I really did not want to write this. Putting negative energy out into the world is something I strive to do as little as possible. However, after seeing video footage of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana rapper/singer violently kicking a female fan in the front-row of one of his shows, I feel like I have to write this. It’s not to humiliate, judge, or write-off Kevin Gates the person. I do not know him and I do not think I can rightfully make that call. I can, however, based on my experiences related to the rapper – in-person, through his music, and what I’ve read – not support him in any facet of life and encourage you to do the same.
I know Kevin Gates has been around for a while, but I’m going to be honest in saying that other than features he’s appeared on from musicians I listen to, I have not heard an entire project of his front-to-back nor truly sat down and listened to any of music at all, until this year. I decided to do so only after accidently being at one of his performances in Austin, Texas this year (2015) in March for SXSW (South by Southwest Music Festival). Fortunately for me, I did not get kicked in the face while I was there, but I did happen to be pretty close to the front-row while he was performing and heard some pretty terrible shit come out of his mouth. (This is a bit of a lengthy read – if you’re short on time skip through my anecdote to Gates’ performance.)
It was a Thursday night, March 19, and a group of friends and I nonchalantly walked into this club venue (I don’t remember the name) before its doors had opened. We did not notice the line outside the door but security seemed to think we were a part of an artist’s party so they didn’t bother to say anything. It was pretty strange because it was not our intention to even attend this event, we just thought the venue we were at was for another show, but it turns out we were wrong.
Ty Dolla $ign, who was headlining apparently, was doing sound check when we got upstairs to the stage. We had a sense of belonging, since security was on our side, so we introduced ourselves and got some drinks. Everyone was really friendly; it was pretty cool. By the time doors opened and attendees made their way in, I was kinda lit and, because of the open windows by the bar, was able to blaze a couple blunts.* I was there for a while because I can't totally recall the first few performers.
No one in my group had a clue as to what that night’s lineup was, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Just Blaze making a dynamic introduction onto the stage. That’s when I left the bar to join the crowd. I consider myself to be a hip-hop head and Just Blaze has been a longtime favorite producer of mine, so I was psyched for that, and he did not disappoint whatsoever. The next shock-back-to-the-2000s was Mannie Fresh. “Wow, these two ran the game in the last decade, and I just saw them back-to-back,” I thought to myself (probably out loud too, who knows.) Then came G-Eazy, who was in the same boat as Kevin Gates as far as “artists I know about but haven’t really listened to because I don’t like them for some unknown reason.” There was this girl that I had been talking to that night and she was the biggest G-Eazy fan I’d met to date. I wouldn’t be surprised if she found her way backstage that night (she talked about it). She was also a big Kevin Gates fan. After his performance, which sparked my negative thoughts about him, I questioned her and regretted ever spending time to talk to her as she did not waver in her opinion.
It started like any other show; the music was good, the energy was high, and the crowd in general was roaring for Gates. Toward the middle, however, shit got weird. After performing a “love song” which entailed some pretty harsh lyrics about his significant other(s), Gates apparently felt the need to rant a bit about his stance on domestic violence. Note that this was a time when domestic violence was a big theme in the media, resulting from a sudden storm of reports that athletes were committing such acts against their significant others and children. Gates stated that what goes on between him and his girl is solely his business, even if it does mean "smacking her the fuck around." Now, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and if your opinion is that what goes on in the privacy of your home is your own matter, that’s perfectly fine, because it is. But everyone’s also entitled to live a life unhindered by unwanted harm and violence. It’s a basic principle of equality.
When I thought this possibly couldn’t get any worse, he decides to again address his interactions with women after a song or two. He said something along the lines of “If you’re a female, there’s no excuse for you not to have sex with me.” It wasn’t exactly that, but that was the point. He essentially used the same argument he used with domestic violence to justify his opinion. If you are a person who listens to his music, this won’t come as any surprise to you, but I hadn’t at the time so this was new to me. Really?! So the other sexual partner has no say in a two-way engagement? Ladies and gentlemen, if this is at all unclear, that is the textbook definition of the initiation of rape. Now I’m getting a little creeped out – how many women has he beat and how many has he raped?
To my surprise though, I look around and everyone’s cheering and hollering. “You guys can’t really support this kind of behavior can you?!” I thought. Maybe they were just in the moment and too hyped to see an artist they support to actually process what he was saying. Or maybe the banging beats and heavy flow of Gates’ songs overshadowed his comments – which happens a lot in hip hop, unfortunately. I bet a lot of those people – a generally young crowd, predominately white, but pretty diverse – don’t actually condone domestic violence and rape at all. In my opinion, this is a huge problem when we support musicians who preach a message we oppose, but again, it happens all the time in rap songs.
Now, I’m not one to call-out hip hop artists for their misogynistic lyrics and sometimes vulgar attitudes towards females and relationships. I understand that such content has unfortunately became engrained in a large part of the mainstream culture, and is so “normal” that it has become cliché. A lot of it is just rapping-ass things rappers say and they don’t always mean it to the extent it’s expressed in their music. A lot of the artists who do recite such lyrics have wives and families they hold dear to them. Artists give the people what they want to hear. I also realize that often times these lyrics are taken out of context and not representative as standalone opinions and ideologies.
After the show I went and actually took the time to listen to his music, and let me tell you this: Kevin Gates is not one of those misunderstood people. He’s an extremely opinionated and hard-headed individual, and it is his right to be, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that performance confirmed to me that the dude legitimately means all of the terrible things he explicitly says in his music. He references near-rape situations, and is very imaginative about the number of ways in which to perform them. And, the crazy thing is, he’s totally fine with that and likely wants people to know that about him.
Even crazier, and further substantiating my stance, he didn’t apologize for the incident in which he kicks the fan, but instead retaliated by dropping a song called “The Truth” in which he defends his actions that night in Florida. He claims in the song that she was reaching for his Johnson, but the video clearly shows that she barely grabbed the edge of his shorts, far from the pelvic region. He also states that he “had already warned her.” But does that make it anymore okay?
Looking at his rap sheet, which is pretty fucking long, Gates has recently been criticized for attempting to get his girl to commit bestiality and putting in on Instagram (wtf?) as well as a series of fights he’s gotten into with female fans, one of which was weeks after the show I attended. And he’s been known for unwavering from an ongoing incestual relationship with his cousin.
All that being said, I don’t know how any human being with morals and values can support Kevin Gates. I’m far from a feminist but I find it difficult to believe that this guy still has fans, especially those who are females. I’m a strong believer in karma and the fact is, whether the fan he kicked was a male or female, he had this shit coming to him. I’m glad the fan is deciding to press charges. I hope that girl at the SXSW show saw the video and I wonder if she’s still a fan. As close as we were standing, that very well have could’ve been her.