Will #MuteRKelly be the change Hip-Hop and Urban Pop Culture needs?

Prince Williams

Prince Williams

Over the past year we have seen the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements out many pop culture icons as predators. One of the giants to fall was Bill Cosby, who before the digital takeoff of the aforementioned hashtags faced several accusations and trials for drugging and raping women. Cosby, who has since been found guilty and awaits sentencing, has caused many to explore the effects his behavior has on his life work.

Especially in the Black community, Cosby was heralded as a generational father by many, serving as a guiding role model through his television persona.  Many have responded to the accusations with outlandish conspiracy theories, and showed sympathy and even remained on the convicted rapist's side. Why is it hard for urban pop culture to cancel problematic faves?

Similarly, the music industry has had several artists, producers and executives both young and old, male and female engaged in predatory behavior. With or without convictions, testimony, statements and evidence pointing to the true lifestyle of these individuals are on display for the world to see, and yet these people continue to succeed unscathed.

R Kelly and The #MuteRKellyMovement exist as examples of a man whose predatory behavior has terrorized, conditioned and trained young black girls for decades. Meanwhile he’s led profitable tours, sold millions of albums and garnered support against these claims, with damning evidence against Kelly in many of them.

Recently music streaming services Spotify and Apple Music announced they will be removing R. Kelly’s music from their featured playlists for his abusive behavior Many have exclaimed their new policies are unfair unless all artists of all genres, races and accusations are held to the same standard. Rap music, currently reigning supreme as the most popular genre in the country, has a long reputation with negative connotations surrounding its artists, lyrics and lifestyle.

Will the #MuteRKelly movement and Spotify’s announcement launch a spring cleaning of the Hip Hop world?

While not unique in housing abusers (artists and professionals of all genres have been found to be problematic) hip hop's relationship with domestic abuse, rape, and other problematic behavior is finicky. Often times, lyrics, videos and other mediums of the culture mock abusive behavior, celebrate and encourage rape and sexual abuse.

For example, think about the number of lyrics you can recite referencing the domestic turmoil between Ike and Tina Turner. The abuse Tina faced at the hands of Ike, leading her to fight back, has turned into a metaphor for rough sex, proposed as an “A-HA” moment. Countless other simple yet violent bars exist. Is this example indicative of why men such as R. Kelly remain only slightly impacted by extraneous claims?

It seems we are on the cusp of the “R Kelly Reckoning” where he will finally be held responsible in the public eye for his behavior. Could this be the precursor to an overhaul in Hip Hop and the Black community to report sexual violence and shun those responsible? For musicians like Kelly, the need to protect our own in celebration of our gifts and talents has existed for too long.

In the same breath, a family knows which Uncle not to leave their nieces alone with, but they'll still invite him to the cookout. The overlooking of sexual trauma and marauding behavior in our communities on a familial and professional level continues to exist.

The digital age has created a space for movements like #TimesUp who continue to fight for men, women and every representation of people who have been victims. The hashtag, among others, has amplified many to courageously share stories that would have otherwise been ignored until time to pass down the generational trauma.

Recently more women are coming forward to share their encounters with predatory behavior in the Hip Hop & R&B community. When revealed producer Noel ‘Detail’ Fisher was accused of physical and sexual abuse, rising vocalist Jessie Reyez shared details of her encounter.

During a segment on daytime television show The Talk, co-host and rapper Eve shared the story of how pop icon Janet Jackson came to her rescue when she was drugged at an industry party.

Even Cardi B has called out the abusive treatment of women in Hip-Hop and how these voices are ignored when vocalizing her opinion on the #MeToo movement.  Her cover story with Cosmopolitan shared a personal interview where Cardi B reflected on the uncomfortable situations she herself has experienced.

"A lot of video vixens have spoke about this and nobody gives a fuck,” she says. “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 dicks 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.’” As for the guys who have publicly embraced #MeToo, Cardi has her doubts. “These producers and directors,” she says, “they’re not woke, they’re scared.

With the support of #MuteRKelly rising, many are hopeful that whether woke or scared, urban pop culture grows out of stagnant abusive conditions and grows to a place where creativity and talent continues to thrive.