Even as the Zulu Nation and affiliated leaders have disowned Afrika Bambaataa, rap legend KRS-One is still backing the accused child molester.
During a recent Q&A in Birmingham, England, KRS continued his support of Bambaataa. He cited the allegations as “accusations and gossip,” saying that any accusations should be dealt with personally, and made an ultimatum for anyone who won’t support Bambaataa.
“When you’re talking about Afrika Bambaataa, first of all, you're talking about the person who invented hip-hop,” KRS-One said. “Not participated in it. There was no hip-hop before Afrika Bambaataa. Let’s start there. So anyone who has a problem with Afrika Bambaataa should quit hip-hop.
"...Show me the evidence, and I will definitely have justice done."
Afrika Bambaataa’s contributions to hip-hop can’t be denied. He was one of the first breakbeat DJs; he created “Planet Rock,” a song that’s foundational to hip-hop as we know it; and he’s the founder of the Zulu Nation.
At least four men have come forward over the past two years, claiming they were molested by Bambaataa while they were children, and while he was at the peak of his popularity. Bambaataa’s ex-bodyguard has substantiated the claims, saying the hip-hop legend has abused “hundreds” of children since the late 70's.
As people and organizations within the Zulu Nation began to leave and disassociate themselves from the group, the Zulu Nation eventually united to disown Bambaataa and restructure itself under new leadership.
And yet KRS-One still thinks Bambaataa should be defended.
What’s so disconcerting about his defense is that he brings up Bambaataa’s role in pioneering hip-hop, as if that’s an acceptable reason for him to receive the benefit of the doubt over multiple parties, both victims and the people who were around them at the time. Does he think abusing children is OK as long as you can share in the credit of creating an art form?
It’s already frustrating enough that the hip-hop community hasn’t taken a more visible hard-line stance on this matter. The reasons why likely vary, but the fact that the current generation of hip-hop listeners, consumers and participants don’t have a strong connection with Afrika Bambaataa is the most prominent. Yes, Bambaataa was a pioneer, but millions of rap fans weren't alive or of age while he was building the culture.
Regardless, KRS-One’s defense of Bambaataa is inexcusable, and it’s time for hip-hop to take a stance that matters: quit KRS-One.
No one can dispute The Teacha’s role in hip-hop through his albums, his group Boogie Down Productions, his participation in one of the best battles in hip-hop history, and the work he has put in to globalize hip-hop as a culture.
But just like Bambaataa’s contributions wouldn't give him a pass to abuse children, KRS-One’s contributions don’t give him a pass to defend such abuse. Defending an accused child molester is almost as bad as the act itself because it discourages victims from stepping forward and it makes it more difficult to hold the abusers accountable.
The big flaw in KRS-One’s thinking is that he believes defending Afrika Bambaataa is defending hip-hop. He goes on in his speech above to say that “some people have to be infallible,” because other groups’ leaders are able to do despicable things without consequence. He believes that the hit on Bambaataa’s reputation will result in a hit against hip-hop that it can never recover from.
KRS-One should know more than anyone, however, that hip-hop is bigger than any one person. No matter how much that person was a pioneer, hip-hop is a culture that has become the pillar of life for entire communities of people around the world. Defending one leader who is likely guilty isn’t embracing hip-hop; it’s harming hip-hop at the expense of one person. The real defense of hip-hop is showing how much it actually adheres to its principles, by being unafraid of holding anyone accountable - even one of its pioneers.
Hip-hop should obviously stop supporting Bambaataa, but we should also stop supporting KRS-One. We should stop buying tickets to his shows, stop showing up to his panels, and stop checking out his new music (yes, he just released an album in 2015). KRS-One may not be a superstar in 2016, but his role as one of hip-hop's icons is what has given him the platform to share his opinions with the world. That platform needs to be taken away from him.
KRS-One himself has said that the original principles of hip-hop were peace, love, unity and having fun. We can’t seriously claim that we support peace, love, and unity if we aren’t standing up for people who have been abused, and against the people who defend them. Who knows if KRS-One would change his stance if his pockets were affected negatively, but hip-hop must draw a line in the sand.