LOS ANGELES (AP) — You may not know the name iLoveMemphis, but you've likely heard the rapper's catchy track "Hit the Quan" or watched one of the viral videos featuring the song's playful dance. The song marked a breakthrough for the 22-year-old, who achieved a Top 20 pop hit with the tune and also performed on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
iLoveMemphis' career is rising, but he's facing legal charges in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. According to a police affidavit, the performer, whose real name is Richard Colbert, and several others, are accused of having non-consensual sexual contact with an intoxicated woman at a party on May 30.
"Never would ever do such a thing," Colbert told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "I love women to death. My mom has eight kids, so I've grown up with five sisters, including my mom. So, you know, yeah, that's the last thing that I would ever, ever, ever get myself into."
In a statement to the AP, Colbert added that his lawyer is working to clear his name, and that he is positive that he will be vindicated of the "viciously false allegations."
Colbert's case is now on hold, pending consideration by a grand jury. If convicted of aggravated rape, he would face 15 to 60 years in prison. Vince Higgins, communications director for the Shelby County district attorney general, said in an email, "We can make no comment on any of the facts of the case."
While some musicians have emerged from serious charges relatively unscathed, Kiyonna Anthony of the entertainment website Global Grind said it's difficult to predict how the allegations will affect Colbert's career. She pointed to rapper Tupac Shakur and more recently CeeLo Green as examples of stars who weathered legal troubles.
"Some artists don't come out successful," Anthony said. "Like a rapper Mystikal, who was big in the '90s, was charged with aggravated rape and he served four years and after that no one really heard from him."
But she said Colbert's up-and-coming status may work in his favor when it comes to public opinion: "If he was already on a mainstream level, this would knock him back a few notches."
"Hit the Quan" became a Top 10 hit on both the Billboard rap and R&B/Hip-Hop songs charts, and it peaked at No. 15 on the Hot 100 chart. The music video has earned millions of views, and the single has sold 587,969 tracks so far.
The idea for "Quan" came as Colbert was dancing in his backyard to rapper Rich Homie Quan's song "Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)." He rushed to the studio and finished the track in one session — and on a shoestring budget.
"I paid $35 and I didn't look back," he said. "I dropped it on Sunday. By Tuesday I knew it was a hit."
Celebrities including Dwayne Johnson, Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar and Terry Crews — along with toddlers, teens and even police officers — have hopped on the dance craze and posted videos featuring Colbert's moves.
The performer said he's wanted to be a rapper since the seventh grade. Colbert said he's always had positive influences around him to help him reach his goals, including his parents.
"My mom's always been in the church, my dad in the military, so I've seen him work very, very hard to take care of our family. I've just been around people that know where they're going," he said. "I'm a Christian, you know. I love God. I pray a whole lot, and I pray to be in a position where I can give back to my people and it's happening, you know. I'm following that dream."
Colbert is signed to RECORDS, a partnership between SONGS Music Publishing and Barry Weiss, the former CEO of Island Jam Def and Jive Records who helped spearhead the careers of Britney Spears, 'NSync, the Backstreet Boys, T-Pain and others.
Colbert plans to drop more dance singles and hopes to inspire young people with his own brand of individuality.
"Everyone is asking about an album. You know, I have so many dance records, I'm gonna stay in the dance lane for a while. I'd rather be in a lane that many people are not in then hop in the lane that everybody's in," he said.