A colaition of rappers has reportedly banded together to file a brief that seeks to educate the Supreme Court on the history of hip-hop music and how to interpret certain lyrics, The New York Times reports. The brief or “primer” as it is being referred to, hopes to provide context to hip-hop music in order to protect artists from legal biases.
The group is reportedly headed by Killer Mike and includes contributions from 21 Savage, Meek Mill, Chance the Rapper, Styles P, Fat Joe and Yo Gotti. “Viewing the lyrics in their proper context is vital. Like all poets, rappers use figurative language, relying on a full range of literary devices such as simile and metaphor,” the brief reads. “Rappers also, in the tradition of African American vernacular, invent new words, invert the meaning of others, and lace their lyrics with dense slang and coded references that defy easy interpretation, especially among listeners unfamiliar with the genre… Furthermore, rappers famously rely on exaggeration and hyperbole as they craft the larger-than-life characters that have entertained fans (and offended critics) for decades.”
The brief stems from the 2014 case of Jamal Knox aka Mayhem Mal , a 19-year-old rapper who was sentenced to two to six years in prison for issuing “terroristic threats and intimidating witnesses.” The court cited his song “F**k the Police” in his initial case. The case was later sent to the Supreme Court after Knox’s lawyers argued the ruling was a violation of their client’s First Amendment rights. In addition to educating the Supreme Court, the coalition hopes to help in appealing Knox’s case.
Knox isn’t the only rapper who has been targeted or allegedly discriminated against due to their lyrics however. Meek Mill’s lyrics were initially cited in his case regarding his probation violation case. Additionally, 21 Savage claimed his lyrics and music persona contributed to his arrest by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year.
Hopefully this brief will bring more clarity about hip-hop to the Supreme Court. Read the full brief here.