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Did racial politics delay hip hop’s MeToo reckoning?

Rappers Kanye West and Diddy have both been accused of sexual crimes this year. Credit: Getty

June 9, 2024 - 9:40am

“All these big deviants are catching hell in 2024. It’s up for all of them. It don’t matter if you’re Diddy, or whoever…all lies will be exposed [sic],” the comedian Katt Williams confidently declared in a podcast with retired American football player Shannon Sharpe in January, discussing prominent rappers accused of sexual crimes.

So far this year, Williams has been vindicated. Following the uncovering of the Diddy sexual abuse scandal, fellow artists Kanye West and The-Dream have similarly been accused of rape and sex crimes in recent days. The emerging pattern is most obviously reminiscent of how 2017 allegations against Harvey Weinstein ignited the #MeToo phenomenon.

That this #MeToo reckoning has been so delayed is a question pondered upon in the years since Weinstein’s exposure as a prolific sexual abuser. After all, there have been numerous documented allegations and cases of rap industry power players engaging in forms of sexual misconduct, such as T.I and Russell Simmons.

One factor, perhaps an uncomfortable one, behind the reluctance to lift a microscope to the world of hip hop is that it is dominated by black Americans. Many African American public figures have adopted the attitude that to criticise their conduct, especially once they have attained status and recognition in a society that historically excluded them from such things, is to attack their black manhood more broadly. To them, it is little more than a witch hunt. This is a view adopted by actor Eddie Griffin, who has said that “black male stars don’t leave this industry clean”, and singer Akon, who defended Nelly from rape allegations by saying: “half the time, [women] will set up a charge just for us to settle out.”

Another reason for the rap community’s muted response might be that most of the victims in these cases are black women who have long been treated as the bottom of the pile, so much so that sexual exploitation against them is ignored relative to other female victims. In addition, these women are more likely to remain silent about their own torment, not just because of their powerlessness, but also a communal pressure that — in the words of Drew Dixon, who accused Russell Simmons of rape — she “didn’t want to let the culture down” and potentially contribute to a discourse that denigrates black men as a group.

Sheri Sher, another accuser against Simmons, explained: “As a black young woman growing up, you learn to nurture and stand for your hood, especially black men, men of color in there, and how dare you come out and try to put him down when he’s already being put down by society and police? How dare you? So you had a silence and a code that you had to keep.”

Yet, despite the racial optics, these patterns of abuse are fundamentally the same whether in hip hop or Hollywood, whether perpetrated by Diddy or Harvey Weinstein. These men believe that with their power and status comes the right to any woman they want at a time of their choosing, an attitude that comes into contact with an abundance of attractive, aspirant young women whose currency within the industry is their good looks.

Hip hop, ever since its inception as an underground art form, has faced opprobrium from outside critics for misogyny and sexual objectification, and in response rap’s tight-knit community has sought to defend the honour of the art form. A collection of big-name artists and moguls being exposed as sexual abusers seems to validate the stigma. But instead of confronting this problem, a code of silence that would brand speaking up as akin to “snitching”, whether out of fear or self-preservation, took root. At least, perhaps, until now.


Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.

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Studio Largo
Studio Largo
8 days ago

Good article, but the author left out one important factor in all this: white wokies who will use their convoluted, tortured logic to excuse black people for anything, up to and including murder. Gangsta rap has always worn its ugly misogyny in plain sight, good to see some long overdue reckoning.

R Wright
R Wright
8 days ago

Given that western culture has worshipped blackness for decades is it really so shocking that these individuals would have felt untouchable in using their ‘N word passes’ as cover to exploit impressionable, stupid, ambitious young women? It has always been different standards.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

My comment appeared briefly and then disappeared. It must have been flagged. It was about the way criminal gangs regardless of race or nationality all have the same notions of disloyalty and the consequent punishment. I suspect someone has flagged my comment as racist as I do not support the victim narrative.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 days ago

The second version of my comment has appeared.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 days ago

What are generally considered ‘crimes’ against a gang by its members regardless of race or nationality of members are: ‘Turned informant. Ratting on your fellow members is an almost dead cert guarantee of a retaliatory punishment, with death a likely outcomeConsorted with an enemy. This covers a wide spectrum from being friends with an opposing gang member through to collaborating with them against the gangFailed to follow orders. Gangs demand discipline and/or competence. Failing to do what is asked is to invite punishmentIndiscretion. Running your mouth and being too open can lead to a beatingEmbarrassed the gang / violated code of conduct. If your behaviour embarrasses the gang (backed down, broke a rule, turn out to be gay etc), punishment often followsTo make an example. Sometimes you were the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gang leader wants to make an example of someone and you’re it.’
Rap music is strongly associated with criminal gangs.

Max Price
Max Price
8 days ago

It’s quite the intersectional conundrum. British grooming gangs anyone?

David L
David L
6 days ago
Reply to  Max Price

They’re not British though.

Last edited 6 days ago by David L
Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 days ago

Intimidation and harassment work. We have to remember the way the fans of RJ Kelly threatened those who condemned Kelly’s abuse of women. Even the mother of one of Kelly’s victims denied her daughter’s identity in his film of her daughter’s abuse abuse. Ditto for the victims of Michael Jackson who received death threats after making public accusations against him. The rape victim of Kobe Bryant got so many death threats she finally refused to bring her case to court. One of Kobe’s defenders, Snoop Dogg, credibly threatened news commentator Gail King after she brought up the allegations of rape against Kobe after he died. The woman who accused Nate Parker of rape was harassed by his supporters. She sued the University they were attending for not protecting her from her harassers and won, but later committed suicide. When Huey Newton killed a trafficked teenage girl it was either ignored or vehemently denied. The girl who accused Prince Shembo of sexual assault also committed suicide after being threatened and harassed by his supporters. Shembo received more condemnation after he killed his girlfriend’s dog. When Bill Cosby was accused of multiple rapes and druggings Whoopi Goldberg went ballistic on The View screaming at the audience that he had never been convinced of anything. Felicia Rashad has also been one of Cosbys staunchest defenders saying his accusers are just trying to spoil the legacy of th Bill Cosby Show. $$$. Out of fear of retribution, Russell Simmons was protected for decades. The list goes on. Intimidation, fear and accusations of racism are openly deployed with the expected, desired results. It works, and it will continue… does continue.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 days ago
Reply to  Betsy Warrior

Loyalty to the tribe overrides universal notions of justice.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
8 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Spot on. Same as it ever was.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

No. The victims are just as much a part of the ‘tribe’ as the rapists. It is loyalty to men and loyalty to money.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
8 days ago

When the author talks about black women being at “the bottom of the pile”, I can’t help but think of Claudine Gay, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Meghan Markle, and so many others who, contrary to being at “the bottom of the pile” have been put on the very top despite their complete lack of merit.
This article seeks to be insightful, but the point that it clumsily tries to make (that certain people escape justice because of a melanin shield) is so obvious that I can only respond with “Duh. D’ya think?”
What a surprise that a genre of music that describes women as “bitches and hoes”, features scantily clad buxom/big bottomed women hanging off men in all videos, and whose central ethic is a hatred of “cops” and law might attract the sort of man who may treat women disrespectfully or worse. Again, “d’ya think?”

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

Claudine Gay, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Meghan Markle are not the sort of black woman that wants a career in hip hop. Money talks and it also hires lawyers.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
9 days ago

The general ‘laws’ criminal gangs of any race, colour or nationality tend to enforce are essentially the same. Below is a list of what are considered the most serious violations:
Turned informant. Ratting on your fellow members is an almost dead cert guarantee of a retaliatory punishment, with death a likely outcome
Consorted with an enemy. This covers a wide spectrum from being friends with an opposing gang member through to collaborating with them against the gang.
Failed to follow orders. Gangs demand discipline and/or competence. Failing to do what is asked is to invite punishment
Indiscretion. Running your mouth and being too open can lead to a beating.
Embarassed the gang / violated code of conduct. If your behaviour embarrasses the gang (backed down, broke a rule, turn out to be gay etc), punishment often follows.
To make an example. Sometimes you were the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gang leader wants to make an example of someone and you’re it.
Violation of criminal codes of conduct are generally punished extremely severely. Reporting members to the police is probably the worst violation in the eyes of gang members.

LA rapper CMAC who constantly claims 55th Street Crips in his music and interviews. A video recently surfaced of him in his younger days dissing the Neighbourhood Crips (of which 55th Street is a part). Despite putting 55th Street on the map, tattooing said group and the killing of their enemies all over his face, his fellow Crips gave him a DP (Disciplinary Punishment) – in other words, a massive beat down.

Last edited 9 days ago by Aphrodite Rises