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Toxicity in Hip Hop: Domestic Abuse



Love The Way You Lie. Image Source; Youtube

Hip-hop has always been a crown Jewel of the culture. However, its significance has grown to the point that it has become a culture of its own. Undoubtedly, much is worthy of celebration, including talent, ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit, and influence. But Hip-hop reflects every other culture that has arisen. There is both a prolific beauty and deep darkness. Unfortunately, one cannot highlight brilliance without shining some light on the dark side.

Hip-Hop: The Yin to the Yang

As much as hip hop is known for its contribution, it is also known for its toxicity. One of the most toxic elements of hip hop is the abusive nature of the relationships of some of its most notable artists. Unfortunately, the toxicity has only seemed to gain in prevalence over the years to the point that it has become synonymous with the culture itself. But familiarity breeds acceptability and acceptability desensitization which is a course that must be corrected.

Toxicity: Domestic Abuse

Rihanna and Chris Brown. Image Source: Youtube

According to the Daily Beast,

“The entertainment industry has a problem with complicity; a history of forgiving talented men and erasing their crimes.”

Hip-hop has contributed a fair amount to this issue, which can no longer be denied.

Dating back to early hip hop, instances of domestic abuse at the hands of prominent artists have been widely publicized yet rarely given equal public scrutiny. But the continual perpetuation of an issue indicates an insidious illness. And occurrences in perpetuity unstemmed can poison generations.

The Spotlight: A Gift and a Curse

Undoubtedly, some of the greatest artists in history have made their mark as hip-hop artists. But unfortunately, the issue of abuse within the community casts a shadow on even the greatest. The normalization of abuses has led to the belief that talent is somehow a means by which one can be excused of atrocious behaviors.

According to a 2019 article in Vulture, “While we hem and haw about how to talk about rappers with open murder, battery, and sexual-assault cases, their success seems to render the conversation moot.” But this is never okay. The deliberate negation of issues to propel the career of the current talent is something that cannot continue to be ignored.

The Prevailing Argument

The average individual is held to a different standard than the artist. The average person is typically judged for their actions without impunity. However, the artist is often given the benefit of the doubt. As Vulture notes, “Music fans’ compartmentalize craft and crafter arguing you gotta separate the art from the artist offering catchy, consequence-free support and promoting artists who deserve more scrutiny. It has allowed decades of talented but abusive men to be celebrated as geniuses.”  This is the undercurrent of complicity, which silences and inflicts more pain on the victimized. This is what needs to be addressed.

Domestic Abuse on Display

Dr. Dre is probably one of the most spotlighted artists for his genius and his penchant for abusive relationships. Dre has had to answer publicly for allegations of abuse from multiple women, which includes Dee Barnes and Michel’le. Dee Barnes’s relationship with Dre dates back to his N.W.A days. The industry professional went on record with vivid accounts detailing incidents of physical assault at the hand of Dre. She sought charges against the producer, who at the time pleaded no contest. Barnes recently recounted in an interview how the abuse impacted her life tremendously to the point of financial struggle.


Michel’le, a well-known collaborator, protégé, and lover to Dre, came forward with an account of her own. While Dre has denied Michel’le’s account, Michel’le stands on her experience and even went as far as to take her story to production with “Surviving Compton.”


While Dre has not admitted to specific deeds, he has issued a broad apology for his treatment of the women in his life during their shared pasts. In Dre’s words,

“I was out of my fucking mind at the time. I fucked up; I paid for it, I’m sorry for it.”

But the question remains, what is the sum of a debt exacted at one’s fist? Does an apology render such a debt paid in full?

The victimized women had little recourse at the time but watched as Dre continued to reap the benefits of a successful career. Not only were his deeds overlooked but, in some cases, championed by others in the hip-hop world. Reportedly after Dre assaulted Barnes, this is what was recorded,

His N.W.A bandmate, Ren, stated at the time that “she deserved it – bitch deserved it. Eazy-E agrees: “Yeah, bitch had it coming.”

Dr. Dre discusses history of abuse towards women: “I was out of my fucking mind”

Mary J. Blige and K- Ci

It has long been public knowledge that Mary J. Blige and K-Ci had a thing going on, but equally as the public were the allegations of abuse. Years ago, Mary shared her experience of indescribable pain. While the scars of the physical brunt of the tenuous relationship healed, the psychological impact did not heal as quickly. Mary shared the impact of those moments on her as an artist and a maturing young woman.

Rihanna and Chris Brown

The strenuous relationship between Chris Brown and Rihanna is one of the most well-known cases of abuse to date. The pair made numerous headlines and raised not only eyebrows but sparked conversation for needed change regarding the long-time acceptability of abuse.


Following the initial incidence of abuse, Chris Brown was sentenced. According to BBC

“Brown received five years of probation. “

However, like many women who are victims of abuse, Rihanna returned to Brown with high hopes he would change. But she was disappointed when Brown’s patterned behavior resurfaced. However, despite the horrifying photos, the tear-jerker confessions, and drummed-up public outrage, there was little call to action. There was little call to accountability.

Chrisean Rock and Blueface

The most recent incidents between Blueface and Chrisean Rock highlight a real problem. The couple has been seen to openly display their abusive behavior to the entire world on multiple occasions.


And rather than a call for corrective measures, the seriousness of the issue has been glossed over, demonstrating increased desensitization and acceptability of a decades-long problem.


While these may seem isolated, given the number of artists in the industry, this is far from the case. There remains a long list of emcees who have garnered the spotlight for abuse, including Coolio, Nas, and Fabalous.

Domestic Abuse: Additions to a Long list


Coolio. Image Source: Getty Images

Coolio is a rap artist known for his hit single “Gangsta Paradise.” However, the artist made the news in 2013 for an entirely different reason, the abusive treatment of his girlfriend, Anabella Chatman. According to reports, the artist not only pushed Chatman but hit her with a closed-hand fist. A 2013 TMZ article noted, according to Anabella,

“Coolio struck her with his car as he retreated — cops say she had tire marks on her leg.”

As a result, Coolio was arrested for the allegations but later released.



In 2020 Kelis went public with her account of abuse. According to a 2020 issue of Essence, the songstress kept the details of her abuse silent for almost a decade. While the singer admits that both she and Nas shared in the abuse, she decided to stay. Like most other cases of abuse, this went unacknowledged. In fact, Kelis admitted that it was not until the highly publicized account of Chris Brown’s abusive relationship with Rihanna that she built up the courage to leave her situation. In the words of Kelis, “I remember so clearly when the pictures came out. I thought about coming out because I also had bruises all over my body…I wasn’t ready to walk; I just wasn’t.” Unfortunately, the issues Kelis and Nas faced were not stand-alone. Their issue was a symptom of a much bigger malady too prevalent in the industry.


In 2019 Fabolous broke his silence after his partner brought up allegations of abuse. However, these were more than just allegations, as Emily B had videotaped proof.


As a result of this incident, Fabolous was indicted on four felony charges. As noted in an article by TMZ

“the rapper was indicted on a count of domestic violence with significant bodily injury, two counts of threatening to kill, and a count of possessing a weapon.”

Time to Flip the Script on Domestic Abuse

Outlets do an admirable job of highlighting all hip-hop contributes to the building and progression of a people. Yet there seems to be a failure to sound the clarion call to action to address the less desirable components of the culture, such as the toxicities of domestic abuse. But the time to do what is right is always now. And it is past time to do more than call attention to the pervasiveness of the issue. As written in Vulture,

“Labels need to do more training. Fans need to do more soul-searching. We need to ask more questions. Inaction is an action.”

So here is to more transparency, greater attentiveness, and strides toward change and much-needed healing in the hip-hop community.

Written by: Renae Richardson

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