Sean Combs, Russell Simmons And The Reckoning Of Men In Hip-Hop

Simmons was served a court summons in Bali, while Diddy had all of his homes raided. Are hip-hop's chickens finally coming home to roost?
From left: Russell Simmons, actress Margot Bingham, actor Michael K. Williams and actor Sean Combs pose at the HBO "Boardwalk Empire" season premiere on September 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
From left: Russell Simmons, actress Margot Bingham, actor Michael K. Williams and actor Sean Combs pose at the HBO "Boardwalk Empire" season premiere on September 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Mark Davis via Getty Images

Among the funniest pieces of news I encountered in an otherwise unfunny news cycle was that Russell Simmons, hiding out Bali, still managed to receive a court summons all the way from the United States. The honors came from Drew Dixon, who is suing Simmons for defamation of character after he denied sexually assaulting her.

It takes a full 24 hours to get to Indonesia, a country with no extradition treaty with the U.S., from most states. But I wish I could’ve seen Simmons’ face when he received the one thing that (most folks assume) he moved out there to avoid. He reportedly got the summons in front of people. There was swearing involved.

A much flashier show, of course, was the Department of Homeland Security’s March 25 raids on the homes of Sean “Diddy” Combs, who probably suffered his Worst Week Ever, or at least the worst since Cassie aired him out in a lawsuit last November. Quieter was Dixon’s lawsuit against Antonio “L.A.” Reid ― the record executive legend most responsible for Usher’s early-career success — for assault and harassment.

Cassie and Dixon’s suits against Diddy, Reid and Simmons (all of whom have proclaimed their innocence) were a result of the now-expired window created by the New York Adult Survivors Act. But Cassie’s suit in particular — which Diddy settled in less time than it takes paint to dry — seemed to precipitate a series of men in hip-hop finally being held accountable for their alleged sexual transgressions.

The original 2017 #MeToo movement brought to heel numerous male celebrities, but it focused largely on white perpetrators and their (often white) victims. With the notable exception of Bill Cosby, a lot of Black men skated by — arguably because #MeToo was a moment for white women and largely disregarded Black women. (That #MeToo was created by Tarana Burke, a Black woman, is an irony not lost on me.)

If there is a #MeToo reckoning happening within Hip-Hop, several men should be sweating through their 1,500 thread count sheets: Trey Songz’s career manages to remain just unremarkable enough to fly under the radar despite miles of sexual misconduct allegations. Several men have remained entirely unscathed, including Nelly (who settled a rape case) and Dr. Dre (who pleaded no contest to domestic violence).

But if R. Kelly is any indication — it took a multi-evening documentary in the middle of #MeToo to finally get him up outta here — “cancellations” won’t come easy, especially since there’s no consistency in our approach. Chris Brown will grow old and die never living down what he did to Rihanna 15 years ago because we saw the aftermath; the Grammys still has a special award named after Dr. Dre because we have no photos of what he did to Dee Barnes.

As with #MeToo, many folks’ first response to years-old allegations is: “Why now and not then?” It’s a question easily answered with the mildest amount of brainpower: The world was far less receptive to women with any sexual allegations than it is now — and you can tack on more time still for Black women. Imagine a video vixen from the late-1990s Bad Boy heyday blowing a whistle on Diddy. She’d be dragged through the mud simply because she shook her ass on video — so obviously, she can’t be credible.

Unfortunately, accusing bad Black actors requires we deal with the “tearing Black Men down” contingent, who are seemingly content with ignoring the allegations and any details therein in the interest of preserving the sanctity of their Black icons. That dude on Facebook you haven’t seen in the 25 years since you graduated high school is happy to let you know from the comfort of his mama’s basement that he’s stridently convinced that all sexual assault allegations against all Black men are a conspiracy from the White Man’s Illuminati.

Of course, predators come in all shades, but the more complicated issue is asking people to atone for quarter-century-old sins. We don’t expect any of these men to do any prison time for allegations from the 1990s, but they might go a long way to getting their justice if they have to acknowledge what they’ve done.

Diddy and Simmons are both absurdly rich. Imagine if they were found guilty and forced to provide financial restitution to their victims. Or imagine Simmons acknowledging that he has sexually mistreated women during his storied four-decade career, working to restore those victims and perhaps donating money to causes that benefit other victims — that would be a stunning gesture.

Alas, virtually no powerful Black men in hip-hop who have been accused of assault have outright admitted wrongdoing. Let the internet tell it, there could be a few others ripe for the fall. Maybe one of them will break the pattern. But I doubt it.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot