MUSIC

A$AP Rocky Was Namedropped During Trump's Impeachment Inquiry, and That's Beautiful

"I think we primarily discussed A$AP Rocky," said an old white guy.

A$AP Rocky, hip-hop's current patron saint of Russian headwear, has had quite a tumultuous past few months.

Not that you needed us to tell you this, but President Trump's been having a rocky time (pun intended) recently, too: He's currently facing potential impeachment because he asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to do the U.S. "a favor" by investigating Trump's political rival, 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. The House of Representatives have been holding public hearings of testimonies from various White House staff. Rocky's name just keeps coming up in the conversation, which is utterly amusing.

Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, testified to Congress today (November 20) and mentioned a short phone call he had with Trump following his conversation with Zelensky. "I have no reason to doubt that this conversation [between Trump and Zelensky] included the subject of investigations," Sondland said, before detailing his own evidently riveting chat with Trump: "I think we primarily discussed A$AP Rocky."

In July, Rocky was charged with assault after getting in a fight in Stockholm with two men who appeared to be following and harassing him and his entourage. Trump, ever the prompt social media poster, didn't shy away from intervening and sharing his thoughts: "Just spoke to @KanyeWest about his friend A$AP Rocky's incarceration," read an actual tweet from the president. "I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky. So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!" No matter how many times #FreeRocky was tweeted, unfortunately, Trump couldn't collude with Sweden enough to keep Rocky from being found guilty.

It will always be equal parts hilarious and awkward when old white dudes in politics rub elbows with notable rappers, but a rapper being mentioned so casually in what could be only the third impeachment in American history is the kind of strange coalescence that could only happen in 2019.

CULTURE

Are We Counting on Kim Kardashian to Fix Criminal Justice?

She's doing great and important work, but what does that say about our justice system?

the Independent

Over the past two years, Kim Kardashian West has made her brand synonymous with criminal justice reform.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that she has subsumed the criminal justice cause into her brand. Her colossal celebrity status has already proven its power by elevating her entire family to the height of reality TV royalty—even providing the springboard for the world's youngest "self-made" billionaire. Combine that with her legal ambitions and husband Kanye West's strange position as the most prominent black celebrity to join the MAGA cause, and she is suddenly positioned perfectly to work as an advocate fighting wrongful convictions and excessive sentencing.


Beginning with convincing Donald Trump to pardon Alice Johnson—who was serving a life sentence for non-violent drug offenses in the 1990s—Kardashian West has had a string of high-profile successes in her advocacy. She was instrumental in getting President Trump to negotiate A$AP Rocky's release from a Swedish prison, and helped secure early release for Momolu Stewart. She is starring in a forthcoming documentary with Oxygen called Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project, has partnered with Lyft in a program to provide former inmates with free rides to job interviews, and according to MiAngel Cody—lead counsel of the Decarceration Project—was involved in freeing 17 inmates from prison over a three month period. So perhaps it's no wonder that Kardashian West was present at the pivotal moment in another high-profile case this week.



At the center of the case, Rodney Reed, a man sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. He was scheduled to be executed this Wednesday in Texas, despite multiple witnesses coming forward with testimony against the victim's then-fiancé—Jimmy Fennel, a former cop who has since been convicted of rape in a separate case—and despite the fact that no DNA tests were ever performed on the murder weapon. The case has prompted a massive online movement and several petitions for Governor Greg Abbott to grant Reed a stay of execution. Is it a coincidence then, that when that stay of execution finally came through, Reed was meeting with none other than Kim Kardashian West?

Kim Kardashian in prison jumpsuit


It very well might be, but considering the monolithic force that Donald Trump represents within the modern Republican Party—and the amount of sway that Kim and Kanye seem to have over Trump—it's not hard to imagine that a Republican governor could give such a case some extra consideration when Kardashian West is involved. At the very least, the timing is curious, but if we're going to believe that Kim Kardashian West is in some way responsible for the governor's sudden moral turn, we have to consider what that means for our criminal justice system.

Was a petition signed by nearly three million concerned citizens not compelling enough for Governor Abbott to give the evidence another look? As Kim herself put it "you had everyone from Ted Cruz to Shaun King on this case," yet it wasn't until she was meeting with Reed that his stay came through. More to the point, in a state that executes more prisoners than any other, shouldn't the governor give thorough consideration to each of these lives, regardless of public outcry? Shouldn't the entire justice system be willing to reexamine its past decision to eliminate bias and use the best evidentiary standards available today? If we are going to spend billions of dollars each year keeping people locked away from their former lives, shouldn't we be willing to spend the money to ensure that those people are guilty of the crimes they're being punished for?


Kim Kardashian taking selfie with inmates


The work that Kardashian West has been doing for criminal justice is genuinely amazing. For someone who, not that long ago, seemed like a purely vapid symbol of the disease of celebrity worship, she has managed to channel her status into an immense amount of positive change in a very short time. I would never want to say anything to discourage her from continuing—or other celebrities from following suit—but it still feels important to point out that this is not the way criminal justice is supposed to work.


kim kardashian what to say gif


The difference between a person's freedom and imprisonment should not be subject to the attention of someone with 100 million followers on Instagram. Justice should not be as fickle as fashion trends. We can't rely on Gigi Hadid to get woke so we can end the carceral state. I don't have a better solution. I don't have the Kardashian-level status to even propose one seriously. I just think it's important for us to all take a moment, before we go back to praising Kim's work, to just acknowledge that this is f*cked up.

CULTURE

The ASAP Rocky Case Shows How a "Fair" Justice System Functions

Morally, A$AP Rocky was in the right. Legally, it's another story.

EDIT (8/14): ASAP Rocky was found guilty of assault, but won't need to serve any further jail time as the court did not find the assault particularly "serious." Instead, he will be subject to a relatively small fine of $1,300 in damages to the victim. He'll also need to cover the legal fees of both the victim and the state. ASAP Rocky is officially free. Case closed.

EDIT (7/25): Swedish prosecutors have officially charged A$AP Rocky and two members of his crew with assault. The trial will allegedly be held within the next two weeks.

Opinions about A$AP Rocky's current legal situation in Sweden remain contentious, but Sweden's handling of the case still offers a glimpse to Americans of how a "fair" justice system functions.

A$AP Rocky has been detained in a Swedish jail for three weeks now. While he's yet to be indicted, he's currently facing assault charges for beating up a local man who was harassing his crew and, allegedly, assaulting women on the street.

Here's where things get sticky: In order to properly assess this situation from a standard of legal "fairness," we first need to parse the moral elements from the legal ones.

Morally, A$AP Rocky was probably in the right, at least if you believe violence can ever be a moral response in the face of continuous provocation. Video evidence proves this. The "victim" and his friend had been pursuing A$AP Rocky and his crew for multiple blocks. It's unclear what the men wanted. There seemed to be a language barrier at play, but the men were agitated and acting aggressively. A$AP and his crew warned the men multiple times that they didn't want to fight and that they just wanted to be left alone. The men refused, bothering them again and again despite their multiple warnings.

At one point, A$AP's bodyguard physically pushed one of the men away. The man responded by smashing his headphones over the bodyguard's head, breaking them in the process. Again A$AP and his crew attempted to leave, but the men continued, now complaining about the broken headphones. Eventually, after being informed that the men had also been groping women, A$AP and his crew finally threw down, beating up one of the men before finally getting away.

The confrontation can be watched in two parts:

Asap Rocky Fight In Sweden (Full Video) www.youtube.com


A$AP Rocky and Crew Allegedly Attack Guy on Street in Stockholm | TMZ www.youtube.com

After watching both videos, it's hard to argue that A$AP didn't hold the moral high-ground. He actively tried to diffuse a tense situation with an aggressive stranger who was, at the very least, harassing him and his friends and, at worst, assaulting women on the street. One could even argue that the man deserved to get his a** beat.

But legally speaking, A$AP's crew got physical first. That makes them accountable within the eyes of Swedish law, regardless of whether or not they were provoked. Daniel Suneson, the Swedish prosecutor in charge of the investigation, confirmed this when he dropped A$AP's counterclaim against the "victim" over the headphone smack, clarifying it "may be considered as right to self-defense."

Moreover, while the women who claimed the men groped them were most likely telling the truth, these women would need to press charges against the men themselves in order for related charges to be pursued. A$AP Rocky's group wouldn't be able to do it for them, so if none of the women involved come forward, pursuing charges on that front is likely impossible.

Again, this is a situation wherein morality and legality don't necessarily match up. All that being said, the Swedish law remains "fair." Despite A$AP's moral high-ground, his group did technically beat up a person who was not actively physically attacking them.

Americans are used to celebrities and other wealthy people getting off for crimes with a slap on the wrist, even in situations where a poorer person would almost definitely have the book thrown at them. One need not look further than Ethan Couch, the " Affluenza Teen" who got a mere two years in jail for drunkenly killing a family of four.

In Sweden, this is not the case. The Swedish government is holding A$AP and his group responsible in the same way that they would hold any of their own citizens responsible in the same situation. To the Swedish government, A$AP's status as a rich celebrity and an American citizen are irrelevant. He broke Swedish law and therefore must answer to the Swedish justice system.

As a result, even Donald Trump's involvement won't influence the charges. The Swedish Prime Minister clarified that A$AP Rocky "will not get special treatment."

It's incredibly frustrating to watch the Swedish justice system's fairness play out in a case where the person being charged was provoked to the point that most would struggle to blame him for his violent reaction. At the same time, it's refreshing to see a justice system hold people accountable in equal measure, regardless of their wealth or social status.

Perhaps even if we disagree with the case's outcome, we should take note of the mechanisms behind it: nobody should be above the law, no matter how rich or influential they may be.