Jay-Z's "99 Problems" Inspires 19-Page Legal Analysis

Jay-Z's "99 Problems" Inspires 19-Page Legal Analysis

Law professor publishes review of Jay-Z’s 2004 hit.

Published July 11, 2012

Jay-Z is always a topic of discussion among hip hop heads, but the rap superstar and business mogul recently inspired discourse in a more scholarly realm when a law professor published a 19-page law review article on Jay's 2004 hit "99 Problems."

The article, titled "Jay-Z's 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading With Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps," is by Caleb Mason of Southwestern Law School and was published in the Saint Louis University Law Journal. In it, Mason examines Hov's famous second verse of the song, in which he tells the story of a Black man in possession of illegal drugs who has been pulled over by a police officer guilty of racial profiling.

"In one compact, teachable verse (Verse 2), the song forces us to think about traffic stops, vehicle searches, drug smuggling, probable cause, and racial profiling, and it beautifully tees up my favorite pedagogical heuristic: life lessons for cops and robbers," he says in the article.

Mason goes on to discuss the truth and falsehoods of the law as discussed in the back-and-forth between the perp and the police officer on "99 Problems." In particular, he refutes the line in the song that suggests a locked trunk and glove compartment cannot be searched without a warrant.

"If this essay serves no other purpose, I hope it serves to debunk, for any readers who persist in believing it, the myth that locking your trunk will keep the cops from searching it," Mason writes. "Based on the number of my students who arrived at law school believing that if you lock your trunk and glove compartment, the police will need a warrant to search them, I surmise that it’s even more widespread among the lay public. But it’s completely, 100 percent wrong."

Check out the entire article, which includes, among other things, advice for people who believe they have been wrongfully pulled over, here.

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(Photo: Def Jam Records)

Written by Reggie Ugwu


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