Hip-Hop Artists File Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court
A coalition of hip-hop artists has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on Wednesday for an appeal from a Pittsburgh rapper sent to prison for two years for threatening police officers -- in a song. Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Yo Gotti, Fat Joe, and 21 Savage are encouraging the Justices to hear the appeal of Jamal Knox, known as Mayhem Mal, who was found guilty of making terroristic threats and witness intimidation for writing and performing a 2012 song titled ‘F — the Police.’ The song named and threatened two officers, Daniel Zeltner and Michael Kosko, and a music video for the song also featured photos of them. The briefing filed by the hip-hop artists serves as “a primer on rap music and hip-hop” to educate the Supreme Court justices, who range in age from 51 to 85, on the genre. “A person unfamiliar with what today is the nation’s most dominant musical genre or one who hears music through the auditory lens of older genres such as jazz, country or symphony,” they wrote, “may mistakenly interpret a rap song as a true threat of violence.” They said the brief’s purpose is “to put rap music, which is a heavily stigmatized form of expression associated with negative stereotypes and often subject to misinterpretation, in the context of the history and conventions of the genre." They trace the history of rap music, beginning with its origins in the 1970s and specifically examines other songs that include fictional threats against police officers, such as Ice Cube’s “We Had to Tear This Mothaf---a Up.” They also reference “Cop Killer” by Ice-T, who defended himself. The artists reference his defense in the briefing. “‘I’m singing in the first person as a character who is fed up with police brutality. I ain’t never killed no cop. . . . If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut,’” wrote the brief’s authors. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the song’s lyrics express hatred toward the Pittsburgh police and contain descriptions of killing police informants and police officers. “They do not include political, social or academic commentary, nor are they facially satirical or ironic.” In their brief, the rappers said that assertion revealed: “a court deeply unaware of popular music generally and rap music specifically.” More here.