Until very recently, it was possible to view Afrika Bambaataa, without reservations, as a cultural hero. As a young gang leader, he helped bring peace to the South Bronx in the late ’70s, helping to create the environment from which hip-hop could emerge. And when it did, he proved to be a pioneer, expanding the nascent genre’s sonic identity, allowing for new sounds like electro to bloom. We can’t look at him like that anymore. While Bambaataa’s achievements are still real, it also seems more and more likely that he was a serial sexual abuser of young boys.
The Democratic Party activist and former record exec Ronald Savage recently came forward, claiming that Bambaataa molested him in 1980, when he was a child. Since then, more alleged victims have come forward, and Bambaataa has denied any wrongdoing. (The alleged abuse is long past the statute of limitations, so Bambaataa won’t be charged for anything he may have done in the late ’70s or early ’80s.)
Now, for the first time since the allegations came out, Bambaataa has sat for an interview with a local New York Fox channel. In that interview, he continues to deny that he did anything wrong, instead calling his accusers’ motivations into question:
I never abused nobody. It sounds crazy for people to say that — “You abused me.” My thing is: You know all my people back then. You know the hundreds of people that been around me. If something like that happened, why’d you never went to none of them?… What is the motivation? What is the agenda? It’s hard to say. You don’t know what many of these people are thinking, what is behind it. Some parts, I’ve seen, it could be shake-ups. Some of these people might’ve wanted.
Here’s the news segment:
Meanwhile, in a new press release, the Universal Zulu Nation, the hip-hop organization that Bambaataa led for decades, announces that it will appoint new leaders:
This will involve a significant restructure and will feature an in-depth re-assessment of how the organization will function to better serve our communities. As part of this restructure ALL accused parties and those accused of covering up the current allegations of child molestation have been removed and have stepped down from their current positions.
The press release never mentions Bambaataa.