In January of this year, the mini TV-series Surviving R. Kelly, in which seven women came forward and brought to light the physical, mental, and sexual abusive experiences they allegedly endured from R. Kelly, aired on Lifetime. The rapper had previously somehow resisted many lawsuits accusing him of abuse, including some which accused him of initiating sexual relationships with underage women. In this newly-emerged era of #MeToo, the impact this series had proved that such allegations are being taken more seriously than ever before (although there is still a long, long way to go from here).
The debate around Drake’s ties with young girls
In the same month as the series’ transmission, many became wary of the unusual 14-year-old age gap between rapper Drake with his rumoured girlfriend at the time — 18-year-old Bella Harris. Now, as someone who tries to give people the benefit of the doubt, the situation could be overlooked due to the fact that 18 is the legal age in the United States. However, Drake hasn’t exactly had the best record when it comes to appropriateness with young girls and hasn’t exhibited the most reassuring behaviour since.
This video of a Drake concert in Denver from 2010 shows the then-23-year-old artist bringing a young girl on stage to dance with him. He kisses the back of her neck and touches her breasts before asking how old she is. Upon finding out that she is 17, the rapper exclaims “I can’t go to jail yet, man!” and creepily comments: “Why do you look like that? You thick. Look at all this. I don’t know if I should feel guilty or not, but I had fun. I like the way your breasts feel against my chest.” The crowd can be heard cheering throughout the interaction — a response we can only be glad is no longer fathomable today. Drake’s reaction shows that he is well-aware of the interaction’s dodgy nature, but despite that, still chooses to minimise it and essentially tries to hold the girl responsible for being “thick”.
More recently Drake was scrutinised again, when an interview that actress Millie Bobby Brown (who was 14 years old back then) had with Access surfaced on the Internet in September 2018. She revealed her friendship with Drake and the texting relationship they have been having since which includes him giving her advice on boys. Millie Bobby Brown has since defended her friendship with the rapper on Instagram.
Some on the internet were reminded of an interview Hailey Baldwin had with E! News, in which she revealed she’d known Drake for about 4 years before dating him after she’d turned 18 (meaning she was 14 at the time). They’d reportedly had a friendship in the course of that period, during which he was said to “shower” her with gifts. Some took the liberty to speculate the artist may have a habit of grooming young women.
You say “unlikely friendship”, I say “latest example of predatory behaviour.” pic.twitter.com/lyYIbl8ZHR
— Mic Wright (@brokenbottleboy) November 28, 2019
In an interview between singer Billie Eilish and Vanity Fair which was uploaded on their channel last week, the 17-year-old briefly mentioned having Drake on her phone and that he’s a “homie of hers”. She elaborated:
“But like Drake, c’mon. Drake. Drake is like the nicest dude I’ve ever spoken to. I mean I’ve only like texted him, but he’s so nice. Like, he does not need to be nice. You know what I mean? He’s at a level of his life where he doesn’t need to be nice, but he is. You know?”
Her statement sparked mixed feelings among fans, some believing that the controversy of the situation stems from oversensitivity, while others were very uncomfortable about there being yet another instance of Drake forming friendships with underage girls.
Maybe, some might think, maybe this was just a bad, impulsive reaction in front of a pressuring crowd. Maybe him texting these young girls genuinely comes from a place of good intentions, that these circumstances are highly interpretable. The question I pose in return is: when do we stop turning a blind eye to these situations? Where do we draw the line? How would you interpret a 30+-year-old forming a friendship with and texting your own underage child? I know I am not the only one when I say that as a woman, there are interactions with older figures I experienced in my childhood and teenage years which I can only realise the dreadfulness of now, in retrospect.
So now what?
Nobody is calling Drake a criminal. We will never know all of the facts, what exactly goes on behind the scenes. What we do know though, is that there is arguably an unhealthy degree of normalisation in regards to unusual relationship dynamics in the entertainment industry. For us to be vigilant and acknowledge whenever someone behaves troublingly may prevent abusive power dynamics in the future. It is hard to navigate what in many of these cases seems to be a grey area of consent, especially in an age where the media often gives out information about celebrities that may be over-exaggerated or misinterpreted.
Feature Image: The Come Up Show