Sexual misconduct accusations have swirled around hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa for years. Now a bombshell lawsuit alleges that the musician engaged in trafficking a 12-year-old boy in the 1990s while also sexually grooming and abusing the child.
Metropolis newspaper was the first to report on the lawsuit, which became public this week.
Afrika Bambaataa, whose legal name is Lance Taylor, helped pioneer the rap and hip-hop genres during the 1980s. He created the Zulu Nation as a cultural awareness group of like-minded artists and musicians. Originally made up of members from the Black Spades, a New York gang, the group began to experiment with scratching, mixing, and DJing during house parties. Their hip-hop movement caught on and grew.
Bambaataa lived in the Bronx River Houses, a public housing project. As the founder and former leader of Zulu Nation Universal, he indoctrinated his local Bronx community with hip-hop culture and a sense of Black pride education.
But the lawsuit, filed in Bronx County New York State Supreme Court, alleges that from 1991 to 1995, Bambaataa sexually assaulted the boy (listed only as “John Doe”) when he attended Zulu Nation membership meetings and events at the Bronx River Houses. Bambaataa’s apartment also served as the headquarters for the Zulu Nation, the suit says. At that time, the plaintiff also lived in the Bronx River Houses.
Despite the statute of limitations having expired, John Doe was able to file his suit after recent legislation—New York Child Victims Act—allowed for sexual assault survivors to pursue legal action. The suit was filed 10 days before an extended deadline allowed under the act.
Prior to the passage of the law, Doe’s attorney, Hugo Ortego, said that “each plaintiff’s claims were time barred the day they turned 22 years old.”
In the lawsuit, Doe accuses Bambaataa of complimenting and touching his body while working in Bambaataa’s gym. The behavior allegedly progressed, and Bambaataa conditioned the child to watch pornography with him, which turned to mutual masturbation, the lawsuit alleges.
That, according to the suit, led Bambaataa to sodomizing the 12-year-old boy and trafficking him to other locations and other adult men. The suit also alleges that Bambaataa watched as the boy was assaulted by those men. As a result of the alleged abuse, Doe’s lawsuit says he has suffered physical injury, permanent emotional distress, depression, and embarrassment. He also says that he has been unable to enjoy life or keep a job.
Afrika Bambaataa has previously been accused of sexually assaulting others. In 2016, political activist Ronald Savage accused the producer-mixer-DJ of assaulting him when he was 15 years old.
Savage told the New York Daily News that he wanted Bambaataa to know “how much he damaged me growing up. I was just a child.”
Since Savage came forward, other men have spoken out about the abuse they allegedly received at the hands of Bambaataa in their youth. This is the first time Doe has come forward. In his lawsuit, he says that he did not even tell his mother about the alleged abuse until he was in his 30s.
In 2017, rapper Izlam was shot and killed after detailing his personal experience of being sexually abused by Bambaataa. A member of the Zulu Nation for decades, he left in 2016 after speaking out about the alleged assault. He reportedly said before his death that he was being threatened and harassed by other Zulu members.
Although the Zulu Nation has distanced itself from Bambaataa over the past several years, it has apologized to his accusers and reiterated the work it does for the community, including free meals, education on police brutality, and prisoner advocacy programs.
Bambaataa has not commented publicly on the suit. In a statement released to Metropolis, Zulu Nation said, “Nothing has changed since 2016 when these decades ago accusations first surfaced. This is a personal matter for Afrika Bambaataa and his lawyers to deal with... we will neither make nor provide any further comments or responses regarding the aforementioned legal matter.”