It's Okay to Ask the Tough Question


On Wednesday, Hot 97 host Ebro Darden attempted to do his job and it was enough to drive rapper/accused rapist Kodak Black out of the room. The moment, which you can watch in the video above, is yet another nutshell encapsulation of the contempt for and misunderstanding of journalism and conversations about sexual assault in 2018.

Black (real name: Dieuson Octave) had stopped by the radio show Ebro in the Morning for a promo interview. It was perhaps a bit more serious than these things often go, given Black’s extensive legal issues, but it couldn’t exactly be termed “hardball” until 15 minutes in, when Darden brought up Black’s pending rape case.

“Looking at all your cases and everything you’ve been through, and I know the recent one right now is very sensitive and with respect to everybody involved in that case, we can’t get into details today,” said Darden. “But you know, we take sexual assault here serious, and we can’t get into details but we hope to have you back so we could have a deeper conversation about that because, you know, this is a serious topic. And we’re hearing these stories a lot.”

Twelfth Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements told ABC15, which reports on Florence County, South Carolina, where Black was indicted in October 2017, that a condition of Black’s bond is that he cannot comment on the allegations “by way of print, electronic, digital or social media” and that violating that condition could result in his bond being revoked.

But that, of course, is Black’s business—Darden’s business, as a radio journalist, is extracting information, even if it’s telling silence. Darden, in fact, went above and beyond by pushing Black out of his comfort zone, not kissing his ass simply because he is famous, and confronting him with a past that so many of his fans are willing to ignore or overlook. More people should be doing things like this more often.

Black is charged with criminal sexual misconduct for attacking a teenage girl in a hotel room in February 2016. The warrant for his arrest, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel, says:

The defendant forced the victim onto the bed in the room and then onto the floor of the room. The defendant removed the victim’s underwear and licked her vagina and then put his penis into the victim’s vagina. The victim repeatedly told the defendant no and to stop. The defendant did not stop. The defendant also bit the victim on her neck and her right breast. These injuries were documented in a sexual assault kit that was completed by medical personnel. The victim identified the defendant to the exclusion of all others.

Black’s case will go to trial some time in April, per a hearing that was held last week.

If Ebro didn’t bring this up, at best he wouldn’t have been doing his job. At worst, he would have been aiding and abetting an accused rapist and normalizing his alleged behavior by showing the rest of the world that it doesn’t matter. Kodak Black did not like this question, per his blank stare and ensuing behavior, but that’s too bad. He was not there to be catered to. He is not exempt from scrutiny, not entitled to comfort. In fact, there is every indication that Black hasn’t received enough scrutiny as his star has continued to rise regardless of the horrifying nature of his case.

If you allow celebrities to say whatever they want, you will get non-answers or some bullshit. DJ Akademiks’s joke of an interview with Tekashi 6ix9ine in 2017, after news of the rapper’s conviction for use of a child in a sexual performance broke (but before details of that case were published), is a perfect example of the kind of worse-case scenario that allows a celebrity to exonerate himself with a fist full of lies and a platform with which to distribute them to the masses. It’s a travesty, a total embarrassment on the part of Akademiks, who could have done his research (the complaint and plea deal were all public information—within a few hours of requesting them from the D.A.’s office, Jezebel had them in full), but instead chose to take 6ix9ine at his word.

It’s not always easy to confront someone with topics they don’t want to be confronted about (I’ve regretted not going harder as someone who frequently interviews public figures myself), but none of this should be easy. Easy is lies. Easy is Darden’s co-host Peter Rosenberg, perhaps to play the good cop or show legitimate sympathy for Black’s status as a “target” (as Rosenberg put it earlier in the interview), attempting to pivot to a discussion about moon-landing conspiracies after Black’s dead-eyed non-answer to Darden.

“What the fuck y’all talkin’ ‘bout?” Black said in response to Rosenberg.

“You seem upset that I brought it up,” said Darden, unfazed that he upset a grown man, who maybe should be more upset more often.

Black hypothesized that people are entertained by “bullshit”—his rape case, he meant—and that, I can personally refute. While interested to see how it will play out and invested in its outcome, I’m not at all entertained by the notion that a man held down a teenager and raped her. That’s not fun at all?

Black threatened to walk out if the subject wasn’t changed. Darden pointed out that Rosenberg tried to talk about moon-landing, and Black snapped, “That’s bullshit, too. Talk about somethin’ else.”

“We don’t have to talk about nothing else,” said Darden. “We can be done right here.”

Black got up and while he was walking out, Darden remarked, “People don’t tell me what to talk about on my show.”

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