The Kelly Conversations: Gen X Rock Critics Lorraine Ali and Bill Wyman

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Ahead of R. Kelly headlining Pitchfork Music Festival, WBEZ’s Jim DeRogatis conducts a series of conversations with smart, passionate cultural critics.

How do rock critics balance the discussion of R. Kelly’s music with that of his actions? What is the perspective of critics who’ve followed him from his earliest days as a solo artist, through his rise to the most important voice in R&B of his generation—and from his trial on charges of making child pornography, through his embrace by a largely white audience of independent rock fans?

Lorraine Ali is the pop music editor of The Los Angeles Times. She also has worked as a critic and journalist at Newsweek, and has freelanced for Mademoiselle, GQ, The New York Times, and other publications. She has covered Kelly throughout his career.

Bill Wyman wrote about Kelly early in his tenure as the rock critic for The Chicago Reader. He is the former arts editor of and National Public Radio, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and New York magazine. His essay on Michael Jackson and “the ick factor” appeared in The New Yorker last December, and he blogs at

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