South African Hip Hop celebrates sex offenders and woman beaters

Rumours about Kelly’s sexual offences instigated in the late 90’s, stories grew and grew over the years – but we didn’t pay enough attention to the issues raised or the allegations made by the victims. Whereas, many of us suspected the rumours to be true, we turned a blind eye after a release of a gospel like ballad – making him out to be the decent human being that we wanted to believe he was – the decent human being that he so desperately wanted us to believe he was.

Late last year, Robert Kelly’s shortcomings were exposed for the whole world to see on a documentary uncovering the outrageous truths about him, as well as his almost like sex fad. The documentary, titled ‘Surviving R Kelly’ abducted everyone’s peace of mind, leaving many of us asking ourselves how this child molesting bastard had been left to roam the streets for so long.

At the wake of Kelly’s unpardonable sexual offences, the cancelling culture abounded, social media timelines were sprawled with the hashtag #SurvivingRKelly, it trended worldwide, shone light on the shames of the entertainment industry and gave birth to other hashtags such as #Surviving999 #SurvivingArthur, and unveiling stories about other local artists who had been accused of similar acts before. Of cause, there was a lot who used this as an opportunity to appear ‘woke’ – they reminded me of the time when we all had ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ banners on our social media pages but didn’t care to follow up on the issue once the story died out. Oh, social media clout. It’s something, isn’t it?

Notwithstanding the fact that it was great to witness S.A black Twitter make a noise about R Kelly, boycott his music etc – I was wondering if the same energy would be kept through and through. But I didn’t have to guess long, the same people who were up in arms about R Kelly were also the same people who were spotted at an event that celebrated ASAP Bari, OkMalumKoolKat and Stilo Magolide, Cotton Festival.

Rapper and founder of Cotton Fest, Riky Rick announced late last year that he would be curating an event that fuses fashion and hip hop, two things that he is passionate about. When he announced that Stilo Magolide and OkMalumKoolKat would be performing at the festival- about two weeks after #SurvivingRKelly aired, I didn’t see the same ‘cancelling’ culture brim. I didn’t see a single thread on how problematic Riky was for having a sex offender and woman beater at his event, instead, I learned that tickets were selling faster than fat cakes. The only thing I saw was the trauma of victims being reduced to superfluous noise, while everyone continued with their lives and allowed offenders to live freely without any criticism.

The truth is, Riky has a huge influence on the local hip hop scene and is somewhat responsible for pushing forward the hip hop culture within the Southern Hemisphere. Cotton Fest changed the game, it was arguably one of South Africa’s biggest hip-hop festivals to date, it saw over 30 upcoming and established artists perform and an attendance of thousands of hip-hop enthusiasts.

Let me jog your memory, Smiso Zwane, commonly known as OkMalumKoolKat was convicted for sexual offense in 2016 after assaulting a female artist who had been performing at the same festival as him in Australia. He allegedly entered her room in the early hours of the morning, without her permission – kissed her, fondled her private parts and told her to not make a noise. He was detained at a prison in Australia and shortly after his release, he issued an apology letter directed to his fans. There was no mention of the victim in this letter.

In a detailed article about the OkMalumKoolKat debacle, on Mail and Guardian, Sihle Mthumbu speaks about the letter, as well Dream Hampton’s ‘Anatomy of an Apology’. A short guide that focuses on the five steps to a genuine and meaningful apology. The five steps are:

  1. I’m sorry
  2. Here’s my understanding of how I hurt you.
  3. I will never do this again
  4. I will never do this again
  5. Please forgive me.

The five steps OkMalumKoolKat overlooked. So, did his friend, Stilo Magolide.

In 2017, Stilo reportedly assaulted his girlfriend, Casey Purshouse after she found out that he had been cheating on her. He issued a statement denying the allegations.

The statement reads “I understand that violence against women is at a scourge in this country. We live in a country where femicide and abuse against women is on the rise, a change needs to come. False accusations, such as these that I have been subjected to, hinder progress made against gender-based violence.”

“Having dealt with this incident, I believe that we must discuss and end abuse against women. I am also aware of the social responsibility I carry as an artist with the influence and the impact my actions have on society. I want to be part of the solution in the fight, for the betterment of our community.”

I’ve got news for you. He is still is very much part of the problem and not the solution. He violently grappled me last December at a joint in Braamfontein, threw insults at me, made me and my friend so uncomfortable to a point where we contemplated going to the joint next door, the same joint he, Stilo has been banned from, for life – because of his unruly behaviour.

As if the mention of those two names doesn’t fill your mouth with insults that could get you a first-class ticket to hell, Cotton Fest also invited American designer and co-founder of ASAP Mob, ASAP Bari who was also accused of sexual assault the same year as Stilo Magolide.

The video clip, titled “what that mouth do bitch” shows ASAP Bari pulling the sheets off a naked woman as she struggles to hide beneath them and telling her to perform oral sex on him. The woman is heard saying “Stop it, Bari… honestly” before walking out of the room. She is then followed by Bari who slaps her bum as she walks away.

According to Complex.com a woman with the handle @chasinfoodstmps on Twitter came forward and said she was the woman in the clip, alleging that Bari and his crew forced her into bed and Bari got upset because she refused to engage in any sexual acts with him.

At first, Bari denied all accusations and called the video fake. ASAP Rocky called him out, Nike cut tires with him, but it was only this year that he pleaded guilty to one of the two charges of sexually assaulting the woman. As a matter of fact, he came to the Cotton Fest almost a month after he pleaded guilty. I guess that’s good enough a reason for us not to run amuck, right?

It’s almost as if everyone suffered from amnesia during this time. How are we vocal about everything else, but the issues that directly affect us? We are actively supporting sex offenders and women beaters by filling up concert venues, streaming their music and purchasing their art, and in the process – spitting in the face of their victims.

“Selective memory is a recurring trope in South African culture and it is this that allows us to enjoy OkMalum’s music without a pause or a second thought.” – Sihle Mthembu

Last year, DJ Themba Lunacy was accused of sexually assaulting a girl at Oppie Koppie festival. His victim took to Twitter and created a thread about her appalling experience with him at the festival. Girls who have had similar experiences with him shared their stories as well. Things got ugly, promoters stopped booking him, fans demanded that Kitchener’s stop booking him, rightfully so.

He posted a letter on his Instagram page apologising to his victims and everyone he had hurt and disappointed. In his letter, he promised to do better and confessed that the occurrence had taught him a lesson about consent. He went on to say that he would teach other men about the importance of consent, something he believed his counterpart didn’t understand. In his way, he is making the difference we keep preaching.

Are we ever going to move past what OkMalum, Stilo and ASAP Bari did? You may ask. The answer lies with them. Until they show remorse, use their influence to change the narrative and act on their promises of being better people, we should continue boycotting shows that book them, be relentless about the change we want to see happen, make a noise, write articles and make more noise. Because if we don’t, I am afraid we will have more rape cases, see an increase of children and gender abuse and continue to lose our sisters, mothers, friends and colleagues to abuse.