Rapper Killer Mike is fast-becoming the crossover political voice of hip-hop. Killer Mike recently dropped a six-part interview with Democratic candidate for president Sen. Bernie Sanders, in which the rapper asks Sanders to explain to people in his “ethnic community” more about what he stands for, and about the meaning of Sanders’ identification as a “democratic socialist.” But that was last week. This week Killer Mike is bringing his helpful explainer act to the Supreme Court, where Scalia and company may benefit from Killer Mike’s hip-hop primer.
Killer Mike and the rapper T.I. are among a number of hip-hop artists whose voices are included in a brief filed with the Supreme Court this week. The case concerns a Mississippi school that punished a student (Taylor Bell) for posting a lyrically violent rap online. The big-name rappers in Bell’s defense believe the genre itself is a big reason for the disciplinary action — that Bell’s free speech was curtailed simply because its expression came in hip-hop form. “The government punished a young man for his art,” reads part of the brief, “and, more disturbing, for the musical genre by which he chose to express himself.” Bell’s rap called out two coaches accused of sexual misconduct, envisioning a pistol down their throats. Killer Mike wants to make sure SCOTUS is “capable of separating art and lyrics from actual human behavior” even (especially?) if it’s hip-hop art and lyrics. Killer Mike references Bob Marley and Johnny Cash, who both sang about shooting people (“I shot the sheriff” and “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” go their lyrics, respectively). The high school rapper, the brief says, should have the same freedom of expression that those prominent artists claimed.