Published Dec 21, 2015While lyrics in other genres are rightly seen as forms of storytelling (or, at the very least, not to be taken 100 percent literally), rappers have sadly been scrutinized for their words as of late. Now, a handful of hip-hop performers have joined forces to fight for freedom of speech in hip-hop through a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the New York Times reports, Killer Mike, T.I., Big Boi, Pharoahe Monch, Boots Riley and Favianna Rodriguez are among the artists that have submitted a brief to the Supreme Court supporting the freedom for artists to rap about whatever they want.
This particular case focuses on Taylor "T-Bizzle" Bell, a Mississippi rapper who released a song in 2011 alleging that his high school coaches were responsible for sexual misconduct with some females at his school. The song (which you can stream below) features lines like "Looking down girls' shirts / Drool running down your mouth / Going to get a pistol in your mouth."
Despite the fact that four young girls signed affidavits accusing the coaches of verbal and sexual abuse, not to mention the fact that the song was recorded off of school property and on summer vacation, Bell was expelled from the school. He's now seeking for the expulsion to be stricken from his personal record — the Times notes his lawsuit only asks for one dollar in compensation.
"The government punished a young man for his art — and, more disturbing, for the musical genre by which he chose to express himself," the brief says. "Following a long line of rappers before him, Bell saw an opportunity to confront injustice."
Killer Mike pointed out that rap music is often the only kind where performers' lyrics are taken at face value, adding that this behaviour "persecutes young men based on their class and colour."
He added, "Anyone who is learned in law is capable of separating art and lyrics, whether you agree with them or not, and actual human behaviour. I think the courts understand it when it's Johnny Cash. I think they understand it when it's Robert Nesta Marley."
Killer Mike continued, "I see a kid who saw wrong happening and was outraged about it. He wrote a poem about it over a beat."
The Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear this case in February.