Hip-hop is taking another stand to defend its own.
Jamal Knox was only 19-years-old when he was sentenced to prison in 2014 over his controversial lyrics. The courts said his “let’s kill these cops cause they don’t do us no good” verse on his song, “Fuck The Police,” was “terroristic” and charged him for making threats and witness intimidation. As a result, Knox was sentenced to 2-6 years, but that didn’t stop his lawyers’ fight for his freedom.
The team appealed the sentence and argued that the punishment violated their client’s First Amendment right (freedom of speech). But now, after the rapper’s appeal was denied, some of the biggest names in hip-hop have come forward to help.
The New York Times reported Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Killer Mike, Yo Gotti, and Fat Joe have filed a brief to push Knox’s First Amendment argument. According to reports, the rappers respectfully checked the judges, who are well up in age, by explaining their misinterpretation of rap because of their disconnect.
“A person unfamiliar with what today is the nation’s most dominant musical genre, or one who hears music through the auditory lens of older genres such as jazz, country or symphony may mistakenly interpret a rap song as a true threat of violence.”
They even went on to call the rapper’s work “poetry” that “is not intended to be taken literally.” Basically, it’s not threatening since the average listener would understand the casual meaning behind what was said, especially since it is not abnormal for people to “create a rap persona” when making music.
In Knox’s initial trial, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor didn’t see the “art” behind the rhymes. He stated, “The song’s lyrics express hatred toward the Pittsburgh police. As well, they contain descriptions of killing police informants and police officers. They do not include political, social or academic commentary, nor are they facially satirical or ironic.”