As #MeToo, #TimesUp, and a glut of otherwise un-hashtagged sexual harassment and assault allegations continue to amass, another woman has come forward with several stories about misogyny and sexual misconduct in the music industry. Beginning in December 2017, vocalist and artist Cult Days used Twitter to accuse several popular underground rappers and electronic artists of inappropriate behavior.
“Twitter was a good platform for me to talk about it,” she tells Consequence of Sound during an emotional interview from Oakland, California. “I was putting distance between myself and my abusers, and I felt that if I told enough people what happened, they would be there to remind me in case these people came back.”
A visual artist, designer, and musician, Cult Days has put out four albums of experimental electronic pop and dance music since 2013; her latest release, Fire Flames Hardbody Karate, came out in 2017. Known for spiritual, existential, and occasionally irreverent lyrics, Cult describes herself on Twitter as a “futurist cult leader,” the “physical embodiment of the Internet” and “1000% savage.”
Cult, who is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce from art rapper husband Kool A.D., has a prolific presence on Twitter, where she voices thoughts on being a young mother (she and Kool have a three-year-old daughter), the music industry, and feminism. Citing her own experiences and those of friends and followers, Cult has made accusations against Zomby, Busdriver, and her ex-husband; the allegations vary but include rape and pressuring fans to share a bed while on tour. All of the men mentioned in this article were contacted; none of them returned requests for comment.
Perhaps the most egregious of her claims come against British electronic musician Justin Moulds a.k.a. Zomby, with whom she had a professional and sexual relationship from 2012-2013. Cult tells Consequence of Sound that she met Zomby online while living in Brooklyn, and after sending him a music video, the two met at Zomby’s Chinatown apartment. “He really charmed me and really sold me on these things,” she explains. “But over time, I started to see that he’s full of shit and was using me.”
Cult claims that Zomby was kicked out of his apartment and temporarily moved into her Bed-Stuy studio with his dog. Zomby, who did not respond to requests for comment, allegedly trashed her apartment, used drugs, borrowed money, and did not pitch in for bills. It was during this period that Cult claims Zomby raped her.
“One night we were hooking up, and he assaulted me anally. I would say, ‘No no no no,’ and he just kept going. That was something that I really bury, and I have sold that so many ways to myself, like: ‘Wow, that was new, and I was interested,’” Cult says of the incident. “I have internal hemorrhoids to this day from that experience.”
The assault was confirmed by Cult’s best friend, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I remember her starting to talk about different things he wanted her to do sexually that she wasn’t comfortable with. I remember she called me crying. She messaged me about [the rape], and I was very, very, very concerned.” The Brooklyn-based friend adds that Zomby tried to isolate Cult, a behavior typical of abusers, and that when she tried to come over, he did “not really want anyone in the house.”
“He would tell me not to invite anyone over and that he didn’t want anyone to know he was staying with me or for people to even know that we knew each other,” Cult says of Zomby, adding that there was rarely a time the musician wasn’t angry with her. “He would berate me about my clothes being cheap, call me a ‘fat ugly bitch.’ He told me I dressed like a tart if I was going out, and he wouldn’t come with me. He would come over with his dog and refuse to leave at the end of the night. I would have to beg him to go and pick his dog up and put it outside.”
Cult Days says she kicked Zomby out of her apartment twice and once called the police, though Consequence was not able to obtain police records. She believes the musician has done similar things to at least two other women.
Cult firmly believes that Zomby’s behavior was inappropriate and not consensual, but she also blames the music industry’s culture of misogyny for its role in leading her toward abusive partners. “At the time, I was so young and obsessed with music that I thought this was what being in music was,” she says. “You hear so many stories like Bobby [Brown] and Whitney [Houston]. They had to go through so much, but that’s not right.”
The challenges that come with leaning in as an independent female artist are myriad. Beyond the potential for assault or harassment, Cult details instances where male producers demanded a “weird sort of loyalty” that entailed owning “your mind, body and soul.” On Twitter, Cult alleged that she had demo tapes withheld by a producer for five years and that a club in Los Angeles tried to prevent her from performing. She encouraged women in music to support each other and learn skills to survive in a male-dominated industry.
“For so long, women weren’t given the skills to be producers or DJs, and it puts us in danger in certain industries,” she says. “We should continue to train women … so we don’t have to be put in these positions where it’s not equal.”
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Cult’s story of assault made waves through Twitter and Reddit. She received many supportive tweets and DMs from other assault survivors, including a message from M., who claimed she was assaulted by Los Angeles hip-hop artist Busdriver.
M., a 23-year-old nursing student in Texas who asks that her full name not be included in this article, tells Consequence that she had been listening to Busdriver, whose real name is Regan Farquhar, for a decade and met him on several occasions. After a Feb. 18, 2016, show in Denton, Texas, M. offered Busdriver a place to crash, and the two went back to her apartment where they smoked weed in her room.
“I told Busdriver that I would be waking up pretty early, so he could just let himself out in the morning,” M. says. “I made a few comments along those lines, implying that I needed to get some sleep and getting him a pillow and blanket for the couch. While chatting, he sat on my bed and began to touch my lower back. I felt like things were very platonic, or else I would not have offered him my number. This progressed and he eventually unzipped his pants and forced me to touch his penis.”
After telling Busdriver that she had slept with a mutual friend so he would “stop aggressively pursuing sexual contact,” M. says the rapper “got back into bed with me, fully clothed, and dry humped me.” M. was “too uncomfortable to even verbalize [her] discontent” and couldn’t leave her room the next day, where Busdriver had left a nug of weed on her dresser.
M. was active on the Reddit thread /r/hiphopheads before going public with her story on the forum. She decided to reach out to Cult, who referenced her story in a December tweet that has since been deleted. “I had been following Cult Days on Twitter for quite some time, and when she began to post about her own experience being abused and violated by a man who has a following and a ‘brand,’ I began to feel much less alone about what I had experienced,” M. writes in an email.
Cult says she received messages from three other women about inappropriate run-ins with Busdriver. “I feel like I sent off a warning shot to him, but I’m not going to try to take him down,” she says, noting: “I wasn’t there for the Busdriver experiences, so I don’t feel … it would make sense for me to go to war, but just to share and amplify her experience and allow him the space to respond, which he didn’t.”
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As Cult rallied support from fellow survivors, accusations of sexual assault against her husband came to light. Among the accounts was a Tumblr post from 2012 in which a 19-year-old woman claimed members of Das Racist (which Kool was then a member of) and the group’s manager non-consensually grabbed, hit on, “sneak attack” kissed, and fondled her in a hotel room after a performance.
Kool A.D., who was born Victor Vazquez and is generally regarded as a woke rapper within art hip-hop circles, released a lengthy statement on Twitter on Dec. 28 in which he apologized for perpetuating “the dehumanizing misogyny and patriarchy of the system of oppression that I have tried to live in opposition to.” Yet Cult, who has known Kool since high school, describes a reckless pattern of behavior over the course of their relationship, which included drugs, verbal abuse, and infidelity.
“Somehow it was a relief to see that he was addressing something, but there was no real addressing or personal accountability. I feel like he responded in a way that was really analytical,” Cult says of Kool’s Twitter apology, adding: “I didn’t understand how his politics didn’t match his personal actions. [Kool and his friends] complain about the president a lot, but I find that their behavior is exactly like that … This selfishness and entitlement.”
Cult’s tweets about her husband came in response to a message she received from Andie Flores, a 27-year-old performer and writer from Austin, Texas. Flores had met Kool and Das Racist at South by Southwest in 2012, then developed a friendship and professional relationship, which included selling merch and coordinating a music video.
Over the course of three years and various cities, Flores says, “Victor held his power over my head, made me think we were friends, and put me in several situations where he knew I had few ways out, and that’s when he did whatever he wanted to me.”
Kool threw fits when he wasn’t given sexual attention, groped, and multiple times slept in Flores’ bed against her wishes. At SXSW 2015, Kool also “asked to spoon me and put his penis inside me after I told him several times that I did not want to have sex and that we should not have sex.”
The rapper was dating or married to Cult during these encounters, and she angrily contacted Flores at the time. In October 2017, Flores emailed Kool “graciously giving him the opportunity to talk to and apologize to me in private,” then received an apology in December that acknowledged his “fucked-up and inappropriate” behavior.
Shortly after, Flores saw Cult’s tweets, and the two chatted about their respective relationships with Kool, who was the subject of multiple angry tweets. “Knowing he was still trying to make her life hell made me feel like there was absolutely no way I could take his apology to heart anymore,” Flores says. “He was continuing to abuse her, and a writer can write a pretty apology, but it doesn’t mean he’s put any real work into living out a better situation for himself and those around him.”
“Recently [Flores] came forward and said [her relationship with Kool] wasn’t consensual,” Cult explains. “There were too many stories of this, and it actually triggered me into thinking about how he treated me and remembering that the first time we hooked up it wasn’t consensual. I told him I didn’t want to have sex that time, and he did it anyway.”
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For Cult Days, who is Iranian-Turkish American and grew up in a fairly conservative secular Muslim family in El Cerrito, CA, sharing her story on Twitter was both a relief and grief-filled.
“I was scared about what I was doing. My mom was scared and my sister was scared. My mom was telling me not to do it because my dad might read it, or our family in Dubai might read it. All these things out of fear and protection,” she says through tears. “I’m happy that I can be of some use, but it’s also very painful and triggering. I want people to feel like they can tell me because I’ve been through it.”
While she chose to delete tweets about Busdriver, Cult says she kept statements about Kool and Zomby because they “hurt me the most and have not done anything noteworthy enough to make amends. And in Justin’s [Zomby] case, he even went on to say that I was a liar.”
“Just because it comes out later doesn’t mean it’s not true. She comes from a strict Muslim family, and to air any dirty laundry on the internet, especially sexually, is very brave,” says Cult’s friend, who helped eject Zomby from her Brooklyn studio.
“It’s so confusing because it wasn’t all bad times. There were positive aspects to it, too, but overwhelmingly I wish my story was different. And that I didn’t hurt my family in the process by being involved with these guys,” Cult says. “I have nothing to hide, and I want for people to know that these actions really hurt people, and it’s not okay. If our friends know about it, it will change something for them, and for the kids who are younger than us.”
Yet, for all the anguish caused by musicians she believed to be lovers and friends, Cult does not think tuning out is the answer. When asked how Kool might make amends, she suggests: “For him to go sober, to seek counseling with regularity, and to get his life together to be a better person and better father for his daughter.”
Flores says the public must “hold musicians to the same standards of human decency and respect as we do anyone else” and question whether their actions match their lyrics. “Where’s the joy in someone’s music when you know they’re terrible to women, disrespecting their bodies and minds and energy and time, while building a fanbase around the fact that you’re so woke and radical. It’s fraud.”
M. says she wants Busdriver to understand how his actions have affected her and be accountable. “I’d like for him to know the feeling that comes along with one of your favorite musicians feeling entitled to your body and leaving you feeling like an object,” she says. “Men who feel entitled to women in this way also think that we will exist when they want us and disappear when they don’t, but that’s not reality.”
Continuing to have blatant and often painful conversations about assault and harassment is key to uplifting women, Cult adds: “Keep talking about it and changing the culture so that if things are bad, we can identify them as bad. Whether that’s confronting certain people who have done certain things or talking about it amongst themselves.”
Cult Days is still making music. She plans to release a seven-song devotional album in the near future and has a demo of electronic pop album. Cult says she’s looking forward to performing on her own, creating sets, projections, and costumes.
“My desire now is to be able to be linked up with people, especially women, who will book me for shows as a solo act,” she insists. “I really want that to happen. I want my daughter to see that I can do it.”