Afrika Bambaataa, a DJ from the Bronx, influenced hip-hop culture in the 1980s. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)
Several men are accusing hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, whose 1982 hit “Planet Rock” helped launch the burgeoning art form into a global phenomenon, of molesting them during their teens.
Bambaataa—who was born Kevin Donovan but changed his name after seeing the movie “Zulu”—is a venerated figure in rap history and a native of South Bronx, N.Y., the birthplace of hip hop. After quitting the Black Spades street gang in the mid-1970s, he helped coalesce several gangs into the Zulu Nation, an organization geared toward fostering unity, community and promoting the hip-hop arts. He was also one of the founders of breakbeat deejaying, and his electro funk hits of the ‘80s helped influence the emergence of hip hop culture.
But Bambaataa allegedly was also a child molester, according to former Zulu Nation member and music industry executive Ronald Savage. As a 15-year-old, he said, he was ecstatic to be included in Zulu Nation—where he was known by the moniker “B-Stinger”—and to play a part in the urban movement. But the price of inclusion was high.
“I was a kid when this happened,” he said of the alleged abuse in an interview with radio veteran Troi Torain, better known as “Star,” that is posted on his YouTube channel. “I wanted to be down with the in-crowd not really understanding that what Bambaataa was doing to me was actually molesting me. I knew it was wrong. I had these feelings that was like, ‘Yuck.’”
Savage, now a Democratic Party activist, detailed the abuses that allegedly occurred at least five times in 1980 in his recently self-published memoir, “Impulse, Urges and Fantasies.” He said it took him this long to talk about his abuse out of fear and shame.
“Over the years as I was getting older I wanted to report this and I wanted to come forward but out of fear of the Zulu Nation, fear for my family, fear for me and what could possibly happen…,” said the now 50-year-old father of three. “I was ashamed and embarrassed because things like this usually happen to girls and guys don’t really talk about it.”
Savage’s claims, however, are supported by several other men who say Bambaataa allegedly did the same to them.
“He is a pervert,” Hassan Campbell told The New York Daily News. “He likes little boys.”
Campbell, now 39, said when he was about 12 or 13 years old, Bambaataa would provide him a bed to sleep, food and money when he needed it—but he paid for those gifts in flesh.
“I know what Ronald Savage is saying is true because he did it to me,” another accuser, a 50-year-old New York man who requested anonymity, told The Daily News. “I have never spoken to anybody about this and when I did, I said ‘Holy s—, they finally caught up to him.’”
Bambaataa and his lawyer have denied the allegations, saying Savage is simply seeking publicity for his book and showing a “reckless disregard for the truth.”
“These allegations are baseless and are a cowardly attempt to tarnish my reputation and legacy in hip-hop at this time,” the “Godfather of Hip Hop” said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
Savage said he is stepping forward now to advocate for a change in New York’s statute of limitations for child abuse victims, which currently bars them from seeking criminal or civil redress after their 23rd birthday.