Dave Chappelle Was Abused & No One’s Talking About It
Last month, Dave Chappelle released his first standup special in more than a year. The Closer features material that the star comedian had been performing for a couple of years before delivering it for his sixth (and allegedly final) installment of his current blockbuster Netflix contract.
Notably, the specials open with a previously unreleased Black Star song, “Tribute,” reportedly produced by Madlib (snippet embedded below). “Heartbreak from yesterday, a fret for tomorrow / I leave you now filled with anxiety and hollow / If you pray, don’t worry, if you worry don’t pray / My homie told it to me Just the other day / From the tall castle walls To the mean teeth streets / I hope you get what you are And that you are what you need,” raps Yasiin Bey in the clip that introduces Dave to the stage.
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Since its release, the special has been mired in controversy over remarks Chappelle makes regarding the LGBTQIA2S+ community; a debate that has been well documented over the last several weeks. However, in looking at The Closer, a revelation from the act has gone ignored. While speaking about battling COVID-19, Dave shares something that seems lost on many. “I hadn’t felt that dirty in a long time. [The] last time I can remember feeling dirty like that, man, I must have been a little boy. I was being molested by a preacher,” he says, before adding more dark humor. “But don’t feel bad for me; I liked it.” Chappelle continues with some additional graphic detail about the abuse, incorporating an uneasy punchline amid his nervous laughter. Chappelle’s admission appears clouded by his controversies.
As Vox pointed out in 2020, Dave has made light of molestation for more than 15 years, especially as it pertains to Michael Jackson. Last year, for another Netflix special, the Grammy-winning Sticks & Stones, he put himself in the group of victims, amid another controversial joke. “I know more than half the people in this room have been molested in their lives, but it wasn’t no goddamn Michael Jackson, was it?” he said from the stage. “This kid got his d*ck sucked by the King Of Pop. All we get is awkward Thanksgivings for the rest of our lives.” That reference to his own sexual abuse also seemingly went without acknowledgement.
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In a special which has undergone as much scrutiny as any in recent memory, Dave Chappelle shared something of himself that goes unnoticed and unreported—perhaps because of how it was said, or perhaps because of the other matters being addressed in his material. In the Associated Press obituary of Richard Pryor, they included him being a victim of sexual abuse at age seven. In 1991, when Roseanne Barr revealed she was a survivor of incest, it was headline news. Before his death, SNL alum Norm MacDonald addressed sexual abuse in his adapted autobiography, Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir, as briefly as Chappelle did in his most recent special. That too was worthy enough to be mentioned in his Rolling Stone obituary. The newsworthiness of these experiences for his peers begs the question as to why it has not been covered with respect to Chappelle.
Earlier this week, Dave Chappelle was nominated in the “Best Spoken Word Album” category for a Grammy for his 2020 release 8:46, inspired by the murder of George Floyd. He shares the nomination with collaborator, poet and artist Amir Sulaiman, who appears on the four-track audio version. Amir is a past collaborator of Brother Ali, Freeway, and Mumu Fresh, among others.
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#BonusBeat: A snippet of Black Star’s “The Tribute”: