From R. Kelly to Tyga: How the entertainment industry is complicit in predatory behavior
Is “How did you lose Kylie Jenner?” the most appropriate question to lead with in a discussion about Tyga’s past relationship that broke California state law?
Charlamagne Tha God did ultimately press the rapper about dating the television personality, whom he denied dating two years prior on The Breakfast Club. Of course, not long after that interview did the two publicly acknowledge what had been largely perceived as obvious. The problem many have had then, now, and presumably will always have is that Tyga was rumored to be dating Kylie at 16 and went public with his relationship with her by the time she was 17.
The age of consent in the state of California is 18.
“We started off as friends,” Tyga said of their relationship. His liberal use of the word “friend” notwithstanding, when Charlamagne directly noted this public image took a hit as a result of him dating a teenage girl as people branded him a “pedophile” and compared him to R. Kelly, Tyga bizarrely responded by noting, “I’m always ahead of the curve. I’m just always ahead of the curve.”
These sentiments mirror those reflected by Kanye West on this same show two years ago. When asked about about Tyga and Kylie Jenner, Kanye said, “I think that uh, I think [Tyga] got in early. I think he was smart.” It didn’t help matters that Tyga then went on to claim credit for boosting the career of his ex-girlfriend whom he met at 15 and publicly announced dating at 17.
“I knew she had a lot of potential. I felt like I was put in that position to kind of help her,” he added before making a similar claim of boosting Blac Chyna’s career, too.
Each claim is absurd enough to incite laughter, but there is no real time to laugh given how troubling it is to hear adult men take this attitude about statutory rape. That’s why it was frustrating to hear Tyga portray himself as some kind of victim. “All I’m saying is like whoever controls this kind of media doesn’t like seeing rappers with these type of women, especially young White women,” he explained. “That’s how it is.”
This is the same purported biased media that largely ignored the problem of an adult male celebrity dating a famous teenage girl before the legal age of consent in the state they both resided in.
If anything, many outlets went out of their way to romanticize their situation — which speaks to both the power of the Kardashian media machine and the media’s lack of interest in advocating on behalf of young girls exploited by older men.
It is the same media who even in this new interview, may have questioned Tyga about his past relationship and the predatory nature of it, but allowed him to laugh off “the sexual predator thing” by saying, “Goddamned why you gotta put that on me, man?” And even the invocation of the phrase of “sexual predator” was often met with laughter throughout the discussion. Worse, when asked if he would work with R. Kelly, Tyga answered yes and noted that he has already previously worked with the man currently being accused of running a sex cult.
That should have been a moment of shame, but Tyga was defiant in his blasé attitude about statutory rape and being linked to a man many rightly view as a despicable sexual predator. Sadly, Tyga’s lack of shame is not surprising. Following the publication of “R. Kelly Is Holding Women Against Their Will In A ‘Cult,’ Parents Told Police,” Buzzfeed reached out to 43 artists who have worked with R. Kelly in the past if they would work with him again. None of them offered a response.
So, even if Tyga should be ashamed of his actions and condemned widely, if R. Kelly has never truly suffered for anything he’s been accused of, why would Tyga? Although R. Kelly understandably seized much of the attention given the nature of the accusations and his history with underaged girls, Tyga’s most recent interview and his overall attitude about dating a teenage girl just goes to show how the music industry and media collectively are complicit in dangerous and predatory behavior by these adult men.
Yet, as disturbing as all this is, it is up to many of us to continue to speak out and to push those with powerful platforms to continue to challenge men who either engage in this behavior or help excuse it in some way.
R. Kelly may never get what he truly deserves, but the rest of his life ought to be met with nothing but scrutiny and condemnation.
If not, more men like him will publicly wave their predatory antics in our faces. Just look at Tyga.