Quick question for you. How many women need to accuse Nelly of rape and sexual assault before he becomes a persona no grata in country and roots music similar to Ryan Adams, Morgan Wallen, Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons, and the like? Now before you answer, understand that whatever the number is, it must be greater than three, because that’s how many women have accused him of such activity. So far at least.
Nelly was arrested October 7th, 2017 in Auburn, Washington near Seattle after he was accused of sexual assault by a local woman. Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., was arrested on his tour bus in a Wal-Mart parking lot where the alleged rape occurred. The rapper had performed earlier that evening at the White River Amphitheatre. It was part of Florida Georgia Line’s 2017 “Smooth Tour.”
According to Steve Stocker of the Auburn police, the woman called 911 and reported the rape at 3:48 am. After an investigation, police decided to charge Nelly on 2nd degree rape, and placed him under arrest. Later those charges were dropped by local authorities after the alleged victim—22-year-old Monique Green—said she was being harassed and smeared in the media after leaks from the local police department ended up on TMZ. She said she couldn’t trust the local police to fairly prosecute her case. Multiple stories involving Nelly’s attorney Scott Rosenblum also appeared on TMZ accusing Monique Green of being a gold digger and a liar.
Shortly after the arrest for 2nd degree rape, two more accusations against Nelly emerged. One was from a woman who says that Nelly assaulted her at an afterparty following a concert at Koko, which is a club in London, England. The victim alleges Nelly groped her, despite repeatedly staving off his unwelcomed advances in June of 2016. The woman said hearing the story of another victim in Washington State compelled her to come forward.
Then another sexual assault investigation commenced against Nelly by police in Essex, England less than 2 months after Nelly was arrested in Washington State. A woman claimed that after a show at Cliffs Pavilion in Essex on December 5th, 2017, she approached Nelly to take a picture with him. Nelly allegedly grabbed the woman by the arm and took her to his dressing room where he began to masturbate in front of her and tried take her top off and force her to perform oral sex on him. As she ran away, the accuser claims Nelly yelled at her and called her a “c*nt.”
Subsequently, a civil suit between Nelly and Monique Green was settled privately. The woman in the Cliff’s Pavilion incident also did not cooperate with authorities for undisclosed reasons. Nelly has never been convicted of any crime against a woman, and everyone has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. But despite the gravity of the charges—even while they were fresh and he was actively under investigation for rape—Nelly was allowed to continue on tour with Florida Georgia Line, and has since appeared at numerous country festivals, and in other collaborations.
This week, the #1 streaming song in country is “Lil Bit,” which is yet another collaboration between Nelly and Florida Georgia Line. Of course it’s not a country song, which once again begs the question why Lil Nas X was kicked off the charts for “Old Town Road,” but something like “Lil Bit” could be allowed to persist. But that’s not the double standard, and inconsistent judgement that’s being dealt with specifically here. This has to do with how Nelly is somehow in the clear, while many other performers in country, roots, and in music in general are not, and for much less significant actions or allegations.
Nelly somehow skirting by this prudish, repressed moment in history while others have been caught up in its web has a lot to do with timing. The first accusation of rape against Nelly occurred on October 7th, 2017. It was on October 15th, 2017 that actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” commencing the #MeToo movement in earnest, and bringing a reckoning down on many men in the public sphere who for years had been abusing or allegedly abusing women.
By eight days, Nelly was spared the worst of that reckoning. In fact, the accusations against Nelly went mostly ignored, and if anything, were buried in the flood of new accusations that emerged against men. It also probably helps that the accusations happened on two separate continents, diffusing the impact of multiple accusations delivered in a tight window.
Again, we can only assume that since Nelly has not been convicted of any sex crime that he is innocent on all charges. But neither has Ryan Adams, while the accusations made by a battery of ex’s brought forth by The New York Times are significantly less grave. Same for Morgan Wallen. Is being caught in a private moment using a forbidden word as bad as being accused of rape and sexual assault by three separate women? Where did Morgan Wallen learn the phrase he was caught using? Nelly has an entire song titled “Country Ass Nigg*.”
This is in no way to defend the actions of Ryan Adams, Morgan Wallen, or anyone else. The accusations and confirmed actions by all three of these men are reprehensible and inexcusable, and they deserve some recompense for their behavior. But why are the grave accusations against Nelly never broached as he remains an active part of polite society and public entertainment, meanwhile think pieces continue to be written about how others should receive no reconsideration or forgiveness ever.
Last month, Inside Hook published a think piece entitled, “Without Remorse, There Will Be No Redemption for Ryan Adams.” Producer Dr. Luke wasn’t accused of raping three women, only one. The accusation from Kesha is definitely alarming, but has never been substantiated, and in fact details of the accusation have been refuted by Katy Perry and others. But Dr. Luke continues to be hounded by the public and the media as an abuser, with just yesterday The Atlantic publishing a lengthy piece about how your support of the Dr. Luke-produced pop star Doja Cat is ultimately support for a rapist.
Winston Marshall of the band Mumford & Sons was cancelled simply for recommending a book by controversial journalist Andy Ngo who investigates violence within Antifa. He’s now left the band, feeling he can’t speak his mind in the current media environment without hurting others. You may disagree with Winston Marshall and Any Ngo. But how does him recommending a book fall within the realm of reprehensible behavior, but the credible accusations against Nelly don’t? And again, the media is playing a large role in this continued pressure campaign, with Slate publishing a story last week proclaiming, “Mumford & Sons’ Banjoist Traded Rock Stardom for the Allure of Owning The Libs.”
Yet there were never any think pieces proceeding the accusations against Nelly, never any proclamations that regardless of the validity of the claims, there will be no redemption. There’s never been any public reckoning against his collaborators either, or Nelly’s corporate backers. Here Nelly is in the video in the new song with Florida Georgia Line, driving around in a RAM truck, munching on Lays potato chips in specific moments of product placement for major American corporations as if he’s never engaged in any problematic activity, including gun charges and tax evasion that Nelly has been found guilty and convicted of.
What’s worse, Unknown Hinson calling a woman a “freak tittied bimbo” based on false reporting in the media, or someone allegedly raping three women? I’m going to go with the later, but it’s the former who’s out of his gig playing a redneck squid in a niche cartoon, and the latter who’s eating Lays potato chips in a Florida Georgia Line video, and headlining arena tours.
Again, I’m not for the cancellation of anybody. And part of the dilemma with cancel culture is the inherent hypocrisy that persists with people who will speak out against cancellation when it happens against someone on their side of the political spectrum, but join the scrum when it’s someone else they happen to disagree with ideologically.
In fact since Nelly has yet to be convicted of any crime against a woman, I think he should have the right to pursue gainful employment in the public space, with presumed innocence until evidence is presented otherwise, even if I think his music is terrible.
But others should also be extended that right too who currently aren’t, while others whose actions or the accusations against them are much less severe than Nelly’s are also being disallowed by the public and the media from moving forward with their careers.
We all have the right to take our knowledge on the actions or behaviors of others, and use that to influence who we listen to, and how we spend our money. But the collective and often capricious way the public and the media gang up on some individuals and seem to turn a blind eye to the actions and accusations against others seems patently illiberal, as does the inability to forgive, or to offer a path to redemption for past mistakes.