NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND
SoundCloud Rap Star Kevin Pouya Accused of Orchestrating Gang Rape of Fan
Pouya and Fat Nick, the so-called ‘Ren and Stimpy’ of rap, built their brand on being lovable knuckleheads. But last year, one of them was quietly accused of sexual assault.
In October of 2013, a skinny white kid named Kevin Pouya uploaded a video to YouTube called “How To Get Free Donuts.” The video opens on Pouya, looking like a preteen Travis Birkenstock, facing the camera. “Check it out, check it out,” he says, “This is how you get free donuts, from Dunkin’ Donuts. No. Money. Needed.” Over a piano soundtrack straight from The Sims, the camera follows Pouya and a friend as they order at a drive-thru window, grab a box of glazed, and speed off without paying, cackling out of the lot.
Miami rapper Pouya’s early YouTube series, Nick and Pouya Show, produced with his best friend and longtime collaborator, Fat Nick, was filled with pranks like this one—silly, unscripted, low-budget, funny only to those involved. But nearly two years later, after Pouya scored thousands of streams on SoundCloud, slightly more body mass, and a coveted spot in South Florida’s rap scene, he still cited his YouTube show as the start of his career.
“Comedy was our first thing,” Pouya said of his partnership with Fat Nick on No Jumper, a popular hip-hop podcast whose interviews with underground rappers serve as a kind of litmus test for long-term viability. But even in their second thing—writing the rough, melancholy bars now synonymous with South Florida rap—Pouya and Nick always branded themselves as amiable goons. The pair have a classic comedy size differential (Pouya plays a skeletal David Spade to Nick’s Chris Farley), quick banter, and a dark, cartoonish sensibility, leading one writer to dub them the “Ren and Stimpy of rap.”
In the time since, the duo became regulars in the sphere of SoundCloud rap, with a name check in the New York Times’ definitive article on the subject and consistent commercial success. In 2016, Pouya featured on “Dat $tick,” the breakout single from Indonesian MC Rich Brian (then Rich Chigga), who now numbers among the biggest names in rap. Around the same time, Pouya dropped Underground Underdogs, which climbed iTunes’ hip-hop charts for nearly a week. Later, his 2017 collab with Fat Nick, Drop Out of School, followed suit. Then Five Five, a well-received mixtape released in March (named for the rapper’s height), prompted Pouya to announce a month-long tour across Europe for early this autumn.
But last September, amidst their career boom and just a fortnight before Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct allegations triggered a cataclysm of #MeToo moments, the rappers’ reputation took a turn for the serious, when a 22-year-old tattoo artist filed a police report, accusing Pouya and two members of his entourage of sexual assault.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, a spokesperson wrote on Pouya’s behalf that the rapper categorically denies engaging in non-consensual sexual conduct with anyone. He claims never to have had sexual contact with the accuser, and to be “prepared” to take her allegations to court. “Mr. Pouya is confident that a basic investigation of the facts will reveal that these claims are false,” the spokesperson wrote, “and once evidence is reviewed these allegations will be determined to have been made by a disingenuous individual that is seeking attention under the umbrella of the #MeToo movement.” The police report was filed on September 24, 2017. The #MeToo movement took off after October 5, 2017.
The story starts in early 2015, when Pouya rose to SoundCloud semi-fame after releasing a series of singles, including the popular track “Get Buck” (2013), and two mixtapes, Stunna (2014) and South Side Slugs (2015). Though still largely unknown, Pouya’s small but rabid following earned him a spot on No Jumper, speaking with the podcast’s notorious host, the BMX-blogger, hip-hop tastemaker, and recently accused sexual assailant Adam Grandmaison, better known as Adam22. (Grandmaison denies the allegations.)
In the episode, the then-20-year-old Pouya described growing up in Miami with his grandmother, meeting Nick in the seventh grade, and becoming fast friends. They skated, made quick videos for their YouTube channel, and later, after both boys dropped out of high school, broke into rap.
The pivot from comedy to music wasn’t random—Pouya and Fat Nick were friends with members of Raider Klan, the hip-hop collective spearheaded by an artist named SpaceGhostPurrp, who helped put South Florida music on the map.
Pouya’s No Jumper appearance proved instantly popular–then one of the show’s most viewed—and in the following months his career gained momentum, prompting Adam22 to invite the rapper back to the podcast just 10 months later (“His career has grown like crazy,” the host wrote in the show notes.) Part of that popularity stemmed from Pouya’s silly schtick (he and Nick are laughing throughout) and from his frankness. The rapper spoke openly about anxiety, depression, and romantic insecurity, but also about explicit sexual escapades that take on an ominous tone in light of the allegations against him.
“What gave you the confidence to be a rapper?” Adam22 asks in the first No Jumper interview. Pouya laughs: “When I got my balls licked by three bitches at the same time.”
Pouya tells the host that he often sleeps with fans (“We do f**k our fans. If the girl wants to f**k, and she’s, like, 18, I’ll throw on a condom and I’ll f**k her”), but only on one condition: that they give up their phones. He arrived at the rule after one girl tried to take a picture of him in the shower. (“I just came out the shower and broke her phone.”) Once the phones are gone, he’s down for anything. “Me and [another friend] have gang-banged hoes,” Pouya says. “We gang-banged an Asian. That was fun.”
In both episodes, Pouya self-describes as a feminist. Though not big on abortion, he tells Adam22 in his second interview that it’s ultimately “the woman’s choice.” His particular brand of feminism comes with some odd views on sexual politics—“Every girl that f**ks me is a f***king whore,” he notes—but the rapper seems to indicate a modest respect for female autonomy. “I only treat women the way they allow me to treat them,” he says. “If they wanna be treated like groupies, I’ll treat them like groupies. If they wanna be respected, I’ll respect them.”
Ellie, a tattoo artist who prefers to go by only her nickname, has lived in Richmond, Virginia for about three years. She’s tall with long pitch hair, dahlia bites, twin nose piercings, and proof of her profession on most limbs. She’s big into music—mostly hardcore, some metal, not much rap. But in 2016, she started listening to Fat Nick at the suggestion of a boyfriend, and eventually found Pouya. She liked what she heard, occasionally tweeting out his lyrics.
Still, in the world of underground hip-hop, she preferred one of Pouya’s peers, another white, Florida MC called Ghostemane, who got his name from a head of stringy silver hair. Ghostemane came up making hardcore and doommetal before moving into rap, but held onto vestiges of his old sound. Ellie loved the combo. He was her favorite rapper at the time. So in spring 2017, when she saw that Ghostemane was playing with Pouya and Fat Nick at Shaka’s Live, a popular venue in the nearby city of Virginia Beach, Ellie bought herself a ticket and a VIP pass for an aftershow meet-and-greet.
Going to concerts alone wasn’t new for her. When Ellie couldn’t convince anyone to make the commute to Virginia Beach, she often bought solo tickets and made plans to crash with local friends. She knew a lot of people in the music scene and usually ran into familiar faces. This show was no different. On the night of April 18, an old acquaintance spotted her in the crowd: a 20-something named Josh Howell, whom she’d met over Facebook a year or so prior. They talked near the bar, though Ellie didn’t drink (she has been straightedge for over three years). When the concert ended, they stood chatting until attendants ushered non-VIP patrons outside.
The three performers stood with a photographer onstage, while fans waited in the seating area for their turn to approach. “They had all the girls come on first,” Ellie told The Daily Beast. “I was the last to go up.”
Once onstage, Pouya immediately recognized her as a Ghostemane fan, Ellie said. “You’re just here to see Ghostemane,” he told her. He likely guessed this from her appearance. “I dress in a dark style. People call me ‘goth,’ but I really hate that term. I was wearing a black bodysuit, fishnets, black vans. I was in all black. I’m covered in tattoos.” She told Pouya she also liked his music, but gravitated toward Ghostemane, chatting with him briefly.
After the group posed for a photo, Pouya spoke to Ellie again, this time inviting her to hang with the musicians at their hotel, promising more face-time with Ghostemane. Ellie agreed. “I kind of fangirled a little bit,” she told The Daily Beast. “I was kind of awkward about it. I was just like ‘Wow, definitely.’”
Pouya told her to talk to the guy running their merchandise table, to “flirt” with him, and to give him her phone number. Once they had met-and-greeted the rest of their fans, Pouya said, he would text her. When Ellie agreed, the rapper alerted his friend with a bird call. “It was just like a caw,” she said. “I assumed that was their like, ‘Hey, this girl is going to come back stage’ signal.” Ellie exchanged numbers with the merch guy and went outside where Howell was waiting. They sat in his car, and then headed to his apartment to kill time.
In a statement given to the Virginia Beach Special Victims Unit five months later, Ellie detailed the following. According to her iMessage records from that night, Ellie left Howell’s apartment for the hotel at 12:58 a.m. Twenty minutes later, she arrived by skateboard (parking in Virginia Beach is notoriously difficult after-hours, so she had found a spot far away), and headed for room 418, where the merch guy told her to meet the group.
But on her way down the fourth floor hallway, Ellie overheard Pouya’s distinctive drawl coming from a different door. “I knocked,” Ellie said. “I thought maybe [the merch guy] had fat-fingered it and put down the wrong room number.” Pouya answered, but he told her she’d come to the wrong place. He led her across the hall to another room, which wasn’t 418 either.
Just before they entered the second room, Pouya asked Ellie for her phone. He explained his reasoning—the shower photo—just as he had on No Jumper. “In my head, that [made] sense,” she told The Daily Beast. “I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I understand.’” When she handed over her cell, Pouya stored it in the microwave. That exchange took place roughly around 1:25 a.m., Ellie said, because she no longer had her phone at 1:29 a.m., when a text from the merch guy arrived, a message she wouldn’t see for several hours: “You down to hook up?”
Ellie and Pouya entered the room, where two members of his crew—whom she later identified through a phone search at the Virginia Beach Police Department—were hanging out. They all sat for a bit. The lean rapper perched on a dresser, scrolling through his phone. Ellie plopped on the bed, waiting. “I was just like, ‘Okay, this is boring.’”
After a while, the two friends left to smoke. In their absence, Pouya and Ellie talked about tattoos. He only had one at the time. (“It was bad,” Ellie said.) They chatted about sobriety. Like Ellie, Pouya steers clear of drugs; he doesn’t even like weed. They bonded over hardcore.
When the two boys returned, Ellie started to get itchy in her fishnets. A former stripper and nude model, Ellie told The Daily Beast that she is fairly comfortable in her own skin. When her tights started to bother her, she felt fine taking them off. But once she did, she said Pouya steered his tattoo talk toward her body. “He started asking about my tattoos,” Ellie said. “I have my butt tattooed, and he started grabbing my ass. I started feeling really weird and really uncomfortable.”
Soon, all three guys got involved in the conversation. They repeatedly asked about her body modifications—her tattoos, her gauges, her piercings. “At one point I was telling [Pouya] about my piercings, and I have my tongue pierced twice and he said that he wanted to feel that on his d**k,” Ellie said. Pouya added: “And so do my friends.”
Up till then, Ellie hadn’t directly addressed the rapper’s come-ons. She told The Daily Beast that she “just sat there awkwardly” and “didn’t really respond.” But after that comment, Ellie spoke up. “I was like, ‘I’ve never done that before,’” she said. “I made it very clear that I was not comfortable with the whole situation. [But], he was like, ‘It’s okay, there’s always a first for everything.’”
Ellie has not publicly detailed what happened next, but in both her interview with The Daily Beast and her statement to Virginia Beach Police Department, she alleged the men repeatedly told her to get naked, and then initiated vaginal and oral sex with her against her will. She claimed that they did not begin using physical force, but rather ignored visible signs of distress, while “reiterating that there’s always a first for everything.”
The 23-year-old said she believed the men had “a specific order to go in,” because they seemed to agree that Pouya would go first and one of his friends would go last. “During oral, that was when [the friend] was forcing it,” Ellie said. “That’s when I started crying and pulling away. They were not having it.” The alleged victim suspected the order had to do with the fact that none of the men wore condoms. (A week later, she explained, an STD test returned positive for chlamydia).
Later, after Pouya left the room, Ellie snatched her phone from the microwave. At 3:40 a.m., she texted Howell that “the weirdest shit just happened,” and asked him to pick her up. “My car is like a good walking distance away,” she wrote. “I just wanna leave. And go to sleep. And never speak of tonight.”
Howell knew something was wrong. At one point, she called him, crying. “Things just didn’t seem right,” he said. (Though the two are no longer on speaking terms, Howell agreed to talk to The Daily Beast about what he witnessed.) After her texts, Howell drove to pick up Ellie with one of his friends. “We pulled up by the hotel and she was just beside herself in tears,” he said. “I didn’t know what happened. She didn’t tell me for a while.” About an hour later, she described the night. Howell’s recollection of her story matched the statement Ellie later made to the Virginia Beach Police Department and to The Daily Beast.
Ellie’s best friend and current roommate, 26-year-old Corey Raines, also heard about the incident shortly after it happened. Raines had originally planned to go to the show with her, but work got in the way. In an email to The Daily Beast, the Army Reserves soldier confirmed that Ellie’s version of events matched what she had recounted to him on April 19, 2017.
A desire not to revisit the events of April 18 kept Ellie quiet for five months. “Everytime she talks about it she’s not the same for a few days,” Raines wrote. “Just hearing someone mention [Pouya’s] name can send her into a depression.” She changed her mind over something small: a trending Facebook status asked users to name artists for each letter of the alphabet. Many of her friends, Ellie was distressed to learn, wrote the same answer for “P.”
Later that week, Raines drove her to the station. She gave the officer a file with everything she had, including a handwritten statement, iMessage screenshots, and excerpts of Pouya lyrics (in a track called IndigoB, Pouya raps: “We had a ho in trunk, she drunk as f**k / Don’t even know if she breathing but really I / don’t give a f**k / cause I already f**ked / Passed her to my homie took advantage of her / body cause she nothing but a slut”). After talking to the officer, Ellie chose not to press charges. “I don’t want to go through that just for nothing to happen,” she said.
After posting statements to social media, Ellie received mostly supportive reactions. Other girls reached out to her with similar stories, although most confided on the condition of anonymity. Ellie included unattributed screenshots of their messages in the file she gave to police.
There were critics too—people who called her a liar or tried to poke holes in her account. Pouya’s long-term girlfriend, a high-end false eyelash maker now battling Stage 3 Synovial Sarcoma, messaged Ellie’s friends, promising a defamation lawsuit. But Howell stood by Ellie’s story, even after their friendship ended. “Nobody else saw her. How mentally, emotionally destroyed she was,” he said. “I was the person that was there, that picked her up and watched her cry for the entire night.”
Though by most metrics, Pouya has attracted a good deal of success, he remains very much part of the underground. A quarter million users follow him on Twitter, and twice that amount follow him on SoundCloud. Still, for light fans of rap, the white MC lacks the name recognition of his South Florida peers, like XXL freshmen Ski Mask the Slump God and Wifisfuneral, or the deeply troubled, recently deceased XXXtentacion.
Pouya’s relative anonymity wasn’t wholly incidental. In several interviews, Pouya scoffs at the mainstream, chiding rappers with publicists or record deals, which he sees as limits on creative license. (“They can’t really do what they want.”) In Pouya’s eyes, his rebuke of standard celebrity has afforded him a kind of freedom. “Honestly, I just feel like the word ‘underground’ to me, means something different,” he told Adam 22 on his second No Jumper interview. “It just means like, doing what I want, without anybody telling me what to do.”