This was the Kodak that appears in his music: self-aware, and concerned with consequences. It was the perfect moment for Darden to introduce a challenging line of questioning, but instead, the conversation retreated to the banal. Only at the conclusion did Darden return to the subject, while never directly asking Kodak a question. “We take sexual assault here serious,” Darden said sternly, then followed with an invitation to return and discuss it at a later date.
Kodak looked disoriented. Moreover, he appeared surprised that the allegation would be even alluded to in an interview, as if no one around him had suggested it might. He brusquely walked out.
In other interviews from that week, the allegations did not come up. Kodak’s talk with the Breakfast Club, on the Hot 97 rival station Power 105, was much more jovial, including banter about safe sex and child support. On the podcast “A Waste of Time With ItsTheReal” — which opened with a direct statement that Kodak wouldn’t be asked about the allegations — Kodak again revealed striking insight into navigating the gap between perception and reality: “Sometimes they make you feel like criminalized and all that stuff. Sometimes they make you feel like you worthless and stuff, so when I see people really like shouting, and trying to take pictures, screaming, I be like, damn, me? Like for real? I’m from the projects. Like, me?”
Missed opportunities, all of them. Part of this has to do with the norms of the day — power has tilted heavily in celebrities’ favor when it comes to press: Media outlets routinely make ethical sacrifices to secure big names. Kodak communicates with his fans via Instagram, and generally, that is enough for him; being asked uncomfortable questions is something he hasn’t learned how to manage. It’s a circumstance that allows young artists to experience great success with little friction, and possibly, to remain successful while holding skepticism and inquiry at arm’s length, or pretending it doesn’t exist altogether.
That wasn’t always the case, however. It was especially pointed listening to the Kodak Black album and observing its rollout in the wake of the recent Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which details allegations that have long trailed the 52-year-old R&B singer: that he targets underage women for sexual relationships, deploys emotional and physical abuse against his partners and leverages his power and stature to silence his victims.
The scope of Kelly’s alleged transgressions is vast, and spans decades. Kodak Black is accused of one sexual assault. But the R. Kelly series underscored the changing ways in which performers hide, both in their public life and their art.