KRS-One’s Supremely Disappointing Defense of Afrika Bambaataa

Shout out to everyone who still gives a fuck about this site. Those who know me personally know I’ve dealt with a major life change in the last several months. As a result, my time and motivation have been severely shot lately. Here’s to fixing that!

I should be able begin with “in case you’ve been living under a rock”, but as far as I can tell, even those without stones for shelter could be very unaware of the Afrika Bambaataa drama that’s been boiling for about a month*. The long and short of it is that he’s been accused, multiple times, of molesting young boys. It started with Ronald Savage, then three others came forward, then a bodyguard confirmed that incidents like those alleged have occurred, and more keep coming. Bambaataa defended himself with the classic, battle-tested, “this is a conspiracy built to tear me down” defense. KRS-One made a confusing defense of Bambaataa on Noreaga’s Drink Champs podcast, and failed to clarify himself in a blog post on his website.

What I have to say about Bambaataa himself is short and hopefully not-too-controversial. Accusations like these are always troubling for me. No one likes for one of their revered historical figures to be accused of something so terrible. (Hence, the Cosby drama.) We tend to have a knee jerk reaction to these situations, either “he did it!” or “stop slandering that man!” I’m often in the “he did it” camp, especially as the number of allegations rack up, because I believe that this world is much uglier than the surface might show, and I believe that smoke often indicates fire. I am not sure that Bambaataa committed these acts, but I find it hard to believe that all four, so far, of these men would wait so long to accuse him out of mere financial self-interest or as directed by some far-fetched government conspiracy. Try again Afrika.

The conspiracy defense is tired and I’m fucking tired of hearing it. Do I think the government conspires against radical movements? Yes, it’s been documented. Do I think the government is spending the money needed to orchestrate this kind of scandal? Against the Zulu Nation? In 2016? Fuck no! Why destroy a hip-hop legend well beyond his prime relevance? It just doesn’t add up to me. I don’t see the Zulu Nation being important enough for this. But who knows? I know I don’t. I’m leaning heavily towards guilty, but I’d love to be persuaded differently.

Now for KRS-One, the real reason I decided to write about this scandal. Not that the accusations weren’t enough, but this is what got me angry. A lot of people have characterized what KRS said as “I don’t care about those abuse victims, they need to work that out by themselves and everyone needs to stop gossiping about Afrika Bambaataa.” I’d hoped that they had sensationalized a few out-of-context quotes…but…they seem correct. I’m disgusted by KRS-One.

Check that podcast link above, and skip to 12:00, where N.O.R.E. asks “how is hip-hop supposed to respond to the Bambaataa [situation]?” Already, I’m pissed off, because I don’t appreciate the hero-worship that makes a grown man ask KRS to dictate hip-hop’s opinion on anything. But let’s move on.

KRS opens by saying that these are allegations only, not proven truth, and I’m with him so far. He then says as far as hip-hop goes, nothing can be taken away from Bambaataa, and I’m getting worried. Then he says “But if you want to dig into dude’s personal life and accusations that’s being made and so on…Personally — me personally – I don’t give a fuck. Look, if somebody was harmed or whatever, y’all gotta deal with that shit. Deal with it. That don’t stop Hip Hop. That don’t stop what you did for Hip Hop. It don’t take away none of it. History is history. But deal with that. That’s personal.”

At first I’m thinking, maybe he means don’t give a fuck like, “do it, I’m just not gonna pay much attention until I feel more facts have come out.” I could live with that. But “y’all gotta deal with that”? “That’s personal”? It definitely sounds like he’s saying “keep that to yourself.” N.O.R.E. gives him the perfect out by saying he doesn’t know the facts of the situation, but KRS then compares Bambaataa to his other possibly criminal associates, saying that even if he knew the facts he wouldn’t judge Bambaataa or any of those other guys. Basically, what they do in their personal lives is their business. Even if that’s molesting little boys?…

I can’t man, I just can’t. I understand and agree with the sentiment that a legend is a legend, period. Bambaataa is a hip-hop forefather. Nothing can take that away. But if he also did terrible things, then that information must be added to his history. I refuse to blindly sanctify him or anyone else. I refuse to turn a blind eye to accusations to keep hip-hop’s skeleton’s in the proverbial closet. The code of the streets (i.e. silence) needs to end way before sexual assault of minors. I’ve never much cared for KRS-One’s opinions, but now I might have to totally separate the man from the accomplishments, the same thing I might have to do with Bambaataa.

KRS tried to clarify his opinion, but the clarification only enraged me further. Sure, he said he does care about the allegations. But those words ring hollow when they appear along with these choice quotes (the emphasis is mine):

I said then as I am saying right now, it is not that I don’t care at all about the accusations made against Afrika Bambaataa; I am saddened at the whole controversy and how it is being handled. It is not that I don’t care, it is more the fact that I don’t gossip, I don’t take sides in real disputes that don’t concern me, I don’t slander people’s names and I don’t believe in abandoning your friends when they may be accused of crimes or make mistakes in life.

Disrespect and outright slander proves personal vendettas and revenge against the slandered, and I don’t participate in such immaturity, nor am I naïve to political set-ups and character assassinations.

I would ask that you not expect KRS-One to seriously lend his mind to such sensational issues when there are larger, and frankly more serious, issues concerning the future and global existence of Hip Hop.

And so we’re witnessing the same BS that happened with Cosby and other alleged predators. Shift blame and attention to the media and/or “bigger issues”. Ignore the issue rather than deal with it, hoping it gets swept under the rug. Stick by your friends/heroes, with silence or blustery defense.  Celebrity privacy suddenly is paramount. Innocent before proven guilty becomes the “obvious” ideal for average citizens’ opinions. Numbskulls gain in-depth knowledge of sexual assault psychology and policing, assured that reporting quickly is always easy and practical. I just, can’t.

I’m disgusted. A legend might be a predator. Another legend is confirming that he doesn’t care. What a great time in hip-hop.

Shout out to Aaron McKrell for his related and on-point opinion piece at HipHopDX

* Interesting how the mainstream media isn’t covering this nearly as widely as other, similar scandals. I couldn’t find one mention on CNN, and Huffington Post only had articles in their Black Voices section. Do white people not care about Black boys? Does the mainstream not care about what happens in hip-hop? Both?

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