Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Music Mogul Russell Simmons Faces New Sexual Assault Allegations


Now we have news of more sexual assault allegations against two stars in the hip-hop world. The first is mogul Russell Simmons. Another woman has come forward to accuse him of rape. The second is the rapper Nelly. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has been following both stories and joins us now. Hi there.


SHAPIRO: Let's first talk about these new accusations against Russell Simmons. This is the sixth woman to accuse him of rape. Tell us about her and about the allegations.

TSIOULCAS: Right. And she's actually one of more than a dozen women who have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations overall. This woman is a filmmaker named Jennifer Jarosik, and she says that she had become friends with Simmons about 10 years before the alleged incident took place and that he had promised to help her produce and make a documentary film. And she visited him at his home in Los Angeles in August of 2016. He invited her over. And she alleges that that's when and where he raped her.

SHAPIRO: How is he responding to this?

TSIOULCAS: Well, he has responded kind of categorically across all of these allegations. He has said that while he has been perhaps insensitive in his relationships, that he was never violent. And again in a statement made today, Simmons denied these new allegations, and he has said here like he's said every time beforehand that all of his relationships have been consensual.

SHAPIRO: And it's striking that in this case the accuser's actually filing a suit against him, which most of the others have not.

TSIOULCAS: No, this is actually to my knowledge the first time that any of these accusers have actually filed a suit in court. And she's seeking $5 million in damages.

SHAPIRO: So if that's the latest about the accusations against Russell Simmons, let's turn now to the rapper Nelly. What can you tell us about the accusations against him?

TSIOULCAS: Well, it's a complicated story. This past Monday, a 22-year-old woman named Monique Greene filed an amended civil suit against Nelly out in Washington state. And last October, Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Haynes Jr., was arrested on charges of raping Ms. Greene on his tour bus. And she's now filed a civil suit.

SHAPIRO: Explain why if he was arrested in October wasn't - why wasn't he put on trial at that point?

TSIOULCAS: She said at the time that she felt she just wouldn't be able to stand up against a celebrity of his stature. And she declined to cooperate with prosecutors back then in October. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Greene decided to file a civil suit. And when she filed this amended suit, she did something very interesting.

She included testimony from two other women who say that Nelly assaulted them in 2016 and at the end of 2017. And she and her team say that this established a pattern of behavior by Nelly - that he would repeatedly single out fans at his shows, invite them backstage and then increasingly isolate them to the - whether it was just one woman or one woman and a friend and then make his assault. In both of these cases, they took place in England. And both of these women in this current lawsuit are referred to as Jane Doe number one and two. They wanted to come forward anonymously.

SHAPIRO: You know, in the last few months, we've seen the #MeToo movement create a reckoning in journalism, in Hollywood. Are we seeing the same thing in the music industry and hip-hop specifically?

TSIOULCAS: I think so. You know, this is something that we've returned to in the case of Russell Simmons now repeatedly over months. He is such a mogul in the business not just in hip-hop but also his branding that extended both as the co-founder of Def Jam records into Def Jam comedy and other pursuits, into fashion and elsewhere, that you're really looking at an elder statesman. And I think that has absolutely had repercussions and ripples throughout the hip-hop industry and certainly throughout music as well.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas. Thank you.

TSIOULCAS: My pleasure, Ari. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.