R. Kelly, 54, is currently facing decades in prison after being found guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering charges on Sept. 27. The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn for his crimes, which were infamously detailed in the 2019 Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly. He will be sentenced to prison on May 4, 2022, and thus will be leaving behind his three children, Joann Kelly, 23, Jay Kelly, 21, and Robert Kelly Jr., 19. Kelly shares all of his children with ex-wife Andrea “Drea” Kelly, 47, whom he was married to from 1996 to 2009.
As expected, R. Kelly has a complicated relationship with his children due to his sex crimes. Drea has accused the singer of abusing her emotionally and physically while they were married, and after Kelly was convicted in Brooklyn, she told Good Morning Britain that her “heart breaks” for her and Kelly’s kids. “This is now the legacy that my children will have to deal with and their children’s children,” she said. “At the end of the day, you cannot walk away from your blood line. I have the ability to separate and distance myself from it, but his blood runs through my children’s veins and it’s part of their DNA and they couldn’t escape it even if they wanted to. So it’s very difficult for me to sit in that position.”
Below, everything to know about R. Kelly’s three children, including what they’ve publicly said about their father’s widely-publicized sex crimes.
R. Kelly’s eldest child is daughter Joann Kelly, who was born on March 19, 1998. Joann is a singer, just like her dad, and goes by the name Buku Abi. In November 2020, Joann reportedly revealed to her fans that she had suffered a miscarriage the month prior.
Several months after the release of Surviving R. Kelly, Joann spoke to the Associated Press in a rare interview about her father’s crimes, and shared that she is fully estranged from him. “I don’t let that be a part of my every day (life),” she said in the interview. “(We) don’t have a relationship, so it’s not like me to check in on him. I don’t personally go look it all up and read. I keep myself out of it.” Joann also called being R. Kelly’s daughter “a double-edged sword,” and that it affects her role in the music industry. “I definitely run across challenges — people wanting to work with me to spite him or people not wanting to work with me just because of who he is,” she said. “I’ve definitely come across turmoil … being judged for really no reason at all, just based off associations. I’ve been pushing through it.”
Jay Kelly is the middle child of R. Kelly and Drea. Jay was actually born a female and originally named Jaya by his parents, but in 2014, when Jay was 13, he reavelaed he was transgender. However, R. Kelly did not support Jay’s transition. The R&B star told WGCI afterwards, “You don’t really wanna open it up by saying my daughter is becoming my son, because if that were true… Don’t even give the blogs that kind of credit. You know what I’m saying? Real talk.” Jay also addressed his father’s lack of support at the time on the Q&A website ask.fm. When asked “You mad your dad knows?”, Jay simply responded with: “Nope.” He also confirmed that his mom refers to him as a boy, and said he ignores questions about his famous father “most of the time” and doesn’t think of himself as a celebrity.
Like his sister, Jay has followed in R. Kelly’s footsteps and pursued music. He releases music under the name JaahBaby, and dropped his first single, “Reservoir,” back in 2014. His most recent single was “Focus” in October 2019. He teased on his Instagram in July 2021 that an album would be coming soon.
Robert Kelly Jr.
R. Kelly’s youngest child with his ex is son Robert Kelly Jr. He was born in 2002 under very difficult circumstances for Drea, who at the time was dealing with abuse at the hands of R. Kelly. “I was under so much stress that when I went to the OBGYN they couldn’t find his heartbeat,” she said in the Surviving R. Kelly doc, per Heavy.com. Drea also recalled that when she arrived at the emergency room, she learned the doctors had to induce labor right away in order for Robert Jr. to survive. “I went through the labor and I just remember falling so in love with little Rob because he came here so strong,” she said during the doc. “I was in that much stress.”
Robert Jr. keeps a much lower profile than his older siblings, and he hasn’t spoken publicly about his dad’s crimes. However, Drea has said before that none of her kids — Robert Jr. included — speak to the R&B singer. “He has no relationship with his children now. He doesn’t call them, he changed his phone number. We don’t have that phone number,” Drea said in Jan. 2019 on The Bert Show.