The 2023 lineup for the annual Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California was announced last week, and like always, it’s fun to pick out the cool names from the independent country realm in the smaller fonts that make it onto one of the biggest bills in country music. Along with major headliners like Chris Stapleton, Kane Brown, and Luke Bryan, you also have Drake Milligan, American Aquarium, Bella White, Jaime Wyatt, Logan Ledger, Kaitlin Butts, Sierra Ferrell, and 49 Winchester making the 2023 Stagecoach lineup.
But Stagecoach’s roster also includes a couple of individuals with very problematic pasts who also happen to reside outside the country genre, yet Stagecoach and similar events seem to be curiously accepting of these individuals, while other artists well within the country genre and with significantly less severe infractions on their record are deemed too problematic to book.
Hip-hop artist Nelly has been accused by three separate women of rape and sexual assault, including by one woman who accused Nelly of rape while he was on a country music tour with Florida Georgia Line. Diplo also continues to be an artist that Stagecoach is intimately involved with, often building their afterparty after the DJ and producer, even though many other events will not book him due to accusations of rape, and grooming underage girls.
While on tour with Florida Georgia Line, Nelly was arrested October 7th, 2017 in Auburn, Washington near Seattle after being accused of sexual assault by a local woman. Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., was arrested on his tour bus in a Wal-Mart parking lot where the alleged rape occurred.
According to Steve Stocker of the Auburn police, the woman called 911 and reported the rape at 3:48 am. After an investigation, police decided to charge Nelly on 2nd degree rape, and placed him under arrest. Later those charges were dropped by local authorities after the alleged victim—22-year-old Monique Green—said she was being harassed and smeared in the media after leaks from the local police department ended up on TMZ. She said she couldn’t trust the local police to fairly prosecute her case. Multiple stories involving Nelly’s attorney Scott Rosenblum also appeared on TMZ accusing Monique Green of being a gold digger and a liar.
Shortly after the arrest for 2nd degree rape, two more accusations against Nelly emerged. One was from a woman who says that Nelly assaulted her at an afterparty following a concert at a club in London, England called Koko. The victim alleges Nelly groped her, despite repeatedly staving off his unwelcomed advances in June of 2016. The woman said hearing the story of another victim in Washington State compelled her to come forward.
Then another sexual assault investigation commenced against Nelly by police in Essex, England less than 2 months after Nelly was arrested in Washington State. A woman claimed that after a show at Cliffs Pavilion in Essex on December 5th, 2017, she approached Nelly to take a picture with him. Nelly allegedly grabbed the woman by the arm and took her to his dressing room where he began to masturbate in front of her, and tried to take her top off and force her to perform oral sex on him. As she ran away, the accuser claims Nelly yelled at her and called her a “c*nt.”
Subsequently, a civil suit between Nelly and Monique Green was settled privately. The woman in the Cliff’s Pavilion incident also did not cooperate with authorities for undisclosed reasons. Nelly has never been convicted of any crime against a woman, and everyone has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. But despite the gravity of the charges—even while they were fresh and he was actively under investigation for rape—Nelly was allowed to continue on tour with Florida Georgia Line, and has since appeared at numerous country festivals, in other collaborations, and is a favorite of CMT specials.
Troubling behavior by Diplo—whose real name is Thomas Pentz—goes back much farther, and commonly involves young Black and Brown women, and sometimes young women who are under the age of consent. From 2003 to 2008, Diplo dated British-born rapper M.I.A., who is of Sri Lanken descent. In 2017, M.I.A. accused the DJ of mental abuse, of trying to take credit for her career, of taking credit for songs that weren’t his, of cheating on her, and even of using an image of her as a dart board.
In October 2020, rapper Azealia Banks spoke out about Diplo, saying on her podcast, “I used to have sex with Diplo when I was 17 (Diplo was in his 30s). Diplo definitely found me on f—ing Myspace. I always give him credit for f—ing launching my career off, but yeah, I had to give him some teenage pussy to do it. He’s always been preying on young ethnic girls.”
The allegations from Azealia Banks came after a woman named Shelly Auguste came forward to accuse Diplo of numerous offenses, including rape, grooming herself and other “very young girls,” hiring a private investigator to harass her and other young women to discourage them from coming forward, and distributing revenge porn against Auguste when she did eventually come forward.
According to Auguste, she had consensual sex with Diplo on numerous occasions, but in July of 2019, claimed Diplo forcibly held her down and raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room after a performance. Auguste also said she tested positive for chlamydia after the incident, blaming Diplo. According to lawyers for Diplo who reached out to Saving Country Music, they deny the DJ gave her chlamydia, and claim Auguste later tweeted, “that pedophile did not rape me.”
After Shelly Auguste came out with her accusations, she then claims Diplo distributed revenge porn against her as retaliation. Auguste filed and received a restraining order against Diplo, but charges were never filed in the alleged rape. Diplo claimed Auguste was an obsessed fan and denied all accusations, and received his own restraining order against her.
Then in 2021, a fourth woman came forward, claiming she was raped by Diplo in 2019 after a Las Vegas performance, saying Diplo “invited her to a room, kicked out her friends, and would not let her leave until she performed oral sex,” while also filming the encounter. Diplo staunchly denied the claims, and the unnamed accuser dropped the case 10 days later. According to Dilpo’s lawyers, this fourth woman was a friend of Shelly Auguste.
Neither of these men should be barred from making a living simply because of the accusations against them. But as other artists accused of significantly lesser infractions such as Ryan Adams are considered off limits, and Jason Aldean was recently dropped from his publicity agency for comments his wife made on Instagram that resulted in over 200 articles published about the incident, Nelly and Diplo are not even mentioned in tweets about being problematic for booking at the Stagecoach Festival.
If the country music community is serious about supporting women, offering a safe environment for women, and holding problematic artists and their behavior to account, the booking of Nelly and Diplo at one of country music’s biggest festivals should at the least be discussed, as opposed to brushed under the rug.