It’s been a hell of a week to talk about male artists, sexual assault and the courtesies and praise they do or do not deserve from the media—and the public at large.
It began with a debate over the “King of R&B”—a conversation which successfully highlighted how far out of their depth male R&B artists were compared to their female peers—and the subsequent furious caping for everyone’s trash faves (no need to make a list; you know who they are).
But a tense exchange between radio host Ebro and rapper Kodak Black—and the ensuing reaction—highlighted just how stunted the conversation around sexual assault currently is.
The 21-year-old rapper made an appearance on New York’s Hot 97’s “Ebro in the Morning” on Wednesday to promote his upcoming album, Dying to Live. The interview went as these things typically go—amicably enough, with Kodak and the show’s hosts chopping it up about his single, “ZeZe” and, at one point, talking about XXXTentacion.
Then Ebro broached Kodak’s sexual assault charge from 2016—a timely topic, considering Kodak recently received an April 2019 trial date for the case. The charges stem from an incident where the rapper allegedly pinned down, bit, and raped a teenage girl while in a hotel in Florence, S.C., reports the Source.
“Looking at all your cases and everything you been through, you know, the recent one right now is very sensitive,” Ebro began. “With respect to everyone involved in that case, we can’t get into details today, but we take sexual assault here serious. And we can’t get into details, but we hope we can have you back so we can have a deeper conversation about that, because this is a serious topic and we’re hearing these stories a lot.”
Let’s be clear here: There wasn’t an actual question. Ebro’s reference to the case was veiled, which allowed Kodak plenty of space to broach the subject however he wanted. He could have very well agreed to address the topic at length at a later time, as Ebro offered.
From a journalist’s perspective, it was about as soft a lob as Ebro could throw at Kodak, who met the popular radio host’s comments with stony silence.
When Ebro pointed out that the rapper seemed upset, he responded, “I feel like sometimes, when niggas be like, going through shit, y’all be entertained by bullshit, you know what I’m talking about?” He then told Ebro to change the subject or he would walk out.
“We don’t have to talk about nothing else, we can be done right here,” Ebro said, prompting Kodak to abruptly end the interview.
I wasn’t surprised that Kodak responded to Ebro’s question that way—nor do I think many other people are, for that matter. I wasn’t surprised he framed himself as the victim—as if the “question” Ebro posed was merely to entertain listeners, rather than being a substantive and legitimate query about where the rapper stood on the charges and whether there was anything he felt necessary to address. The things is, many artists show this sort of righteous indignation any time an appearance—ostensibly to promote their work—goes in a direction they hadn’t planned or anticipated.
What’s more noteworthy is the backlash Ebro caught on social media—many accused him of stoking controversy to “get them views up”—requiring the radio host to offer an explanation for his approach on Twitter not long after the interview was broadcast.
“I was tryna have a balanced convo with Kodak & not ignore the serious allegations against him but also not ask specifics to make his situation worse,” he tweeted. “And he wanna get an attitude with me?? Nah.”
He also pointed out that he never actually asked Kodak a question about the assault case and that the interview was booked at the request of Kodak’s label. All of which was inconsequential to fuckboy Twitter, who spent yesterday backflipping through various justifications for why Kodak shouldn’t have been asked about his assault charges.
Among them: It was unfair to ask Kodak to talk about an “open case” (channeling that big cop energy, apparently); Ebro didn’t actually care about sexual assault survivors (whether he does or not, certainly some of his audience does); and Kodak was only there to promote his shit, so it was inappropriate to ask about anything else (in that case, Kodak’s ass can do his own promo on Twitter).
More than anything, the social media discourse made one thing very clear: A whole lot of hip-hop fans find it way more egregious to talk about sexual assault than to actually catch an assault charge—a point that a lot of people called out.
I’m not trying to posit this like it’s new—any conversation about Kevin Hart, R. Kelly, or Chris Brown (to name a very small sample) reveals the same talking points: Try to let the past be the past, even if the same behavior extends to (or hasn’t been accounted for) in the present. Or the even more trite line—“separate the art from the artist.”
What these people collectively fail to address is that all of this—whom you listen to, whose art (or bullshit) you consume, whom you praise publicly, whom you campaign for—is a series of choices. Choices that signal outwardly your morals and who or what you value. And the very best anyone can do is be transparent and honest about what those values are. Because here’s the thing: If you’re putting more energy into Ebro’s right to ask a question than in whether it is morally justifiable to support an accused rapist, you’re telling on yourself anyway.
There is no shortage of people, in hip-hop circles and otherwise, who value a bop far more than they do the safety of black women. The best y’all can do at this point is be honest about it.