essentially on impact in Aug. 1981 – but even a year later, the upper stretches of the Hot 100 was still littered with Me Decade survivors. The chart dated Sept. 11, 1982 was led by ‘70s hitmakers Chicago (“Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” their second of three No. 1s) and also included Steve Miller Band (“Abracadabra,” No. 3), Fleetwood Mac (“Hold Me,” No. 7), Crosby, Stills & Nash (“Wasted on the Way,” No. 9) and even Boomer Rock GOAT Paul McCartney (“Take It Away,” No. 10) in the top 10. Even the newer acts in that week’s top tier 40 years ago – Survivor, Air Supply, two John Cougar appearances – hardly spoke to the rise of the visually minded new wave and megapop artists breaking out contemporaneously on the MTV airwaves. 

Those artists were there, though. They were a little lower in the rankings, but slowly rising: including Men at Work (“Who Can It Be Now,” No. 15), Billy Idol (“Hot in the City,” No. 23), Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (“Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” No. 29) and possibly the most paradigmatic artist of the period, A Flock of Seagulls (“I Ran (So Far Way),” No. 30). – AU