The legal proceedings concern a young Mississippi rapper T-Bizzle (born Taylor Bell) who was suspended from high school for recording a song containing lyrics which alleged that two of his gym teachers were guilty of sexual misconduct towards female students.
Railing against the injustice of the unwanted advances Bell laid down lyrical line “Looking down girls’ shirts/drool running down your mouth.”
“Going to get a pistol down your mouth” the rapper added.
The actual suspension occurred in 2011, but the school’s decision to punish Bell for his art has triggered a First Amendment case. The rapper and his support team have essentially been battling it out in U.S. courts ever since, challenging the meaning of ‘free speech’ in a legal and ethical environment.
The court document opened in defence of the rap genre. “It probably is worth noting that he has never actually killed anyone,” stated Run the Jewels co-founder Killer Mike.
Mike also compared lyrics from rap songs to those in other genres, pointing out that there are violent, aggressive and accusatory lyrics in songs like Johnny Cash‘s Folsom Prison Blues (“I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die”) and Bob Marley‘s I Shot the Sheriff, that are not placed under the same critical scrutiny as hip-hop.
Mike has been a vocal commentator on how the U.S. legal system has mistreated fellow artists, penning a heated opinion piece on the topic in 2014.
The case was previously rejected by an appeals court which found the lyrics ‘vulgar.’
Notably, female students from the school have actually provided sworn legal statements attesting to the sexual misconduct the song described.
The Supreme Court will convene in February to decide whether to hear the appeal in full.
While Australian musicians do not enjoy as strong of a legal right to defend freedom of speech, a finding that the suspension was unlawful would be a victory for rappers world over.
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