The case that grew to become hip-hop’s missed alternative for a Me Too second
Amanda Howell Whitehurst for NPR
This story was tailored from Episode 5 of Louder Than A Riot, Season 2. To listen to extra about Kim Osorio and her sexual harassment trial in opposition to The Supply, stream the total episode or subscribe to the Louder Than A Riot podcast.
The Supply was a hip-hop monument.
Whereas the present media panorama makes it laborious to think about a single publication — printed or in any other case — holding sway over a whole tradition, for greater than a decade, no rapper, label, present or community, was larger than The Supply.
Beginning out in 1988 as a publication out of a faculty dorm room, hip-hop’s longest-running periodical constructed its following by writing about rap with respect, and an air of status. By the flip of the century, the title had weight of its personal to throw round. Between the late Nineties and early 2000s, it helped launch the careers of The Infamous B.I.G, Jay-Z, Nas, Lil’ Kim, Cunning Brown and extra. It shipped regional sounds throughout the nation to a nationwide readership and the viewers of its very personal, sometimes-televised awards present. For rap nerds, there was a excessive that got here from the pages: the sleek artifice of the advertisements, the bluntness of the op-eds, the enduring cowl tales and the critiques part that made “5 mics in The Supply” one of the coveted cosigns. The ability held by The Supply represented a type of uncommon events in rap when the pen is simply as mighty because the tongue.
That is how Kim Osorio felt concerning the journal within the years earlier than she labored there.
A Bronx native with confidence, writing chops and a deep love of hip-hop music to supply, Osorio entered The Supply‘s workplaces as an worker for the primary time in 2000, able to step into her dream job. Between 2000 and 2002, Osorio landed interviews and canopy tales with the likes of Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Trick Daddy, Trina and extra. However as she labored her method up the masthead, changing into the journal’s first lady editor-in-chief by 2002, she noticed the gloss and status of the pages fade quick. What Osorio and plenty of different girls handled behind the scenes was an ordinary removed from gold — and when she referred to as out these harmful double requirements with a lawsuit, she realized simply how dirty issues may get.
Within the spring of 2005, Osorio sued The Supply journal, together with its co-owners, Dave Mays and Raymond ‘Benzino’ Scott, for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and hostile work setting, retaliation, defamation. The lawsuit and trial that adopted was a second the place these in hip-hop who leverage their energy had been placed on discover. It was a second the place Kim Osorio was breaking certainly one of hip-hop’s unwritten guidelines. This was a bit of hip-hop historical past steeped in misogynoir that Louder Than A Riot discovered important to reexamine. However as we tried to inform the story, the actions of 1 individual in it sarcastically bolstered certainly one of hip-hop’s most inflexible guidelines, the identical rule Osorio tried to fight with that go well with nearly 20 years in the past: If you happen to see one thing, say nothing.
Enterprise As Normal
From the surface, The Supply within the Nineties was crucial publication in hip-hop: daring, divisive and influential. However internally, it was one thing much less glamorous and leading edge: an entrenched boys’ membership tradition that normalized sexism. Males on employees would slap girls’s butts, purchase inappropriate “items” for them and tack pornographic photos to their cubicles.
Aliya King Neil, a former staffer who labored alongside Osorio, says that working round this tradition was an unavoidable a part of her routine, dictating how she moved. “Backpack, dishevelled shorts, dishevelled pants, Timbs. I can not seem like a man clearly, however I am making an attempt to be tomboyish,” Neil remembers. “It is as deep as rounded shoulders after I’m not a rounded shoulders individual. […] So I give off this aura of, non-threatening, nonetheless cute, and dressed down and quiet. Simply be quiet.”
The boys’ membership additionally required girls within the workplace to share info on the low.
“They had been telling me, ‘OK, do that, try this. Attempt to catch him within the corridor,'” Neil says of 1 male staffer in one other division whom she discovered too handsy. “My first step was to make it possible for I left the door open after I got here in. My second step was to take a buddy. My third factor was, ‘Hey, I gotta go to dude’s in two minutes. If you happen to do not see me coming again to my workplace, come get me.’ “
Osorio grew to become the journal’s editor-in-chief in 2002, however even then, she wasn’t immune. In response to many ladies who labored at The Supply, the toxicity flowed high down from the journal’s co-owners, Raymond “Benzino” Scott and Dave Mays. Scott was an lively aggressor, Mays passively let all of it occur. He stated nothing.
“Dave was additionally nearly at Benzino’s mercy,” stated Khary Turner, a former freelancer for The Supply, when describing Scott. “It appeared like Dave was nearly in an unenviable place. He was the man who needed to perform Benzino’s will, because it associated to The Supply, at the least.”
The ability Benzino wielded over Dave editorially mirrored his workplace conduct.
“He could possibly be erratic. He could possibly be combative,” remembers Turner of Benzino. “Status sensible, he was a road cat, you understand, he was laborious and he had a big crew. And Benzino was not, he wasn’t a code switcher. In hip-hop, as an artist, it was acceptable. However in The Supply, it wasn’t all the time acceptable.”
Because the lawsuit would later spell out intimately, Osorio alleges that Scott would repeatedly abuse his energy — snapping womens underwear, touching staffers inappropriately, making lewd feedback — whereas Mays let it rock.
After Osorio was promoted, Scott’s conduct towards her modified. Osorio testified that Scott repeatedly requested her about her intercourse life and that he volunteered details about his. Osorio additionally wrote about Scott’s badgering in her ebook, Straight from the Supply: An Expose from the Former Editor in Chief of the Hip-Hop Bible: “It is not that I used to be ashamed to inform Ray whom I had been with. It was that I knew precisely what he wished to know and extra importantly, I knew that he would use it in opposition to me.”
In response to courtroom transcripts and Osorio’s ebook, one night time as she and Scott had been leaving The Supply workplaces, he made a transfer on her. She testified that he propositioned her within the elevator and requested her to make a journey to Atlantic Metropolis with him. “We’d be the king and queen of The Supply,” he advised her. That very same night time, Scott referred to as her at dwelling repeatedly, regardless that she’d by no means given him her quantity.
After Osorio dodged him that night time, Scott and Mays unfold gossip that Osorio was sleeping with rappers, calling her credibility into query due to it. “I wasn’t stunned that each Ray and Dave had been speaking about me behind my again,” Osorio wrote. “I’ve spoken to former male editors of the journal who had been by no means requested the identical questions. So why was my state of affairs so completely different? Why the f*** are they so obsessive about my intercourse life?”
Feeling uncomfortable, Osorio went to an legal professional, who suggested her to file a criticism with the HR division. Osorio constructed up the braveness to electronic mail an official criticism in February 2005. “When you hit ship, it is no coming again. She knew it,” stated Osorio’s good friend, Tia Bowman, who helped her fastidiously phrase her criticism and was on the cellphone together with her when Osorio hit ship. After two weeks of radio silence, Osorio obtained an indignant cellphone name from the 2 males, ordering her to retract her criticism. When she refused, they unceremoniously fired her.
All Falls Down
In April 2005, Osorio filed a criticism with the Equal Employment Alternative Fee, then sued The Supply and its management. As information of the lawsuit unfold by means of the business, Osorio’s friends had combined reactions. Some fellow writers began a petition to indicate public assist for Osorio; others coated the trial with snickering vulturism. Even those that had been near her questioned why she would take the chance.
“As unhappy as it’s, my first thought was, ‘No matter occurred, was it that deep that you just now wanna undergo an entire factor?” Neil remembers. “I need to make it clear that I am speaking about my 25-year-old self, and I am 50. … There may be not a single lady on this business who can say, ‘I by no means needed to cope with any of these things, and if I did, I all the time did X, Y and Z.’ No, you did not. You needed to cope with it, and also you did not all the time do one thing about it. So my thought was, ‘Is that this what it needed to be?’ “
The results of going public weren’t refined. Scott gave interviews disparaging Osorio’s title within the months that adopted, calling her a ‘slut’ and ‘incompetent.’ In a press release to AllHipHop.com denying the claims, Mays tried to discredit her as promiscuous: “It’s a indisputable fact that Ms. Osorio had sexual relations with quite a lot of excessive profile rap artists throughout her employment as editor-in-chief.”
The trial started in New York’s Southern District Courthouse in Manhattan in October 2006. Due to the excessive profile name-dropping within the go well with, The New York Submit ran headlines that learn “‘Supply’ Of Intercourse Harass” and paparazzi greeted Osorio on the steps of the courthouse the primary morning.
Louder reviewed a whole bunch of pages of courtroom transcripts, which reveal witnesses corroborating Osorio’s story. The top of human sources at The Supply, Julie Als, ignored a number of complaints, and even referred to her personal dynamic with Scott as being like ‘Ike and Tina Turner.’ At one level, Als herself testified that she by no means investigated a sexual harassment declare throughout her time at The Supply; she had little coaching and obtained none whereas she labored on the journal.
A earlier sexual harassment allegation, filed to the EEOC by photographer Janene Outlaw in 1997, earlier than Als’ tenure, pointed to a longtime sample of conduct on Scott’s half. Outlaw, who labored on the journal slightly below a 12 months, testified that Scott gave her lingerie on Valentine’s Day, hit on her in her lodge room throughout a piece journey to Boston and implied it will profit her to hook up with him. Although investigators stopped in need of saying Scott harassed Outlaw, they wrote a memo insisting he chorus from sexual relationships with any workers, even when consensual.
Osorio’s lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, pointed to the elevator incident as the ultimate straw following ongoing misconduct. Of their protection, The Supply‘s attorneys weaponized the notion of hip-hop with a view to shift complicity onto Osorio. In a very pointed second, they drew a comparability between the tune “P**** (Actual Good),” which Osorio had written about, and a remark Scott had made in entrance of Osorio and one other lady on the journal, saying that the singer Ashanti had a “fats p****.” One lawyer stated of Osorio, “She selected to work in hip-hop. The Supply will not be Martha Stewart Residing.”
Flipping the script on the complainant on this method is a authorized tactic, widespread in sexual harassment instances, referred to as DARVO: Deny the accusations, Assault the sufferer, Reverse the Sufferer and Offender. Throughout his testimony, Mays rationalized the setting of The Supply, suggesting the office tradition mirrored the viewers: “We needed to perceive that we had been serving a 65 to 80 % male readership.” The attorneys for Scott and Mays used a few of their closing arguments to say that Osorio wasn’t fired for the criticism however for different causes: “Her lack of ability to handle the job. Her insubordinate response to constructive criticism. Her poor management. Her failure to fulfill deadlines on a constant foundation, and her repeated failure to observe the instructions that she obtained from Dave and Ray on the editorial content material of the journal.”
In his closing remarks, Thompson argued that nobody deserves to be harassed at work, regardless of the office. “As a result of she labored at The Supply journal, they assume that she gave up her rights as an individual, as a girl? And when you imagine that, then you need to agree that the feminine editor-in-chief of Victoria’s Secret should not be capable to object to any vulgar remark, to any sexual propositions within the office, as a result of she places out a catalog yearly with girls who’re scantily clad carrying underwear.” He closed his summation with an attraction to posterity: “The eyes of a hip-hop music business are upon you. You’ve got an excellent alternative right here … to impose requirements on that business, and requirements on different components of the music business. You’ve got an opportunity to show them one thing about dignity. You’ve got an opportunity to show them one thing about respect.”
After a trial that took about two and a half weeks, the jury reached a verdict on Oct 23, 2006. Six males and two girls discovered that Osorio’s firing was certainly retaliation for the HR electronic mail, and that Scott had defamed her in interviews after she’d been fired. Nevertheless, the claims of working in a hostile setting and being the sufferer of sexual harassment and gender discrimination had been dismissed. Throughout reporting for this story, authorized specialists advised Louder that the official customary for proving harassment — the extreme or pervasive customary — was so excessive, it meant a sure stage of office sexual harassment was successfully authorized in New York State on the time (and continues to be on a federal stage).
Regardless of the multi-million greenback judgment in her favor, amounting to one of many largest judgements within the historical past of the state of New York, the dismissal of these latter claims meant what Osorio had endured was more likely to proceed within the tradition with out repercussion. As Neil places it, “I do not assume something modified. All of the issues that occurred to her in that go well with occurred the following day, and the day after that. Perhaps now it is a bit of bit higher, however that go well with — I feel [it] put folks on discover, however I do not know if it modified conduct.”
My Time Now
Practically 20 years after Osorio’s case, the follow of calling consideration to sexually inappropriate conduct in skilled circles has a reputation. However the Me Too motion, which infiltrated nearly each main business in 2017, truly dates again to 2006 — the identical 12 months as The Supply trial — when activist Tarana Burke coined the phrase. And from Burke’s perspective, even after a worldwide reckoning, hip-hop’s strongest have remained largely unchallenged.
“I’ve heard tales for years,” Burke says. “I’ve buddies who dated rappers or folks within the business and had been horribly mistreated. None of that got here ahead. And I feel it is as a result of they did not see house for Black girls or girls of coloration. They did not see a gap in our group, fairly frankly.”
Burke envisioned “Me Too” as a instrument of solidarity, a method for the younger Black girls she’d seen survive sexual abuse to take again some company. Although the phrase would come to be extra broadly related to a handful of white celebrities, Burke says she’s much less disturbed by how her phrases had been co-opted, and extra by the missed alternative Osorio’s lawsuit represents — a second when hip-hop may have been forward of the curve on a serious shift in society.
“I feel folks want to acknowledge that successful the courtroom case will not be the factor, stepping ahead is the factor.” Burke says. “You had this sister, who was seeped in essentially the most deeply masculine, sexist, macho, male-driven factor that there’s in leisure and tradition, have the wherewithal to step ahead and say, ‘Nah, I am not standing for this.’ [This] is a predecessor to, and a catalyst for, the cultural second that we noticed occur in 2017.”
In hip-hop media’s present ecosystem, The Supply would not maintain practically as a lot energy because it did 20 years in the past. In its wake, different publications have come into prominence, a few of which have engendered the identical harmful conduct. Staffers previous and current of Advanced Media, The Fader and OkayAfrica have publicly aired out males in positions of energy for sexual harassment, coercion, racism and gender-based discrimination. However when requested to go on report for this story concerning the present state of harassment in music media at present, in the end, not one of the former workers of these firms would communicate — because of ongoing settlement negotiations and, in some instances, restrictive non-disclosure agreements. Organizations reminiscent of New York’s Sexual Harassment Working Group are actively difficult the the authorized legitimacy of silencing survivors with a marketing campaign to overturn NDAs as a part of settlement agreements, however progress is sluggish.
Kim Osorio initially agreed to be interviewed for this story. Louder Than A Riot reached out to each Raymond Scott and Dave Mays for remark; each declined. Extra exactly, Scott requested, “Is there a examine concerned?” and refused to speak in any other case. Mays however, responded by way of his lawyer, informing Louder that he had despatched Osorio a stop and desist letter, threatening to sue her if her statements on this podcast breached her settlement settlement with him.
Whether or not a declare is official or not, simply the specter of submitting a lawsuit can intimidate somebody. Finally, after receiving the stop and desist letter, Osorio requested to have all of her interviews for this episode pulled, a request Louder revered. Even with Osorio’s braveness to talk out concerning the toxicity in hip-hop in 2005 and a continued struggle within the house since, the price of talking out this time proved to be too excessive, which suggests the rule of “see one thing, say nothing” has by no means been extra true. Misogynoir is all the time there to indicate that it is safer to maintain quiet.
“If we actually cherished hip-hop, like accountability is part of love,” Burke stated. “If we actually cherished hip-hop, then we’d maintain ourselves accountable. We’d maintain it accountable. These two issues can occur on the similar time. We do not have to tear hip-hop down and maintain it accountable. That is the way you truly construct it up.”