Afrika Bambaataa has been dogged recently by allegations that he sexually abused several boys while organizing the Universal Zulu Nation in the Bronx. With several men coming forward, a new piece from Vice’s Thump examines whether or not Zulu Nation members had knowledge of Bambaataa’s allegedly foul acts.
In the piece, Ron Savage, the man who initially broke open the story to Internet radio personality Troi “Star’ Torain and to the New York Daily News, shares more details of his dealings with Bambaataa. Savage, now 50, worked as an understudy to the Zulu Nation DJs as a “crate boy” assisting with odd tasks for gigs and the like. However, things turned dark for Savage when he was 15 years old.
Savage loved being part of the Zulus, hanging out at the Center parties and having a front-row seat to the birth of hip-hop. But in 1980, just two years before Bambaataa’s career really took off with “Planet Rock,” everything changed. One day that year, when Savage was 15, he said Bambaataa sent a cab to Adlai E. Stevenson High School on Lafayette Avenue to pick him up. Savage, a freshman, ditched class, got in the cab, and was driven to Bambaataa’s house in the Baychester section of the Bronx. Inside the house, Savage was met by Bambaataa and another man, who Savage wouldn’t identify.
“There was a guy there, and Bam said that I could watch TV in the room. When I went in the room, there was a photo book… on the bed,” Savage recalled. “It [had pictures of] other people’s penises, other guys.”
Bambaataa, he said, came into the room, saw him looking at the book, and asked him if he knew how to “jerk off.” According to Savage, Bambaataa told the teenager to pull out his penis and proceeded to manually stimulate him. Bambaataa also took out his penis and had Savage do the same to him, Savage said.
After they were finished, the second man came into the bedroom with his penis out. Savage said he was “scared” and ran out of the house, crying. As he ran through the Bronx streets sobbing, a woman noticed he was upset and picked him up.
It appears that Bambaataa’s sexual proclivities were known among Zulu members but either ignored or kept silent in order to protect their beloved leader. It is only in recent times that the whispers that began in a 2013 piece from writer Khalil Amani stating Bambaataa was stabbed by a man he allegedly molested that the din of the rumors became louder.