R Kelly DID know his protegee Aaliyah was underage months before he married her illegally, newly discovered footage appears to prove.
A lawyer for the disgraced singer, who is the subject of new documentary series Surviving R Kelly, has continuously denied that his client knew the late Aaliyah was just 14 when they married in 1994.
But a documentary filmed earlier that same year shows R Kelly – real name Robert Kelly – discussing Aaliyah’s age as he worked on her debut album, the controversially titled Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.
Acting as her producer, Kelly could be seen in the footage watching Aaliyah as she crooned into the microphone.
“Right now I’m producing a very talented lady – a young lady. She’s 14, Aaliyah. She’s real street,” he told the camera crew.
Kelly refers to the underage teen as “baby” in the clip and instructs her on sounding “more street” as he brushes up close against her in the small recording booth.
Later in the documentary Kelly takes the 14-year-old singer on a lunch date, chaperoned by a member of his crew.
The pair first met in 1992, when Aaliyah was just 12. Her uncle Barry Hankerson, who was Kelly’s manager at the time, introduced them, and Kelly even namechecked the girl in his single She’s Got That Vibe – his lyric “little cute Aaliyah’s got it (that vibe)” clearly referring to the pre-teen.
They appeared on a joint Video Soul interview later in 1994 where they were asked about the nature of their relationship, but Aaliyah refused to tell host Leslie Segar her real age, insisting it was “a secret”.
A short time after the Video Soul interview, Kelly and Aaliyah reportedly married in an Illinois hotel room on August 31 1994.
A Cook County marriage certificate – published by Vibe magazine – listed Aaliyah’s age as 18 – she was actually 15 at the time.
Kelly’s new attorney Steven Greenberg last week denied that his client knew of Aaliyah’s real age at the time of their illegal wedding, which was annulled a short time after.
He insisted that Aaliyah – who tragically died in a plane crash in August 2001 aged 22 – must have lied about her age to R Kelly at the time.
But, after the emergence of the old footage, Greenberg has now told TMZ that he “misspoke” and has never talked to his disgraced client about Aaliyah specifically.
“That was 20 years ago. I didn’t know him 20 years ago, I didn’t represent him 20 years ago. And, I wasn’t invited to any wedding,” he told the US site.
He added that Kelly has insisted he’s never “been with” underage girls.
It comes after the first episode of Surviving R Kelly featured an interview with Kelly’s former personal assistant Demetrius Smith, who claimed he had helped the couple forge documents for their marriage.
“I’m not proud of that (day). I had papers forged for them. Aaliyah was underage. We got the marriage licence, we were at a hotel in Maywood, Illinois,” he told the camera.
“Aaliyah looked worried, scared. She was worried and scared. I wanted so much to grab Aaliyah and talk to her. She gave me a look like she wanted me to talk to her. I knew that it had changed the course of everything.”
R Kelly has denied all recent allegations of underage sex and sexual abuse, and has announced he is taking legal action against the docu-series makers.