I was pretty big on Age Ain't Nothing But a Number when I was younger; I'd obviously been introduced to Aaliyah through the more commercially-viable likes of 'Try Again' and 'We Need a Resolution' - hey, remember when everything Timbaland touched turned to gold? - but there was something especially appealing about her debut record. Even in the early noughties, around the time she died horribly young in a plane crash, it already sounded weirdly dated; it had a very nineties sound to it, the production especially, and there was kind of a quaint appeal to the way in which, sonically, it tapped into a lot of the same signatures as the hip-hop of the day - it was streetwise R&B. Give I Care 4 U a spin - the compilation that was her first posthumous release - and you'll see what I mean; the Age Ain't Nothing But a Number cuts stick out like sore thumbs.

Late last year, I stumbled across an interview that Rookie's music editor, Jessica Hopper, conducted with former Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis. Posted online at The Village Voice, the piece focused on the latter's fifteen-year coverage of sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly; after a headline slot at Pitchfork Music Festival to promote his hyper-sexual new record, Black Panties, DeRogatis had decided that the music world's collective conscience was in dire need of pricking. You need to read the full piece to understand the true extent of it, but suffice to say that DeRogatis, citing court reports and his own interviews, spins an unremittingly bleak tale of around two dozen women that made allegations against Kelly, replete with forced abortions, suicide attempts and a justice system that was effectively racist.

For somebody of my generation, it was a mind-blowing read, for all the wrong reasons. I'm a little too young to remember Kelly standing trial and the ramifications thereof, but I'm old enough to have fond memories of Space Jam and the 'Ignition' remix. I'd always had a vague idea about him having something of a dubious personal history, and I'd known, through my appreciation for Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, about the rumours regarding Kelly and Aaliyah. I can't even put it down to childlike naivete, though; Aziz Ansari's bit making light of Kelly's response to the situation in a television interview has over half a million views on YouTube, and one of the biggest pop singles of last year, Macklemore's 'Thrift Shop', nods cheekily to the allegations too. I doubt either man, had they known the true extent of the accusations, would have deemed those ideas especially sensible.

And so I knew, when it came to writing about Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, that it'd simply be impossible to focus entirely upon what I liked about it as a record. It was written, bar an Isley Brothers cover, entirely by Kelly. The old story, supposedly validated by the release of a marriage certificate, was that he and Aaliyah had wed whilst she was just fifteen. The title track, which I'd previously viewed as a wry nod to the apparent conjecture, now turns a knot in my stomach. 'Back and Forth' and 'I'm So Into You' prove similarly difficult listens.

It's one thing for Kelly to continue to trade off of a garishly sexualised image despite having previously been on trial for sexual crimes - it's insensitive at best and monstrous at worst - but Age Ain't Nothing But a Number now seems to serve as a sonic document of everything he stands accused of. If it once felt merely inappropriate for a man - then twenty-seven - to be writing sexually-suggestive pop songs for a teenage girl, it now takes on an astonishing level of brazenness.

And, rightly or wrongly, that's why Age Ain't Nothing But a Number has now transcended any argument of being able to separate the artist from the art. You have to wonder; if John Lennon, Chuck Berry or Miles Davis had written songs about violence towards women, would as many people remain ignorant of their transgressions - or simply choose to ignore them - as is currently the case? The most disturbing point that DeRogatis made was his suggestion that 'some percentage' of Kelly's fanbase enjoy his music because "there is some sort of vicarious thrill to seeing this guy play this character in these songs and knowing that it's not just a character." So intrinsically tied is this record to what Kelly stands accused of, that to enjoy it would be to risk being counted amongst the above number, and it's for that reason that there can be little doubt about how Age Ain't Nothing But a Number has to be viewed as it turns twenty; one of the best R&B records of the nineties appears tainted beyond redemption.