Killer Mike Says Courts Treat Rappers Like Criminals
In the piece co-written by Erik Nielson – an assistant professor at the University of Richmond where he focuses on African American literature and hip-hop culture – the pair cite historical examples of legal reactions to the lyrics of hip-hop songs and spotlight the story of New Orleans rapper McKinley "Mac" Phipps who was convicted of manslaughter in 2001 and sentenced to 30 years in prison after a fan was murdered at one of his shows.
"Phipps' case is unsettling because a potentially innocent man has spent almost half his life behind bars," wrote Render and Nielson. "But it's also disturbing because it is part of a long history of law enforcement unfairly targeting black artists, not just in New Orleans but across the country." They go on to say the problem isn't getting any better. "Law enforcement really does treat rap like crime... We've seen a troubling increase in the number of cases in which prosecutors introduce rap lyrics as evidence of a crime, (mis)representing the lyrics as autobiography or confession in order to secure convictions when other, more traditional forms of evidence are lacking."
The pair close the article by saying the attempted silencing of rappers who challenge "America's unjust justice system" is "hardly a surprise" and hint that it won't change. "It's a steep price to pay for art — but it's a price rappers have been paying for years and, unfortunately, will continue to pay for years to come."
The op-ed comes fresh off the heels of the release of a provocative video for Run the Jewels' "Close Your Eyes (and Count to F--k)," depicting an altercation between a white police officer and an unarmed black man. Watch it below. Render also recently suffered a shoulder injury when a man stormed Run the Jewels' set at a SXSW show.
Run the Jewels -- "Close Your Eyes (and Count to F--k)" Official Music Video