Homeboys and Girls
En route to the June 11 Puerto Rican Day Parade, a willowy young woman looked down her nose at an amateur photographer who'd been trying to film her backside as she disembarked from a subway car in Manhattan. Several hours later, the woman, whose name is being withheld, would become a victim of the most vicious mob-style sexual assault since the 1989 Central Park jogger attack. As she recalls the ordeal, she launches into a tirade about homeboys and "hotties" and the ill-fated attempts by "sistafriends" like her to combat the sex crimes of the hip hop generation. These crimeswhich she describes as intimidation, coercion, emotional abuse, groping, sodomy, and consensual sex leading to gang rapeare the scourge of the 'hood and el barrio.
For some, the rampage in Central Park conjures images of bold encounters with so-called "booty bandits," homeboys who ogle, claw at, and jam their fingers into women's genitals. The worst offenders are the "serial buttfuckaz," the "trife-livin' " sexual predators who brush up against females, "rubbin' them with an erection." They have fantasies of these women responding like the " 'hoe" in hardcore rapper Akinyele's 12-inch riff "Put It In Your Mouth": "I'm always sprung once I feel your tongue in the crack of my ass, just eatin' me nigga."
On his best behavior, the booty bandit is a lecherous voyeur casing dancehalls and nightclubs with a video camera in search of "y'all bitches 'n 'hoes" to star in his XXX-rated home movies. The alleged victim of the Central Park sex assaults, who was interviewed by the Voice, bumped into a bandit upon leaving a Manhattan nightclub early one morning.
"Don't get offended!" a young man said as he thrust his camera in her face, then panned down to her chest. The woman said she "politely" blocked the camera and walked away.
"You African bitch!" the bandit shouted. "You ugly, nappy-haired African bitch," he repeated. Words, she says, "just to put you down because you don't want your chest on his video camera."
Ironically, it was photos culled from amateur videotapes that detectives obtained from TV stations and private citizens that led to the arrest of suspects in the Central Park assaults. The videotapes show the horror and the quickness of the attacksgirls and women surrounded by men dousing them with water, then grabbing and pushing them. Victims are seen crying, trying to cover themselves as they walk away.
As embarrassed black and Latino community leaders began investigating the motives behind the assaults, some blamed the influence of hip hop culture for the criminal behavior.
It all started with "the touching," a witness to the sex attacks recalls. And it quickly got out of hand when some frolicking young men began squirting bottles of water at women, trying to see whether they were wearing thong underwear. "These cheeky little bottoms," as one writer describes the thongs, are the rage among young Latinas and black girls. When a thong showed up under a wet miniskirt or stretch pants, "booty lovers" began shouting, "Tha-Thong-tha-thong-thong-thong," that salacious, tongue-twisting hook in Sisqó's MTV hit, "Thong Song." It was then that the booty bandits took over, mauling the women. Some of the marauders chanted "Whoa," the title and chorus of rapper Black Rob's chart-topping single. One of the suspects told The New York Times it was "an innocent water fight that got out of hand."
The alleged assaults come on the heels of a complaint by Philadelphia-based activist C. DeLores Tucker, who reignited the controversy over gangsta rap on May 18. She slammed Time Warner, the world's largest media and entertainment company, at its annual stockholder's meeting for the violent and sexually graphic lyrics of New Orleans-based Master P and the West Coast's Snoop Doggy Dog.
As stockholders filed into the historic Apollo Theatre, where the meeting was held, members of Tucker's National Political Congress of Black Women showered them with leaflets, urging them to block Time Warner's proposed purchase of EMI Music Group, "which distributes gangsta rap/porno music by Master P and others." Amid a firestorm of criticism in 1995, Time Warner sold its 50 percent stake in Interscope, the label that was behind some of the most controversial rappers, including Snoop and the late Tupac Shakur, who was convicted in 1994 in the gang rape of a fan.
"It is our position that some of the music that EMI distributes is vulgar, violent, and vexatious," Tucker says in a statement. "Their music glorifies anti-social behavior. It denigrates, defames, and dehumanizes African-American women, and encourages disrespect for them. . . . Based upon the powerful and seductive messages that get communicated to our children through this music form, however, many young peoplecertainly not allbear true the saying that 'Life imitates art' by the behaviors they exhibit."
Tucker claims that such behavior is reflected in "incidents of domestic violence, [which] have reached alarming proportions" in African American and Latino communities. Consider the whuppin' "thug girl" got from EMI artist Snoop: "She wants to take the ring off my finger so I slapped the bitch up like we was on Jerry Springer." Tucker cites the misogynistic theme in "Hot Boys and Girls," by Master P: "I'm the nigga that fucked all the hoes . . . the first nigga on the block to make yo' Mama Deep Throat."
Master P, Tucker points out, continues to berate women in "Gangsta B," another burlesque boast that is a favorite among booty bandits: "If she ain't a gangsta bitch, then I don't want her. . . . I need a bitch to hold my stash, a bitch to give me some ass [and] hold my clip." (Popular women rappers also have been targeted by Tucker. At a 1997 Time Warner meeting, she punctuated her argument by reading some particularly explicit lyrics by Lil' Kim to the gathered stockholders. One relatively tame verse reads: "How you like it baby?/Uhh. From the front/Uhh. From the back/Give that ass a smack/Bet your man won't do it like that.")
Acording to the NYPD, some of the suspects in the Central Park assaults robbed their victims. Was their crime spree influenced by Master P's lyrics? "I'ma kill just to eat and leave my enemies on the concrete. . . . ," the rap mogul swears in "Crime Pays the Bill."
"It is the prevalence of that thinking," Tucker writes, "that has resulted in the current projections that up to 65 percent of African American males in urban America, between the ages of 15-24, [have] had some involvement with the criminal justice system. These alarming statistics began in 1992, when this violent, misogynistic, and hate music hit the charts."
Two teenage girls who escaped the melee in Central Park say that the sex crimes of the hip hop generation extend beyond the influences of gangsta rap. It all depends on where young black and Latino men reside and how they are being raised, they argue. "There is a part of me that believes that hip hop culture has gone too far in disrespecting women," says one, "but at the same time I also believe that it's the environment in which a lot of these people grow up that brings that [criminal behavior] outta them."
Five days after the Central Park incident, three special-ed students in the Bronx, who allegedly were mimicking the rampage, accosted more than a half-dozen young girls at a schoolyard carnival. Authorities said the attacks occurred just after classes let out at P.S. 95 on June 16.
The boystwo 15-year-olds and a 13-year-oldallegedly sneaked into a funhouse that had been set up for the weekend festival and pounced on the girls as they walked bytearing their clothes and fondling their breasts. Eight girls complained to school officials that they had been molested. None was older than 10. The boys were charged with the juvenile equivalent of first-degree sexual assault and released to the custody of their parents.
Three days later, seven sixth grade boys were charged with sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl outside Junior High School 180 in Rockaway Park, Queens. A classmate of the girl allegedly grabbed her. He was joined by six other boys, ages 12 and 13, who surrounded the girl and attacked her, chanting, "The Puerto Rican Day Parade!" according to unidentified police sources cited by Newsday and the Daily News.
The Central Park sexual assaults crossed racial lines: Suspects allegedly attacked three British tourists and a French sightseer who was on her honeymoon. This supports Tucker's contention that "race hatred [has] been directly linked to the proliferation of gangsta rap."
But did the influence of gangsta rap and other aspects of hip hop culture figure in the sensational 1998 case of six black high school hoop and football stars who were accused of molesting, raping, and sodomizing two white girls in Georgia?
At the peak of their popularity, the six athletes were dubbed "the Top Dogs" and showered with fan-club-type acclamation by adoring white groupies. Prosecutors say that, in one case, shortly after an early-morning basketball practice, a 14-year-old white girl sidled up to Daniel Maxwell as he ate breakfast in the school cafeteria.
Maxwell, then 17, told the girl that he, Aldo Weddington, Cedric McGarity, and Cory McGarity were going to Weddington's home to shower. Would she skip school and join them?
"So she goes with them to the Weddington residence and Daniel Maxwell takes her into a bedroom, initiates sexual intercourse with her, she consents to it," Assistant District Attorney Todd Alley acknowledges. "She likes him. She wants to be with him. She performs oral sex on him."
After Maxwell "did unlawfully, repeatedly engage in sexual intercourse" with his young admirer, he reportedly told her, "Now, ma boys are gonna hit it." According to Alley, "she was just surprised and didn't really know what he was talking about." Alley says Maxwell left the room and announced to his buddies, "Okay, you guys can have a turn."
"Hey, I don't wanna do this," the girl allegedly protested. But in the end, according to Alley, she gave in because she was scared. "Here she was, alone with these guys," he rationalizes. "She didn't know what they were capable of doing to her. After a while, she didn't really feel like she was in a position to say noall of the reasons why the laws protect children of that age because they don't know what they're getting into."
Leonard Danley, who represented another youth, Demond Clay, says the six athletes were singled out by overzealous prosecutors. "How many 17-year-olds had sex with 15-year-olds in the same week that these boys were arrested?" he asks, then answers his own question. "Probably about 50 to 60 percent of the sexual activity that goes on at that school is between people 15 and under with people 17 and over. It's a known fact."
"They preyed on these two girls!" Alley shoots back.
A law-enforcement source who is familiar with the case backs Alley's assertion, adding that "they were both girls of low self-esteem, who wanted to fit in and be part of the group and feel good about themselves.
"Neither of them were the prettiest or smartest girls, so they weren't real popular. Here are these guys who are the star athletes and were popular; the girls just wanted to be a part of that but couldn't in the normal ways most kids fit in. They felt like they needed to do something to show these jocks they were worthy of being around them. These guys exploited that weakness."
Danley, who says frenzied whites are using Georgia's sex-crimes laws to criminalize young blacks, also defended a 12-year-old black boy against charges that he sexually harassed a white female classmate. "He and this girl got into a shouting match, and her parents took him to juvenile court, claiming that he had been sexually harassing her. But she started it and she was nowhere to be found," according to Danley. "I told the judge this just doesn't make sense."
Danley cites another case, in which a 14-year-old white girl allegedly stalked a group of "outstanding black football players" for sex. "The little girl followed these boys to their work at a grocery store and stayed on the job all day, telling them how fine they were, then went home to have sex with them," says Danley. Some of the boys, all of whom were 17 and 18, eventually pleaded guilty to unspecified sex offenses and were sentenced to boot camp. Danley represented one of the 18-year-olds, whom he'd strongly advised not to cop a plea. "My client was the only one who had not pleaded guilty," he says. "The state didn't deny that the girl followed these boys around. The girls are after the boys!" he adds. "For some reason, they seem to like to do it in gangs. The girls like to get a bunch of guys. There is nothing unusual about this. They are being young American teenagers. Some of these parents even let the boys stay overnight in their homes with the girls. It becomes unusual when the parents recognize that the boy is black." Danley says that the black football player's parents eventually fired him "because they wanted their son to plead guilty."
After 10 months of legal wrangling, four of the athletes were sentenced to boot camp and eight years' probation and fined $2000 after pleading guilty to sodomy and statutory rape. As a condition of the sentence, Maxwell, Weddington, and the McGarity brothers were required to testify against two other defendants, who had refused to plead guilty.
The six Georgia athletes had the full support of their parents, but in inner-city neighborhoods, "a lot of these boys are being raised by their homeboys," asserts one of the teenage girls who witnessed the Central Park rampage. In the 'hood, respect is hard to come by. Girls and women are considered cheap and disposable by the wannabe "Slick Willies." A giant billboard next to the Apollo promotes Sisqó's "Thong Song," which, according to Daily Nebraskan reporter Josh Krauter, "has given da butt its most prominent exposure since Sir Mix-A-Lot's 'Baby Got Back.' " A West Coast gangsta rapper takes the name KHOP (Killing Hoes Over Pussy) while his sidekick, Kidub, urges author William Shaw, in his new book, West Side: Young Men and Hip Hop in L.A., "Don't love no hoes because they full of drama." This kind of advicea throwback to the "Big Pimpin' " philosophyis easily followed by troubled youngsters in broken homes.
"You can't expect a male growing up in a household with no father not to listen to his homeboys," the witness to the Central Park attacks emphasizes. "That's all he's ever known."
Additional reporting: Amanda Ward and Associated Press
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.