Sean Combs (aka “Brother Love,” “Diddy,” “Puff Daddy,” “Puffy,” etc.) was accused in a lawsuit Wednesday of gang rape and sex trafficking, marking the fourth time in the past month that the music mogul has faced claims of sexual assault.
On social media, Combs characterized the recent allegations as attempts at character assassination, claiming that “sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday.”
Combs has denied all of the sexual assault allegations made against him ever since singer Cassie, a former girlfriend whose real name is Casandra Ventura, filed a lawsuit in November accusing him of rape and abuse. Combs reached a settlement with Ventura a day after she filed her suit.
Combs is among several men in the music industry — including multiple hip-hop executives — to face sex abuse allegations this year, thanks in large part to a special New York law. And while allegations of sexual misconduct aren’t unique to hip-hop, the raft of claims — among other things — speaks to why I’ve felt a little off watching some of the coverage of the genre’s 50th anniversary this year.
Admittedly, I’ve cringed watching some starry-eyed interviewers with little (of substance) to say about the genre, seemingly satisfied with their few minutes of fame alongside [insert rapper here].
And that’s, in part, because as a fan of the genre, I don’t think now is the time for over-the-top praise. In fact, I think those who truly love hip-hop are called upon to level intense scrutiny toward it at a time when it’s being extremely and hastily commoditized — and weaponized against vulnerable people. And we can offer this scrutiny without knowing the final outcome of any particular case.
There’s a long and well-documented history of sexual misconduct allegations and misogyny in the music industry that has yet to be fully reckoned with. But hip-hop’s problems are plentiful this year, and they feel a bit personal to me as someone who engages with the culture often.
This year alone, we’ve seen rappers seemingly co-opted by right-wing political figures to push far-right talking points and conspiracy theories. Rappers lending their support to politicians like Donald Trump. Hip-hop-focused outlets spreading conservative propaganda and hate speech. And some of the most popular hip-hop podcasters and artists — all men — targeting Megan Thee Stallion with lies and hate after she was shot by rapper Tory Lanez.
The fact these things happened — and seem likely to continue — doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate hip-hop’s origins, its creativity, its flirtations with righteously radical politics, and other things that may make admirers of the genre feel warm and fuzzy.
But the raft of controversies surrounding artists and executives is reason to dial back some of the gushing “Hip-hop hooray!” rhetoric that has surrounded the 50th anniversary.
The milestone shouldn’t just be about celebrating the past. It should also be about scrutinizing the past, so the genre has a future we can all be proud of.