WASHINGTON -- Daddy Fat Sax, meet Antonin Scalia.
Atlanta rappers Big Boi, T.I. and Killer Mike are among the petitioners in an unusual brief filed in a case the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether to take, addressing violent hip hop imagery and the First Amendment.
The citations include language not suitable for a family newspaper, and the authors include a mix of academics and rap artists. They are coming to the aid of a Mississippi high school student who made a rap song that included a violent reference toward a teacher who had been accused of harassing female students.
More background from the New York Times:
The case started in 2011, when [Taylor] Bell was a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Miss. (The school has been in the news before. In 2010, it canceled a prom rather than let a lesbian student attend with her girlfriend.)
After several female students said they had been subjected to sexually charged comments and unwanted touching from two male coaches, Mr. Bell recorded a song to address the complaints.
He did so away from school, at a professional studio, over the school’s winter vacation. The song is angry, catchy and full of profanity and violent images.
“Looking down girls’ shirts, drool running down your mouth,” Mr. Bell sings of the coaches. “Going to get a pistol down your mouth.”
School officials disciplined Mr. Bell, saying he was guilty of harassment, intimidation and, as they put it in an appellate brief, “threatening two named educators with gun-related violence.”
The brief cites artists from Eminem (who murdered his wife in "Kim") to Johnny Cash (who shot a man in Reno with the unsettling motive of just wanting to watch him die) to Eric Clapton (who shot the sheriff, but definitely not the deputy) as examples of violent imagery in music protected by the First Amendment. There are racial issues at play when it comes to rap, the brief argues:
"The visceral response that many people have to rap music stems in large part from broader racial stereotypes, especially about young men of color."
Killer Mike was last seen palling around with Bernie Sanders in Atlanta and stoking talk of his own political ambitions. Our Channel 2 Action News colleague Justin Gray interviewed Killer Mike today. Here's a sample, and you can see more on the 6 p.m. news:
"If you understand Shakespeare and classical opera you understand hip hop. The same things permeate throughout all art. ...
"I want people to get that your rights are precious and they are be to be protected and for them to see this court as a protector of those precious rights"
You can read the full brief below, but the Michael Render introduction is our favorite line:
"He performs as Killer Mike—but for this brief, in particular, it probably is worth noting that he has never actually killed anyone."