Do you know that rap lyrics are used as evidence in criminal trials? How can we allow this? Should movie excerpts or pages of books also be allowed in trials? Certainy not, I would oppose to this, and so would Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike, who co-wrote an op-ed with Erik Nielson (an assistant professor of liberal arts at the University of Richmond) in USA Today , entitled ‘Rap’s poetic (In)justice.
Erik Nielson and Michael Render (Killer Mike’s real name) cite Anthony Elonis’ case, who posted violent messages in rap lyric form on Facebook. They were directed to his ex-wife, so he was charged ‘with multiple counts of communicating threats’, and sentenced to 44 months in prison, even though he insisted that these were fictitious lyrics, citing Eminem as his main influence. As both authors write, this ‘raises major concerns about the role of art and free speech in the justice system, as well as the commonly-held view that hip-hop culture is a threat to society’.
There are hundreds of cases similar to this one, leading to convictions, proving that the legal system doesn’t get rap at all, that it doesn’t consider ‘rap as form of artistic expression’, ignoring the fact that rappers use stage names or frequent ‘metaphor and hyperbole’, never being able to separate the art from its author’s own life. Only rap lyrics are treated this way, and there is an obvious bias because of hip hop culture’s origin and its association with real violence. According to Nielson and Render, we should forget a bit about Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.’s murders and focus more on ‘countless examples of lives saved or made stronger’ because of rap.
‘That story of hip-hop has been frustratingly difficult to tell,’ conclude both authors, ‘especially when the murder of Jordan Davis can be framed in the media as the “loud rap music” case or Michael Brown’s association with rap music becomes part of a tragic story line that has far more to do with inequality, police brutality and racial discrimination. These problems are the “true threats” facing America today, not hip-hop. Let’s hope the justices on the Supreme Court understand that, too.’
It is very well said, especially because this kind of reasoning criminalize black people, whereas we know that white people buy 80 percent of hip-hop records today! Plus have you ever checked the lyrics of some of these death metal bands? It’s all white and an horror movie at each line, so should we accept them as evidence to? Oh I know, it is the eternal debate about the influence of violent art on the youth! After all, Marilyn Manson was also accused to have triggered the Columbine High School massacre (among others)… But after all the Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’ did inspire the Tate/LaBianca killings to Charles Manson, so what can we make of this example? Meanwhile the last Run the Jewels’ video is a lot of fun:
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