Mysonne on how he plans to battle rape culture after viral stardom

The New York rapper’s effective breakdown of why men need to bring down ingrained cultural misogyny brought catharsis out of the Kavanaugh hearings.

October 10, 2018

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of millions and the United States Senate and accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, her bravery galvanized people all over the world. One of them was Mysonne, a rapper from New York, who went viral last week with a video explaining why it’s imperative for men to battle rape culture. His measured breakdown, watched millions of times, was filmed just before Mysonne and a number of other men were arrested for forming a human chain in front of the Supreme Court. It was Mysonne’s third arrest at a protest since Kavanaugh was nominated.

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Agree or disagree with what he’s saying, part of the reason Mysonne went viral is the rare sight of seeing a black men, much less a rapper, call for a dramatic reimagining of masculinity. But Mysonne’s career is defined by challenging the status quo. “I’m constantly calling out artists in this industry for promoting negative things,” he told me over the phone on Tuesday. “That’s what my music is about. I don’t adhere to where they’re trying to push the culture, and I don’t want to be a person misleading the youth again.”

Mysonne will channel his viral stardom into a foundation called Raising Kings. “I teach the kids things we didn’t learn,” he says. “Retraining what manhood looks like, and dispelling myths that have damaged these kids. My job is to sit and talk to men, have real conversations, and reestablish what manhood looks like in this country.” The current national mood on gender equality might verge on apocalyptic, especially after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but Mysonne is unbowed. “It’s way more good people than bad people,” he tells me during our conversation.

How did you start on this personal journey of reevaluating rape culture?

I’ve always somebody who stood for women. But when it came to the rape culture thing, I just had a difference of opinion. It was probably in the last couple weeks that I finally got what they were trying to say to me. I was like most men, defensive. We hear the word “rape” and go, “I didn’t rape anybody, y’all going too far.” But when you peel back the layers of it. you hear how women felt at certain times that us men were oblivious to.

My sister and I, we’ve always had these conversations. As a man, we’ve had different experiences than women, and we’ve heard that women lie or experienced women tell lies. So that was my initial reaction, but then they asked me “How many times have you seen men do things that you knew wasn’t right? How many times do you think women actually lie?” I took myself out of the situation and they started explaining their own experiences, like how a guy, wouldn’t allow them to leave the house, or cornered them off in a hallway. When I listened to these stories of my sister and her friends, I was like “Damn, I get it. I really get it.”

Being a star basketball player and a hip-hop artist, you feel like the girls are supposed to like you. You feel like they really want to, but you gotta coach them into it. And when you hear the stories, it’s really not that. Sometimes you’re imposing your will upon somebody, that they can’t say no to you because they might feel threatened. And that’s rape culture — creating an environment where someone feels uncomfortable and traumatized that subconsciously they do things out of fear.

Have the hip-hop communities that you’re a part of been receptive to the kinds of politics you talked about in the video?

One of the things that I do well is being able to take a situation that most people don’t understand and simplify it, and I think that’s what that video did. I was having a conversation a few weeks ago, and said “Men are not going to get it the way that you’re saying it, because they feel like they’re being attacked. They feel like they’re being called rapists, and that’s such a hard word.” I get what you’re saying, but how do we translate it? I think that video made many men who are good in nature — [they’re] not rapists or don’t have malicious intent but don’t know that they’re engaging in this culture — it made them take ownership and reflect on their own misconduct or ignorance. I’ve heard a lot of women say they’ve never heard a man say that. And that must hurt. That’s a burden to live with your whole life, and it struck a chord with me as well.

You’ve spoken before about how the public at large and protest movements in general don’t speak up for black women. Based on your experiences at the Kavanaugh protests, do you believe there would have been the same outrage and mobilized national action if Dr. Ford had been a black woman?

I don’t believe so. We still have so far to go. That’s why I commend Tamika [Mallory], Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez. When they became part of the Women's March, they were clear that if the agenda for women was going to be set in America, women of color have to be at the table. Black women have to build the table, because they’re the most marginalized, the most disrespected. We understand what the need is, and we have Tamika and Carmen letting you know the issues of the black women and women of color. They need to be prevalent in every conversation. We’ve seen what they did to Anita Hill, and the reality is that we’re going to get it the worst. So we have to fight the hardest.

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Do you think that ingrained misogyny means most men simply refuse to listen to women who criticize rape culture, regardless of tone?

I don’t know, but I know that I didn’t have to hear it from a man to take it seriously. I just had to listen to what the victims and survivors were dealing with. Being a person with good moral character, hearing that pain and not wanting anyone to experience that, it made me reflect and think: what do we have to do for that not to happen?

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Mysonne on how he plans to battle rape culture after viral stardom