The Culture of Silence: Abuse in the Hip-Hop Industry
By Victoria Jonas
Tarana Burke's #MeToo movement, the Time's Up movement and Lifetime's “Surviving R.Kelly” six-part documentary have opened and sparked conversation about abuse towards women. Often overlooked is the topic of violent and sexual abuse, especially by figures in mainstream industries. In the hip-hop industry, there is still silence and a lack of accountability for abuse by its heavy hitters.
Rappers with rap sheets aren't unfamiliar in hip-hop. Also, the disregard of abuse by rappers isn't uncommon either. Artists like 6ix9ine, XXXTentacion, Kodak Black and NBA Youngboy have abuse allegations against them. However, there has been little to no accountability for their actions. For instance, there is video evidence of Youngboy's abusive behavior towards a former girlfriend. However, Youngboy and other rappers are still thriving in hip-hop.
Several rappers with abuse allegations have found success in hip-hop. For example, 6ix9ine pleaded guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance on October 20, 2015. He still gained popularity, and he has songs with big names like Nicki Minaj and Kanye West. Other rappers with abuse accusations have also signed to major labels, sold-out venues, broke records, won awards, top the charts and album sales. A significant reason for their continued success is the fans who keep supporting them.
For the past 20 years, R.Kelly has publicly faced accusations of sexual misconduct varying from underage sex to child pornography. In 2008, Kelly was on trial for allegedly having sex and urinating on a minor. He was acquitted. But during the hearing, fans stood outside the Cook County Criminal Court Building in support of Kelly. He also provided settlements to other women who have accused him of both physical and sexual abuse. Despite numerous allegations, Kelly’s music has dominated the industry for decades.
Supporters sometimes enjoy the music so much that they turn a blind eye to the person behind the songs. When abuse survivors come forward, they are often discredited or characteristically attacked. Some fans defend rappers and request more music, but don't ask for accountability or justice in regards to abuse. For example, XXXTentacion’s ex-girlfriend, Geneva Ayala has been attacked on social media for speaking on the abuse she faced from him. Although XXXTentacion is heard confessing to violence on a secret recording, his music received sales and streams spike after his death.
On the other hand, there has been public pressure from social movements like #muterkelly. The applied pressure has resulted in streaming services like Spotify removing XXXTentacion and Kelly from “recommended” features and its official playlist. Still, there is the issue of fans and those within the hip-hop community not separating the art from the artist.
Hip-hop is male-dominated. As a result, there is male privilege within the community. There have been several accounts where men in hip-hop cosign each other, but not always holding each other responsible for abusive behaviors toward women. Then, the statement “bring the black man down” is used to justify questionable actions rather than face accountability.
However, many rappers don't have an issue holding each other accountable for snitching. When 6ix9ine was rising to stardom, he was backed by many big-name artists with barely any mentions of his past sexual misconduct. Recently, 6ix9ine admitted guilt to nine federal charges including racketeering, conspiracy, attempted murder and drug dealing. He also provided information to federal agents on gang members, which has led to three indictments. Now, fellow rappers are no longer supporting him and have very opinionated reactions to his snitching.
“WHEN YOU FIRST WENT TO JAIL I WAS LIKE FREE DUDE CAUSE I DONT LIKE TO SEE NO ONE N DAT CAGE LIKE DAT BUT ONE THING I DONT CONDONE OR SUPPORT IS RATS,” rapper Boosie Badazz said via an Instagram post.
One may question: do the same rules of snitching apply to the abuse of women?
Malcolm X said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in Ameria is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Cardi B also spoke on the sexual harassment women face in the hip-hop industry.
“A lot of video vixens have spoke about this, and nobody gives a f—,” she said in a Cosmopolitan interview. “When I was trying to be a vixen, people were like, ‘You want to be on the cover of this magazine?’ Then they pull their d—s out. I bet if one of these women stands up and talks about it, people are going to say, ‘So what? You’re a ho. It don’t matter.”
But, it does matter. A woman’s career choice doesn’t subject her to abuse. And the issue of violent and sexual abuse goes beyond the music industry. Prominent figures in other industries like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein are now facing the consequences of their years of misconduct. When will the heavy hitters in hip-hop face the music?
The questioning of accountability in hip-hop may stem from the history of false allegations and the use of abuse as a weapon against black men. But according to Our Resilience, Only 2-8 percent of rapes are falsely reported. Also, men in hip-hop joke about their sexual abuse traumas. Hip-hop celebrities like Ja Rule, Lil Wayne, Diddy and Chris Brown told their stories of losing their virginities at young ages too much older women.
All in all, we must break the silence, and take a stand against violence in hip-hop. Also, we must hold our favorite rappers accountable for their abusive actions toward women.
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