Rapper AKA has released a single called Caiphus Song. The artwork was designed by hip-hop artist Simiso Zwane, also known by his stage name Okmalumkoolkat. W24 published a piece on the collaboration which highlighted that Zwane is a convicted sex offender, and AKA took to twitter in an attempt to defend Zwane and his decision to work with him.

Journalist Garreth van Niekerk wrote about the collaboration without ignoring that Zwane was convicted for indecent assault and assault with indecent intent while on tour in Australia in 2016. He interviewed Zwane and AKA about the album cover, and asked AKA for comment on how he felt about the collaboration. AKA said that he admires Zwane and works with him in spite of the complications with the media. The article currently sits onW24 with the headline “AKA collaborates with convicted sex offender Okmalumkoolkat on new cover”.

AKA was not happy with the write-up or the tweets sent out by the media about the piece, and interpreted it as an attack on him and Zwane. He sent a series of angry tweets in response. Some of the tweets make valid points about double standards in the media, but they do not provide a good justification for working with Zwane.

The tweets try to divert attention from the facts by blaming the white media, create sympathy for Zwane and position him as the real victim using rape culture logic, and make out as if this is just about haters who can’t handle the two rappers’ success. Here they are, and here’s why he is wrong.

1. Rape Culture 101

  1. “Been punished”. Focusing on the punishment that the perpetrator receives makes them the victim, makes their life the one that is ruined. It erases the story of the woman who is the real victim and the impact of the assault on her.
  2. “He didn’t RAPE anyone”. This implies that other kinds of sexual assault are relatively harmless when compared to rape, and makes it seem less serious. It says that as long as you don’t RAPE anyone, it’s ok. Comparing two forms of sexual violence demeans the experience of the survivor and legitimises other forms of violence that are permissible within the framework of rape culture.
  3. “He is still paying for it”. Well, that’s how we enforce the rules in society: we agree on things we find unacceptable, like sexual assault, and we make them crimes to defer people from doing them.

2. Yes, it is everyone’s business:

When you are convicted of a crime, you have done something that the whole society thinks is bad enough to make illegal. So it’s hard to understand how Zwane doesn’t owe an explanation to the public.

Additionally, as a celebrity and a role model Zwane is emulated by fans and carries some responsibility for how he chooses to influence them. Being publicly scrutinised is part and parcel of being famous, and celebrities can’t expect the public to adore them for some actions and turn a blind eye to others.

 

3. We are. You’re just not listening. 

AKA referenced both Chris Brown and R Kelley, a singer with a multiple of sexual assault accusations to his name, calling out the double standard in Zwane getting criticism while they are let off.

The entertainment industry has a serious problem with protecting male artists from sexual assault allegations (and rewarding them anyway, like in the recent case of Casey Affleck‘s Oscars win). When these talented men are found guilty of sexual offences, the general script is, in the words of Louise Ferreira: “My enjoyment of your work eclipses the irreparable harm you’ve done others.” And when fans and colleagues close ranks around perpetrators, it’s up to the media to set the record straight.

It is never convenient to fight the patriarchy, and to try to hold famous and influential musicians and artists to account. It’s pretty damn inconvenient and tiring, actually, and we’d rather not have to do it at all. But we’ve BEEN doing it as consistently as possible: Chris Brown, R Kelly, and Zwane have received the same treatment; maybe AKA just missed the memo.

4. AKA is right on this one: 

The whole point here is that when someone is famous, their crimes don’t always stick. The public has a short memory for the crimes of heroes (particularly talented, white male heroes), and even more so when it comes to sexual assault. Sexual offences should be treated like all other offences and should remain part of the story. As Pistorius should be referred to as a convicted murderer, Zwane should be referred to as someone who was convicted of indecent assault.

If AKA wants to defend his decision to work with Zwane, he needs to provide a better justification than these tweets, as he is essentially sending the message that he doesn’t care about indecent assault.