TI is coming to Kenya, and as is the case when a problematic man insists on coming to do a concert here, I am extremely conflicted.
On the one hand, it has always been clear to me that if R Kelly ever comes to Kenya, there would be no debate whatsoever about whether or not I would go to his concert. It is a no-brainer – in that I will not be going. Going for an R Kelly concert, for me, would be tantamount to agreeing with what he is doing, and has been doing, to underage girls, since he was in his 20s – assaulting them, using them, brainwashing them and raping them (which is what it is – it is statutory rape when someone the victim is underage). And in some cases, like Aaliyah’s, marrying them.
Of course, his perverted habits did not exist in a vacuum. There are equally horrible people who helped him to do these things – Aaliyah’s uncle, for example, who first introduced the pair to each other, regardless of the fact that he knew Kelly’s reputation.
To this day, her uncle, Barry Hankerson, has refused to release any of Aaliyah’s musical catalogue to the public, and therefore, the only music available to stream is her very first album – the Kelly-produced, incredibly gross wink to their ongoing relationship at the time, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. And then there’s that fact: that his music directly sings about what he was doing to this women. Kelly was leaving hints about his behaviour all over the place, unabashedly, unashamed.
DONE HIS TIME
Chris Brown, for another example, came to Kenya, and I did go to the concert. I’m not sure what possessed me at the time, but I think I separated myself from his deeds by telling myself that he had done his time, for his misdeeds. And he was quite young at the time, and according to his documentary, he and Rihanna were violent towards each other (but no one boycotted Rihanna). And his jail time didn’t make a difference, because he continued to be violent to women and men alike after he was locked up.
So clearly the guy hasn’t changed. So why did I go for his concert, and how is he different? Both men have sustained violent histories. Both are extremely talented.
The same can be said of TI who is extremely talented and extremely problematic as well. I don’t know that I would want to give him my money. I feel like, before, his drama was bubbling under the surface, from songs like No Mediocre to touting Iggy Azalea as the forefront female rapper of his label, in spite of her nonsensical put on Southern accent and basically black-facing her music. He has since retracted these comments.
There’s a lot of good that TI does in his community, in terms of his activism work. But then there’s the stuff that he does that also speaks to his personal politics, relating to how he regards women – like taking his daughter every year to the gynaecologist to get checked, and to see whether she has a hymen or not. First of all, TI is in dire need of some comprehensive sexual education – which, by the way, the government of Kenya is supposed to be giving to all citizens, but that’s another topic for another day. A hymen doesn’t just tear because of sex. Likewise, absence of a hymen does not mean you’re not a virgin. Taking his daughter to check if she still adheres to an unattainable puritanical standard based on an obsession with virginal cleanliness and pedestal pushing – applied to women only – is basic assault, in my opinion. Announcing it to the world is just further disrespect, especially when you consider that we know for a fact that his daughter is not okay with this practice (as is evidenced from her liking some of the tweets that condemned her father for his tripe). As much as I understand that everyone is problematic in some way – more so, celebrities – I cannot sanction something I know for a fact that he has said he supports.
All this is to say – as much as I really love TI, and his wardrobe, and his music, and his cultural impact, I won’t be going for his concert.