They Believe Wolfe Margolies aka Drrty Pharms Confessed to Rapes in His Rap Lyrics
Bringing together New York City’s discrete social worlds—art, nightlife, academia, fashion, music, film—is a time-tested path to celebrity. In early 2019, Wolfe Margolies was well on his way down that path. Rapping as Drrty Pharms, Margolies developed a cult following for his visceral mixtapes. Vice wrote up his performance at an Austin “anti-SXSW” showcase, describing him as “a rainbow in an inky sky with a torrent of stuff to say over his piercing feedback.” He released a collaborative EP with no wave legend Lydia Lunch, leading to a name-drop in Rolling Stone. At his “Subspace” parties in Alphabet City and Bushwick, he booked acts like $UICIDEBOY$ well before they went platinum.
But Margolies wasn’t confined to rap and nightlife. For a time, he worked as an assistant in the Columbia University Classics Department. He appeared in a sprawling art installation by MoMA-collected Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard—coinciding with New York Fashion Week in 2017, and covered in GQ and The New York Times. A large-format image of Margolies masturbating in the middle of a field decorated the artist’s imagining of a “dystopic department store.”
Given songs like “Rape is a Victimless Crime,” public opinion of Margolies was divided, to say the least. Some saw his music as boundary-pushing; others as tasteless. Small-but-vocal groups on Twitter and Tumblr suggested his lyrics might not be fictitious.
On Feb. 14, 2019, Margolies was arrested on charges of narcotics conspiracy and possession of child pornography, to which he would later plead guilty. Both charges carried 20-year maximum sentences. Under a plea bargain, Margolies would receive 14 years in a minimum-security prison.
However, the two charges may reflect only a fraction of the damage Margolies caused. Four women interviewed by The Daily Beast shared their stories of grooming, rape, and sexual assault by Margolies. Many of the details from their stories match the lyrics from Margolies’ songs. Each expressed their belief that Margolies had many other victims. (Margolies did not respond to requests for comment.)
During the research for this story, Margolies filed a motion to vacate his conviction, alleging that his lawyer made key errors while negotiating his plea bargain. On July 1, the Manhattan District Attorney filed a response, arguing his motion should be denied. Margolies now has 30 days to reply, after which a judge will make a ruling regarding any potential for early release.
Given fear of retaliation and extensive evidence provided to corroborate their accounts, some of the women interviewed have been given pseudonyms for the purposes of this story.
“My mom was in the depths of the darkest part of her alcoholism,” said Emily. “I would just be out in the park looking for a place to go.”
Emily is 21. She grew up in the East Village and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. At 14, her life was a surreal mix of glamor and hardship. She modeled in major ad campaigns and appeared alongside A-list celebrities at industry parties. But as family members battled substance abuse and psychological issues, Emily intermittently found herself without stable housing. She frequented Tompkins Square Park, looking to make friends who might let her spend the night. Margolies hung out in the same park. Emily recalls meeting him there in the first week of August 2015, shortly before Margolies’ 23rd birthday.
“I remember there being whispers,” she said. “People saying ‘this guy’s a sex addict,’ or ‘he’s crazy.’ And I thought that was interesting. Because I felt crazy. I felt like my life was really fucked up.”
Margolies invited Emily back to his mother’s apartment in Chelsea, where he lived at the time. Two photos provided by Emily to The Daily Beast show her sleeping on the couch on what she claims is the night of the incident. Later that evening, Emily says Margolies woke her up and asked her into his room, worried his mother would be alarmed by a girl her age sleeping over. He initiated sex with her shortly after. After this first incident, Emily says Margolies began to position himself as an alternative to Emily’s volatile home life in return for sex and her secrecy.
“He made it very clear that if anyone ever found out, I would be responsible for him going to jail forever,” she said. “And that it would be horrible for me.”
A short time after meeting Emily, Margolies moved out of his mother’s house to a townhouse in Harlem, an address she recalled immediately: “146 West 119 Street, top floor, middle door.” Emily was excited to finally have a place where she could reliably get a night’s sleep. Margolies apparently had other ideas.
“He would microwave me vegan chicken nuggets, give me three, and act like he was taking care of me.” Emily said. “He said because I was staying with him, and he was doing all that for me… I needed to step it up.”
Emily says that around this time, Margolies’ fetishes became increasingly elaborate and sadistic. Margolies became fixated on watching Emily have sex with other men. When coercing her to do so failed, she claims he began bringing strangers into the apartment unannounced. In one instance, Emily protested enough that the men left. Margolies tried again; this time, she says, the stranger overpowered her.
“He made it very clear that if anyone ever found out, I would be responsible for him going to jail forever. And that it would be horrible for me.”
Emily states that Margolies had destroyed her sense of self-worth, which took years for her to restore.
“He plays on your own insecurities,” said Emily. “He makes you feel like you know nothing compared to what he knows.” She described Margolies constantly belittling her understanding of any given subject: music, movies, sex. This reinforced his position as an authority figure—one who could dictate her likes and dislikes.
“That first night, he showed me Aaliyah,” she said. “I really did like R&B music at that point, but I hadn’t heard of her.” After reacting incredulously, Margolies played her the song “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number,” which was produced by convicted sexual predator R. Kelly, who married Aaliyah when she was only 15.
Emily maintains that two events led to her escape. One was finally opening up to a close friend, who helped her realize the extent of Margolies’ abuse. The second was Margolies’ request that Emily bring her 8-year-old stepsister to his apartment. This disturbed Emily enough to end contact.
In 2018, Emily attempted to come forward with her story. After making an in-person statement to the NYPD, she emailed detectives a song by Margolies called “Aaliyah.” In it, he raps about grooming and molesting a 14-year-old model he met at a skatepark, which she viewed as less a song and more a confession with a beat under it.
“I Know it’s a lot I’m sorry,” [sic] Emily wrote in an email to the NYPD dated March 2, 2018. “But maybe you should listen to the songs, he really says this stuff and he admits to a lot of the stuff he did to me.”
However, when Emily made a follow-up visit to the precinct, she says they found no record of her previous visit. She can only speculate as to why. Her allegations were not mentioned in Margolies’ eventual trial. Reached for comment, an NYPD spokesperson did not provide any additional info on Emily’s conversations with the officers, but shared the following statement:
The NYPD takes sexual assault and rape cases extremely seriously, and urges anyone who has been a victim to file a police report so we can perform a comprehensive investigation, and offer support and services to survivors.
In January 2017, NYPD officers searched the phone of an overdose fatality and found a conversation with Ekin Erkhan, a graduate student at Columbia. A subsequent investigation found that Erkhan referred heroin users to Margolies in exchange for a fee of about $25. NYPD undercovers made contact with Margolies via Erkhan and began a series of controlled buys. In February of 2018, Erkhan and Margolies’ contact information was found in the phone of a second overdose fatality.
From March 2 to May 11, 2018, undercover detectives purchased $4,830 of heroin from Margolies, some testing positive for fentanyl. In January 2019, NYPD and DHS conducted a search of Margolies’ phone during a TSA check at JFK. While the search was presumably related to the narcotics conspiracy case, agents found child pornography in the process. A warrant was issued; Margolies was arrested in New Orleans at the residence of a 17-year-old girl, on Valentine’s Day. As Louisiana’s age of consent is 16, his presence there was legal.
The timeline indicates that Margolies was already under investigation by the NYPD when Emily approached them with her story. In fact, Emily emailed the NYPD with additional evidence on March 2, 2018—the date the NYPD say they began controlled buys of heroin from Margolies. But again, Emily states she was not contacted by law enforcement as they built their case.
Also absent from the court docs is any mention of Margolies’ social media presence. Though deleted, much of it was saved by concerned observers hoping to document his actions.
“It’s interesting and gratifying that this is being revisited as a serious thing,” said Noa Jaffe, now 29. “As a teacher, I see now that it’s very different how sexual abuse is treated for young women. At the time… 2009, 2010, it was a joke. A rape was a joke.”
Two of the women reached for this story dated Margolies during his time at Bard High School Early College. Jaffe dated him during the 2007-2008 school year, while she was a freshman and he was a sophomore. Shannon (who requested a pseudonym) dated him during the 2008-09 school year, when she was a freshman and he was a junior. Both recall that Margolies’ behavior had earned him a degree of social status.
“He hung out with seniors, other cool New York teenagers,” said Jaffe. “Sort of rock stars in their own little world. Lots of destruction, fashionable violence. Extremely nihilistic.”
Jaffe recalled the gritty 1995 Harmony Korine coming-of-age film Kids as one Margolies discussed. In the first minutes of the film, the character Telly describes his fixation on having sex with virgins. Both Jaffe and Shannon say Margolies described the same fascination to them. Jaffe recalled that after losing her virginity to Margolies, he described being dissatisfied with the experience, saying she “must have been raped as a child.” After Margolies began describing his exploits with Jaffe to her classmates, Jaffe says she attempted suicide. She eventually transferred out of BHSEC.
Margolies began dating Shannon the following year. “He was always just standing outside of my classroom, staring at me through the window,” she said. “He got my number from somebody else… I’m not exaggerating, I would get 70 to 100 missed calls a day. I knew that what he was doing was not OK, but I felt special.”
Shannon says she eventually agreed to be Margolies’ girlfriend, though she described never “feeling safe” in the relationship, and declined Margolies when he asked to have sex. After about a year, Shannon says Margolies began seeing another girl at BHSEC. When Margolies described this to Shannon over the phone, they began to argue, at which point he replied, “I’m coming over.” After convincing her to open the door, Shannon says Margolies raped her—and that prior to this, she had never had sex.
“I didn’t think he would actually do anything. He kept trying to kiss me. I just laid there, really cold.”
“I didn’t think he would actually do anything,” Shannon said. “He kept trying to kiss me. I just laid there, really cold.”
Shannon spoke out about the incident to many at school—a classmate interviewed recalls her being vocal about Wolfe’s actions at the time. However, those she confided in at the time downplayed her story, or claimed that she was attempting to sabotage Margolies’ new relationship.
In “September or October” of 2009, Shannon says Margolies tried to resume contact with her, threatening suicide if she did not reply. Shannon asked a friend to accompany her to check on Margolies at the apartment where he lived with his mother, Liz Margolies. In the midst of Margolies asking Shannon to resume the relationship, Shannon’s friend recalls saying out loud “Wolfe, you raped her.”
“After I said it, he jumped up from his bed and grabbed me by my hair,” said Shannon’s friend. “He just started pulling me out of the apartment.”
Both Shannon and her friend recall that at this point, Liz Margolies entered the room, attempting to diffuse the situation.
“I do remember Liz apologizing on his behalf,” said Shannon’s friend. “I remember her reaction being really weird. I don’t know, she didn’t seem mad at him.”
Shannon then recalls Liz saying, “Wolfe, honey, she’s never going to leave you. Don’t worry, she’s never going to leave you.” Then, to Shannon: “Just tell him you’re never going to leave him.”
Shannon says that Liz then took her friend to another room, offering to help her clean up. Shannon remembers being shocked at being left alone with Margolies seconds after he physically attacked another young girl—especially because Liz Margolies is a published psychologist on the subject of sexual abuse and partner violence.
Margolies’ violent nature as an adolescent was noted by others. Independent court reporter Matthew Russell Lee was the only person to cover his trial. He published an anonymous letter from another former girlfriend of Margolies, who describes him “physically tackling me backwards… smashing the back of my head into the concrete.”
In the above-quoted song, “Guns of Brixton,” Margolies describes raping a girl when he was 17 years old. In his song, “Don’t Push Me,” he depicts raping a 15-year-old girl. Margolies and Shannon’s ages were 17 and 15 at the time of the alleged incident. At his sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mollie Bracewell stated that Margolies “describes having raped a girl… at age 16” in his diary (seized at arrest). Margolies’ birthday is Aug. 7, 1992; Shannon alleges that the incident occurred in September 2009. Wolfe would have turned 17 just weeks earlier, possibly explaining the discrepancy.
Jane met Wolfe Margolies in May 2016 while living in New York City after graduating college. She detailed her experiences with him in a written statement she shared with The Daily Beast. Initially speaking on Twitter, Jane says that she quickly viewed Margolies as a friend, even confiding in him that she had been raped as a child. She alleges that on Oct. 4, 2016, Margolies gave her absinthe she later learned was drugged.
“I woke up to my pants down,” she writes. “He had the most vile and fucking evil look on his face. I remember it so clearly. The room was still blurry.”
Jane states that on Dec. 19, 2016, she confronted Margolies about the incident. Her statement (printed verbatim) reads:
I said I know what you did to me. And he goes you do? i go yes. And i think the least you could do is say it. And he goes “I raped you.” I nodded and think i gave him a one or two sentence rant about how he’s a disgusting human being and how building up trust like that and pretending to be trans to get closer to me was atrocious.
Though Wolfe claimed to be trans at the time, he would later recant this in an episode of the podcast Fluid Exchange, saying that he “doesn’t have dysphoria” and that his injection of estradiol was “a sexual thing.”
Recorded Aug. 1, 2018, this podcast episode is the only instance where Margolies speaks at length about the allegations against him. Hosts Charlie Looker (musician) and M LAMAR (performance artist, brother of Laverne Cox) questioned Wolfe on his lyrics:
Charlie Looker: So you do rap about actually committing rape against other people? I mean, that’s…
Wolfe Margolies: I have, yeah. I have one mixtape where…
M LAMAR: …Being raped and raping other people.
Wolfe Margolies: Yeah.
M LAMAR: Are there rape allegations against you?
Wolfe Margolies: Not in court. (giggles)
Charlie later follows up on that question:
Charlie Looker: Do you think you crossed a line with this person?
Wolfe Margolies: Not with her.
M LAMAR: Not with her, but with someone else?
Charlie Looker: There are people that maybe think you have?
Wolfe Margolies: Yeah, there’s one person that I definitely did. That was like when I was in high school. She’s not public about it. Like, no one knows her.
Jayson Nessi was Wolfe’s roommate when Wolfe was studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2014. His recollection of Margolies during this period differs drastically: Nessi knew Margolies as a quiet, eccentric kid who “couldn’t buy his own groceries without help.” Nessi even invited Margolies to Easter dinner with his family—though Nessi was surprised when Wolfe’s mother, Liz, arrived abruptly to pick him up.
When Nessi returned to his apartment, “the police knocked on the door and handed us a business card asking for Wolfe.” Apparently, Margolies “had made a joke about bringing a gun to SAIC” on Facebook. In their haste to leave town, Nessi says that Wolfe left one of his laptops at his apartment. Wolfe began to ask urgently about the location of the laptop in a (since-deleted) Facebook group, and recalls friends of Wolfe speculating that he would be in legal trouble if the police were to obtain it. After finding it, Jayson remembers being told not to return the laptop immediately, but instead “hold onto it” for several weeks before eventually shipping it back.
In his music, Margolies brags about having enough money to make charges and allegations against him disappear: the song “Cuz I Paid Her” is entirely about this supposed capability. The source and extent of this affluence is unclear—apparently, even to his mother.
“In his music, Margolies brags about having enough money to make charges and allegations against him disappear: the song “Cuz I Paid Her” is entirely about this supposed capability.”
“The really interesting thing is that I never knew what my father did,” said Liz Margolies in a 2014 interview with a Smith College researcher. “It was always a joke among my friends that he was in the Jewish mafia… I do remember that he owned transportation businesses.”
According to a front-page Dayton Daily News story from 1988, Mike Margolies founded Holland Industries Inc., in 1979. The company caused a scandal in the Ohio city after receiving a $1.675 million contract despite a long history of safety failures.
Since then, Mike Margolies founded and headquartered many companies at his personal residence: a sprawling property converted from a former hotel in Garrison, NY. A number of individuals behind these companies have been charged with financial crimes, including:
Many of the numerous companies headquartered at the Margolies residence were publicly traded on the OTCBB—colloquially known as “penny stocks” traded on the “pink sheets,” exchanges with regulations and requirements more lax than the NYSE or NASDAQ. The Margolies Family Trust was the recipient of many transactions involving these corporations.
In the Fluid Exchange podcast, Margolies’ last media appearance before incarceration, he shared the following:
“I don’t respond to people trying to pressure me to do things. People try to pressure me not to do things, I want to do them way more. I feel like I have to do them or I’m their bitch.”