Killer Mike, Pharoahe Monch, Big Boi, and T.I. made a trip to Washington D.C. in December to appear in-front of the Supreme Court and urge the legislative body to take on the case of a young rapper named Taylor Bell. Bell was punished for releasing a song about two high school coaches who were allegedly harassing female students sexually.
Now, in the wake of that appearance and in the fight to protect other’s lyrics from literal prosecution, Killer Mike along with Erik Nielson, an assistant professor at the University of Richmond, penned an op-ed for CNN in which they argue that free speech should be extended to hip hop in all cases.
"Bell wasn't being punished for making threats against school employees," the two explain. "Instead, he was being punished for using the wrong art form, rap music, as his voice of protest. This leads to serious questions about student’s First Amendment protections as well as broader questions about the role of race in determining when those protections apply."
Mike and Nielson also compare cases of public persecution – like those of Eminem and Ice Cube – to ones involving rock stars and movie directors who often don’t field public, let alone legal criticism for their work. They also recall the history of Bell’s high school’s attempts at silencing their student’s rights to free speech.
"This isn't the first time officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School have tried to silence and marginalize students they find offensive,” they wrote. “In 2010, the school made headlines for canceling a prom rather than allowing two lesbian students to attend as a couple. One of the young women, Constance McMillen, took the school to court to defend her First Amendment rights, and she won."
Read the full op-ed here.
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