DJ and recording artist Afrika Bambaataa is one of hip hop’s pioneers with many like A Tribe Called Quest, the Native Tongues, KRS-One, and others down with Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation. While his place within the culture is the stuff of legend, a new allegation of sex abuse is threatening to dismantle everything the Planet Rock rapper has built.
In an exclusive interview with the New York Daily News, Ronald Savage, a former music executive, claimed Bambaataa molested him when he was 15-years-old, resulting in decades of depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I want him to know how much he damaged me growing up,” Savage, now 50, told the Daily News. “I was just a child. Why did he take my innocence away? Why did he do this to me?”
Savage detailed the abuse in his new book, Impulse Urges and Fantasies, and in an interview with Youtube’s The Star Chamber. A Democratic party activist, Savage said he came forward about the alleged 1980 assault because he wants New York to extend its statute of limitations, which currently prevents sexual abuse victims from pressing criminal charges or civil penalties after their 23rd birthday.
“I think the statute of limitations is unfair for victims. It took me all of these years to speak about this. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed,” he explained.
He continued, “People don’t understand that you are scared. You’re scared if you tell on this person, what are they going to do to you, what you’re going to do to your family.”
Bambaataa has yet to address the allegations, but his lawyer, Vivian Kimi, denied Savage’s claims.
“Defamatory statements were published seeking to harm my client’s reputation so as to lower him in the estimation of the community while deterring others from associating or dealing with him,” told the New York Daily News. “The statements show a reckless disregard for the truth, were published with knowledge of their falsity, and are being made by a lesser-known person seeking publicity.”
While Bambaataa’s lawyer dismissed Savage, Chuck Freeze, a friend and collaborator of Bambaataa said he believes the abuse occurred.
“Ronald was the kind of guy you could trust. You could leave money on the table and know it would be there when you got back. A really good dude. Easy to talk to. Very intelligent.”
He added: “We had no idea about this — and we would not have tolerated it if we did. Do I believe it? Yes, I do.”
The New York Daily News gives more details about the alleged abuse:
Savage says the first sex assault took place at Bambaataa’s apartment, where Savage sought refuge after cutting school. Bambaataa fondled himself and Savage that day, then invited another man to join in, Savage says. During the second incident, Bambaataa allegedly ordered Savage to perform oral sex on an older Zulu Nation member.
“I hated myself,” Savage says. “I don’t even know why I did that. I don’t even know how he got me to do that. It was like I was hypnotized.”
Savage says he eventually stopped the abuse by pulling away from his former hip-hop hero.
“He came to my house. I pretended I wasn’t there and that’s how it began to stop,” Savage says. “But by that time I was already messed up.”
While Savage hasn’t talked to Bambaataa about his claims, he said he had to go public.
“I promised myself before I die, I’m going to let the world know what happened to me,” he said.