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A Case for Hip-Hop’s Narrative Influence in Legal Decisionmaking

Socrates: And we may further grant to those . . . lovers of poetry . . . the permission to speak in prose on her behalf: let them show . . . that she is . . . useful to States and to human life . . . for if this can be proved we shall surely be the gainers --

Glaucon: Certainly . . . we shall be the gainers.[1]

Today, the American law community encourages storytelling in legal writing and persuasive advocacy,[3] though the notion of legal narrative was initially criticized.[4] Now, there is a grass-roots movement that examines the stories presented by Hip-Hop artists and allows those stories to influence the potential legal landscape.[5] Legal professionals pride themselves in using the “dispassionate tools of logic, reason, and precedent”[6] to make their case: “dispassionate logic [is] far more important than courtroom drama.”[7] How then, could the often sensational and vitriolic lyrics of layperson musicians such as Hip-Hop artists provide any constructive guidance for legal reasoning? This article will explore whether Hip-Hop narratives should be considered furious rantings too subjective to be useful, or an important component of well-reasoned and mindful legal decision and policymaking. But, before moving on: an African legend that illustrates the fears and hopes that many associate with Hip-Hop’s influence on modern American society:

The Legend of the Destruction of Kash

A long time ago, near the African region of Darfur, the priests observed the stars each night, paying close attention to “God’s writing in the sky,” to determine when the king, and his slave, Far-li-mas, would be sealed in the royal tomb to die.[8] This immolation of the kings, a long-standing tradition, would come to an end when Far-li-mas, the king’s Companion in Death, began spinning stories "like the hashish that induces stupefication . . . [and] carries men through unconsciousness to sleep."[9]

In a sort of wager, worked out between the king’s sister (who had fallen in love with Far-li-mas) and the priests, the priests came to the palace to listen to the tales of Far-li-mas to see whether “[they], when listening, [would] forget to keep watch of the stars and . . . [whether] the writing in the sky [was] greater and stronger than [stories of] this life on earth.”[10]

That night, Far-li-mas’ tale was so moving it “becloud[ed]” the priests and sent them into a “dead faint;” the priests failed to study the stars, and for several nights after, the priests went back to Far-li-mas, “enwrapt in rapture.”[11] Eventually, the priests lost all track of the order of the festivals and sacrifices and ordered that Far-li-mas must die: “Far-li-mas is disrupting the revealed . . . [and] established order,” the priests cried.[12]

To see if it was God’s will that Far-li-mas enchant the priests and distract them from charting the stars, “the whole people” were gathered to bear witness to Far-li-mas and “thousands upon thousands assembled.”[13] Far-li-mas “gazed about over the multitude, glanced at the priests, and arose, ‘I am a servant of God . . . and believe that all evil in the human heart is repugnant to God.’”[14] It was then that Far-li-mas commenced his tale and continued through the night: his words “swelled like the rising Nile in the hearts of the people,” and while some were comforted, others were filled with horror.[15] As dawn neared, his voice grew more powerful and the people “reared against each other as in battle; stormed against each other like the clouds in the heavens of a tempestuous night.”[16] But when the sun rose, “unspeakable astonishment filled the confused minds of all; for when those who remained alive looked about them[,] their glances fell upon the priests- and the priests lay dead upon the ground.”[17]

Desperate to escape the death society had thrust upon him, Far-li-mas used the unbridled pathos of storytelling to pull the priests away from their sacred star-gazing while stirring the commoner to revolt against the established order. Backed into a corner, Far-li-mas told stories to becloud, disrupt, and horrify. By the time the priests recognized the intoxicating power of Far-li-mas’ storytelling and made plans to silence him, it was too late. Far-li-mas had already disrupted the established order beyond repair and his words had reached the ears of the common-folk. His tales of "life on this earth"[18] brought empathy and understanding necessary for a justice that far surpassed the logic and precision of the orderly stars fixed billions of miles away in the cold vacuum of space far removed from the human experience. Though his stories saved the lives of those he loved and overturned an unforgiving cosmology, the collateral damage resulted in the death of many innocent and guilty victims of an impassioned and wild rampage of emotion and chaos.

This legend illustrates the hopes and fears of many in American society today. It gives hope to those at society's bottom, whose only tool for positive change may be the stories they can tell. And it serves as a horror story for those at society's top, who wish to maintain the established order and fear the irresponsible storyteller and his bloodthirsty listeners.

For purposes of this article, Priests are those at society’s top who wield authority, understand the inner-workings of the legal system, and work to maintain the status quo, whether for nefarious purposes or under the warm, doctrinal blanket of stare decisis;[19]The Enslaved are those impoverished and downtrodden members of society, crushed by the weight of the established order, who cry out in anger or despair, sending their stories into the world in hopes that those in power will listen.

Hip-Hop Offers Valuable Stories for Legal Decision Making

Neither Hip-Hop nor the Law can be adequately interpreted and understood without a social and contextual framework. [20] Just as significant parts of American law evolved from British common law,[21] African American music began by the transport of culture and bodies across the Atlantic.[22] The American history of black music began with slave songs; evolved into blues, jazz, and bebop; and then exploded into Hip-Hop- each permutation of African American music emerged from struggle: Slavery, to Jim Crow, to Civil Rights, and then to Civil Rights’ failure to eradicate racial injustice.[23]

Perhaps black America’s frustration with post-Civil Rights America is most notably illustrated by Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”[24] The song’s music video alludes to the 1963 March on Washington that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,[25] but turns the march on its head, almost mocking it as if to say the march wasn’t enough:[26]

As the rhythm's designed to bounce / What counts is that the rhyme's / Designed to fill your mind[27] / Now that you've realized the pride's arrived / We got to pump the stuff to make ya tough / From the heart / It's a start, a work of art / To revolutionize make a change nothing's strange / People, people we are the same / No we're not the same / Cause we don't know the game[28] / What we need is awareness, we can't get careless / You say what is this? / My beloved let’s get down to business / Mental self-defensive fitness / (Yo) bum rush the show / You gotta go for what you know / To make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be / Lemme hear you say / Fight the power[29]

The hard-hitting N.W.A.[30] burst onto the socially conscious scene with the provocative classic that exposed the systemic racism inherent in policing:

Fuck the police comin' straight from the underground / A young nigga got it bad 'cause I'm brown / And not the other color so police think / They have the authority to kill a minority / Fuck that shit, 'cause I ain't the one / For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun / To be beatin' on, and thrown in jail / We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell / Fuckin' with me 'cause I'm a teenager / With a little bit of gold and a pager / Searchin' my car, lookin' for the product / Thinkin' every nigga is sellin' narcotics / You'd rather see, me in the pen / Than me and Lorenzo rollin' in a Benz-o[31]

Most of Hip-Hop points to America’s past failures and present injustices, and one’s knee-jerk reaction may be to discredit Hip-Hop as a pessimistic genre that wallows in misery while bombastically aiming punches at the “Great White Male.”[32] But the mindful legal decisionmaker will recognize that Hip-Hop points to the suffering of The Enslaved and understanding that suffering is the key to developing lasting solutions to his societal problems. Even in instances where Hip-Hop does not offer immediate constructive solutions, we must not abandon the stories Hip-Hop presents us, for rappers are first and foremost artists, and artists- like the mystics of old- may prefer to contemplate a dilemma rather than try to fix it.[33]

Legal minds are trained to consider problematic situations and develop solutions; Hip-Hop’s stories, at their least constructive, provide the former; it is the legal professional’s duty to provide the latter.

Hip-Hop shares an awareness of the moment,[34] which is valuable in and of itself to legal decision-makers; but Hip-Hop has and can “contemplate and articulate new [transformative] possibilities . . . through the validation of new voices that speak to the community’s pain and challenge.”[35] A prime example of Hip-Hop’s ability to illustrate vast inequities while calling out for a new and more just equilibrium is Tupac Shakur’s “Changes:”

I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself / Is life worth living should I blast myself? / I'm tired of bein' poor and even worse I'm black / My stomach hurts so I'm lookin' for a purse to snatch / Cops give a damn about a negro / Pull the trigger kill a nigga he's a hero / Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares / One less hungry mouth on the welfare . . .

We gotta make a change / It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes. / Let's change the way we eat, let's change the way we live / And let's change the way we treat each other. / You see the old way wasn't working so it's on us to do / What we gotta do, to survive.[36]

Hip-Hop has the power to remind us that “injustice has no hiding place”[37] as long as we “stay connected to our communities and give them a voice.”[38] But the fearful Priests have not sat idly by; they are actively warring against stories of The Enslaved with their own narratives and weapons. Rapper Ice-T is aware of this battle over the status quo and knows the Priests are terrified of Hip-Hop’s transformative influence over the next generation:

[The Priests] are afraid of the fact that kids that go to law schools, Harvard and all these, are listening to my album, think its dope, and these kids are the next ones that are going to be sitting on the Supreme Court. Next, what you are going to have in five years is that the Supreme Court is going to be wearing Too Short, Ice-T, Yo-Yo, Ice Cube shirts. The country will be fucked, as far as they’re concerned. I think it’ll be a great place.[39]

Ice-T's statement of hope is valid if Hip-Hop narratives are considered by legal professionals and used to mindfully shape American law, but for now, the battle rages between the Priests and The Enslaved.

Perhaps the most powerful and damaging of the Priests’ more recent stories is “The War on Drugs” narrative that has ruled over the judiciary since its inception, eroding the Fourth Amendment and the Bill of Rights- this narrative has empowered Supreme Court judges to justify the steady dilution of Americans’ right against unreasonable searches and seizures in order to catch the drug trafficking “terrorists” running rampant in American communities.[40] Not only has the drug war narrative harmed Americans across the racial spectrum, but has disproportionately been aimed at warring against black bodies[41] while padding the pockets of the establishment’s brute force: the local police department.[42]

To combat the Priests, the Hip-Hop community has offered several counter-stories to the “War on Drugs” narrative over the last four decades.[43] Just as the narrative spirit of Far-li-mas created a new equilibrium for ancient Africa through the art of oral tradition, Far-li-mas has risen again to reveal today’s injustice through postmodern music. [44] It is high time the mindful legal professionals in power, or soon-to-be in power, turn their ears to the street to hear these Companions in Death, desperate to reform “the established order,” [45] sing the latest iterations of Far-li-mas' tale.

Killer Mike: The Post-Modern Far-li-mas

One of the more recent examples of postmodern Far-li-mas’ counter-story to the Priests’ “War on Drugs” mythology is Killer Mike’s rap, “Reagan:”[46]

[Verse 1]

The ballot or the bullet, some freedom or some bullshit / Will we ever do it big, or just keep settlin' for li'l shit? / We brag on having bread, but none of us are bakers / We all talk having greens, but none of us own acres / If none of us own acres, and none of us grow wheat / Then who will feed our people when our people need to eat?

While the first half of Verse 1 does not deal directly with the “War on Drugs,” it establishes the unlevel playing field: just after the civil war, southern land developers and lawyers intentionally gave black landowners detrimental legal advice, telling blacks to let their property pass intestate (without a will); this intestate succession resulted in once valuable parcels of land being subdivided over several generations.[47] Now, “[b]lack Americans have lost 80 percent of the 5.5 million acres of farmland they owned in the South only 32 years ago.”[48] In response, some southern state programs and law schools have developed programs and resources to mitigate further property loss by helping black landowners maintain and develop the land they still have.[49] Just as Far-li-mas exposed the evil in the hearts of men, Killer Mike’s verses expose the nefarious intent of the antebellum Priests who felt threatened by a post-slavery society. The postmodern Far-li-mas continues:

[Verse 1 Cont’d]

So it seems our people starve from lack of understanding / Cause all we seem to give them is some ballin' and some dancin' / And some talkin' about our car and imaginary mansions / We should be indicted for bullshit we inciting / Handin' children death and pretendin' it's excitin' / We are advertisements for agony and pain / We exploit the youth; we tell them to join a gang / We tell them dope stories, introduce them to the game / Just like Oliver North introduced us to cocaine / In the 80s when the bricks came on military planes . . .

The rest of Verse 1 exposes some of Hip-Hop’s internal and damaging narratives about the mythic gangster as renegade hero, and connects Hip-Hop’s deception to alleged conduct by CIA operatives during the height of the drug war in the 1980s. While some dismiss the CIA’s involvement in dealing cocaine to U.S. citizens as a conspiracy theory, there is building evidence that CIA operatives transported cocaine from Ilopango airbase in San Salvador to the U.S. for distribution; former DEA field agents, such as Hector Berrellez, claim they have hard evidence:

I know specifically that some of the CIA contract workers, meaning some of the pilots, in fact were bringing drugs into the U.S. and landing some of these drugs in government air bases. And I know so because I was told by some of these pilots that in fact they had done that.[50]

Whether the alleged transportation occurred solely for personal pecuniary gain or, as some exposé journalists claimed, to fund the war on communism in South America,[51] we may never know with legal certainty. What we do know is that law enforcement’s hunt for drugs deeply wounded Killer Mike’s black community:

[Verse 2]

The end of the Reagan Era, I'm like 'leven, twelve, or / Old enough to understand that shit'd changed forever / They declared the war on drugs, like a war on terror / But what it really did was let the police terrorize whoever / But mostly black boys, but they would call us "niggers" / And lay us on our belly, while they fingers on they triggers / They boots was on our head, they dogs was on our crotches / And they would beat us up if we had diamonds on our watches / And they would take our drugs and moneys, as they pick our pockets / I guess that that's the privilege of policin' for some profits / But thanks to Reaganomics, prison turned to profits / 'Cause free labor's the cornerstone of US economics / 'Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison / You think I am bullshittin', then read the 13th Amendment[52] / Involuntary servitude and slavery it prohibits / That's why they givin' drug offenders time in double digits . . .

Killer Mike’s second verse begins with the police brutality that most political rap criticizes and illustrates how police tend to target inner-city youth who have acquired even a modicum of wealth. Killer Mike argues that this targeting of poor black citizens is not only fueled by the war on drugs, but by the privatized prison system that benefits from the slave labor of incarcerated black bodies. There is a wealth of scholarship on the modern-day American prison system and how it thrives off the free labor of its incarcerated, lobbying for longer sentencing and policies that promote recidivism instead of rehabilitation.[53] The Thirteenth Amendment has become a hot topic for Hip-Hop artists, and a recent mention of its controversy (as of Nov. 15, 2019) has come from Kanye West in his album, Jesus is King,[54] aimed at evangelical Americans, a traditionally conservative demographic not often associated with rap music.[55]

Back to Killer Mike, who, like Far-li-mas, understands his narrative will be loathed and despised by the Priests in power who work to maintain and benefit from the status quo of America’s criminal justice system established by the “War on Drugs” narrative, leaves us with these final lines:

[Verse 3]

If I say any more they might be at my door / (Shh..) Who the fuck is that staring in my window / Doing that surveillance on Mr. Michael Render[56] / I'm dropping off the grid before they pump the lead[57] / I leave you with four words: I'm glad Reagan dead

While Hip-Hop offers many lenses through which legal professionals can view the criminal justice system, Hip-Hop has also addressed legal inequities in Corporate, Family, and Real Property Law.[58] Though he furiously spits at the Priests, the legal community should not dismiss the postmodern Far-li-mas and his beats from the street, lest we bury "the multitude"[59] and its last hope for mindful justice in fear of society's transformation and the humbling pang of admitting we bought into an unethical narrative.

Hip-Hop has emerged as a provocative and valid 21st Century voice for justice. Legal decision-makers and policymakers must consider this powerful voice if they wish to enact mindful laws and policies that benefit every member of American society. Outside of direct life experience with the inequities of the American legal system, Hip-Hop is the legal decisionmaker’s next best thing.[60] Hip-Hop narratives can do what logical argumentation will never achieve by exposing the narrow-minded, fundamentalist dogma designed to alienate, while contemporaneously building a bridge between Priests and The Enslaved where both may stand as equal Companions in Life.


[1] Plato, The Republic of Plato (B. Jowett trans., 2007) (accessed on Project Gutenberg, (format is the author’s).

[3] See Generally Louis J. Sirico, Jr. & Nancy L. Shultz, Persuasive Legal Writing, 19-42 (4th ed. 2015); Steven D. Stark, Writing to Win: The Legal Writer 110 (2d ed. 2012); J. Christopher Rideout, Storytelling Narrative Rationality, and Legal Persuasion, 14 Leg. Writing 53, 55 (2008).

[4] See Alan M. Dershowitz, Life is Not a Dramatic Narrative, in Law’s Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law 99, 100-101 (Peter Brooks & Paul Gewirtz eds. Yale U. Press 1996).

[5] See Generally Paul Butler, Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice (2010); andré douglas pond cummings, A Furious Kinship: Critical Race Theory and the Hip-Hop Nation, 48 U. Louisville l. Rev. 499 (2010); Tyron P. Woods, “Sexual Poetic Justice:” Hip Hop, Antiblack Desire, and Legal Narratives, in Hip Hop and the Law 125-132 (Pamela Bridgewater, andré douglas pond cummings & Donald F. Tibbs ed. 2015).

[6] Jeanne M. Kaiser, When the Truth and the Story Collide: What Legal Writers Can Learn from the Experience of Non-Fiction Writers About the Limits of Legal Storytelling, 16 Leg. Writing 163, 167-168 (2010).

[7] David S. Romantz & Kathleen Elliott Vinson, Legal Analysis: The Fundamental Skill, 37 (2009).

[8] See Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God Primitive Mythology 155 (1991) (Quoting from Leo Frobenius’ account of the Darfur folktale, The Legend of the Destruction of Kash).

[9] See Id. at 154.

[10] See Id. at 155.

[11] See Id. at 156.

[12] See Id. at 157-159.

[13] See Id. at 158-159.

[14] See Id. at 159.

[15] See Id.

[16] See Id.

[17] Id.

[18] See supra text accompanying n. 10.

[19]Stare decisis et quieta non movere” translates to- “those things which have been so often adjudicated ought to rest in peace.” See David S. Romantz & Kathleen Elliott Vinson, supra n. 7 at 9. This not only makes judicial decisions more convenient, but perpetuates situations that the court may see as too troublesome to meddle with. Legal doctrines like stare decisis point toward what Critical Race theorists call “Interest Convergence Theory.” This theory “accuse[s] [the] judiciary and legislatures of only supporting equality for African Americans in the United States when it dovetail[s] with and support[s] the interests that [perpetuate] or [advance] white privilege.” cummings, supra n. 5 at 526.

[20] Tyron P. Woods supra n. 5 at 125.

[21] See Generally Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law (American Bar Association, 2009).

[22] See Generally Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 (1997).

[23] See Atiba R. Ellis, It Ain’t My Fault: Hip Hop, Confrontation, and Contemplation from the Jazz Perspective in Hip Hop and the Law supra n. 5 at 163.

[24] Public Enemy, Fight the Power, on Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam, Columbia 1989).

[25] See Leonard Freed, This is the Day- The March on Washington, vii (2013) (“We will march through the South . . . and burn Jim Crow to the ground- non-violently. We shall . . . [put the South] back together in the image of democracy.” – SNCC Chairman, John Lewis).

[26] TheRappShow, Fight the Power (Full Version) - Public Enemy, YouTube (Oct. 27, 2010),

[27] Chuck D, member of Public Enemy, called rap “The Black CNN . . . informing people, connecting people, being a direct source of information.” Elisabeth Mahoney, The Black CNN, When Hip Hop Took Control, The Guardian (Jun. 25, 2010),

[28] Public Enemy is calling out their Civil Rights predecessors for playing by the rules of a rigged game, calling for the current generation to recognize the systemic injustice inherit in the law itself.

[29] Public Enemy supra n. 24.

[30] “Niggaz Wit Attitudes” Justin Kautz, N.W.A. American Hip-Hop Group, Encyclopedia Britannica (May 03, 2018)

[31] N.W.A, Fuck tha Police, on Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless 1988).

[32] David Foster Wallace & Mark Costello, Singifying Rappers, 25 (2013) (“Serious rap’s a musical movement that seems to revile the whites as a group or Establishment and simply ignore their possibility as distinct individuals.”).

[33] James Hillman, The Soul’s Code 95 (1996).

[34] Atiba R. Ellis, It Ain’t My Fault: Hip Hop, Confrontation, and Contemplation from the Jazz Perspectivein Hip Hop and the Law supra n. 5 at 165.

[35] Id.

[36] Tupac Shakur, Changes, on 2Pac Greatest Hits (Amaru, Death Row, Interscope 1998).

[37] Atiba R. Ellis supra n. 34.

[38] Id.

[39] Will Rhee, Hearing the Haters: Hip-Hop Law as Permanent Outsider, in Hip Hop and the Law 171 (Pamela Bridgewater, andré douglas pond cummings & Donald F. Tibbs ed. 2015) (quoting Hip-Hop artist Ice-T).

[40] See Paul Finkelman, The Second Casualty of War: Civil Liberties and the War on Drugs, 66 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1389, 1389-97 (1993) (“Drugs are bad, but they shouldn’t be used to override basic freedoms . . . Since Congress . . . ‘declare[d] war on drugs,’ [lawmakers] . . . have condoned . . .’the drug exception’ to the law. . . Justice Thurgood Marshall protested these trends, proclaiming ‘there is no drug exception to the Constitution, any more than there is . . . an exception for other . . . sources of domestic unrest.’ [Nevertheless,] Law enforcement activities, government policies, legislative innovations, and court decisions related to the drug war threaten to diminish the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution.”); See also Steven Wisotsky, Crackdown: The Emerging “Drug Exception” to the Bill of Rights, 38 Hastings L.J. 889, 890 (1987); Frank Rudy Cooper, Symposium: New Voices on the War on Drugs: the Un-balanced Fourth Amendment: A Cultural Study of the Drug War, Racial Profiling and Arvizu, 47 Vill. L. Rev. 851, 852-53 (2002) (explaining how the war on drugs has “un-balanced” the Fourth Amendment, making it nearly unenforceable by appellate courts and nearly impossible to prevent law enforcement from invading individual’s privacy interests.).

[41]See Kenneth B. Nunn, Race, Crime and the Pool of Surplus Criminality: Or Why the “War on Drugs” was a “War on Blacks,”6 J. Gender Race & Just. 381, 383 (2002) (“[P]olice expend greater resources and time looking for drug infractions in black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods and focus the bulk of their energies on black suspects rather than white ones.”); See also, Tyron P. Woods supra n. 4 at 128, (“[T]he main reason why [poetical] counter-violence by black people is profoundly destabilizing to civil society is what it calls into question: the gratuitous antiblack violence of the police power necessary for the coherence of our society.”).

[42] Cooper supra n. 40 at 864-65 (“The largest amount of [drug war] funds and steadiest budget increases were in domestic law enforcement, which rose by 66% from $5.4 billion dollars in 1991 to $8.9 billion dollars by 1999.”).

[43] See Melle Mel, White Lines, on White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It) (Sugar Hill 1983) (“A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time / He got out three years from now just to commit more crime / A businessman is caught with 24 kilos / He’s out on bail and out of jail / And that’s the way it goes, raah!”); See also GETO Boys, Mind Playing Tricks on Me, on We Can’t Be Stopped (Rap-A-Lot, Priority 1991) (“Thought he had caine but it was Gold Medal flour / Reached under my seat, grabbed my popper for the suckers / Ain't no use to me lying I was scareder than a motherfucker”); KRS-One, Sound of da Police, on Return of the Boom Bap (Jive 1993) (“Police man come, we bust him out the park / I know this for a fact, you don't like how I act / You claim I'm sellin' crack / But you be doin' that . . . The overseer rode around the plantation / The officer is off patrolling all the nation / The overseer could stop you what you're doing / The officer will pull you over just when he's pursuing / The overseer had the right to get ill / And if you fought back, the overseer had the right to kill / The officer has the right to arrest / And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest! / (Woop!) They both ride horses / After 400 years, I've got no choices!”); dead prez, Police State, on let’s Get Free (Loud 2000) (“F.B.I. spyin' on us through the radio antennas / And them hidden cameras in the streetlight watchin' society / With no respect for the people's right to privacy”).

[44] Postmodern is “a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism . . . and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.” Brian Duignan, Postmodernism, Encyclopedia Britannica (Sep. 20, 2019),; See also Kirill Molokov & Ekaterina Zueva, Rap Poetry and Postmodernism, J. of Hist. Culture and Art Research, 6(4), 1358-1364, (2007). (Explaining how rap poetry is both musically and literarily postmodern.).

[45] See supra text accompanying nn. 9 and 12.

[46] Killer Mike, Reagan, on R.A.P. Music (Williams Street Records 2012).

[47] See Todd Lewan and Dolores Barclay, Developers and Lawyers Use a Legal Method to Strip Black Families of Land, The Authentic Voice, (Aug., 2001)

[48] Id.

[49] See Generally Georgia heirs Property Law Center,; See also University of Arkansas William H. Bowen School of Law, Potential Development Strategies for Heirs Property in Arkansas (forthcoming 2020; edited and formatted by Dylan Treadwell.).

[50] Craig Delaval, Cocaine, Conspiracy Theories & the C.I.A. in Central America, Frontline, PBS (Oct. 2000)

[51] Gary Webb wrote a trilogy of articles entitled “Dark Alliance,” that claimed the “CIA was partly responsible for bringing crack cocaine to the United States.” Elina Dockterman, This is the Real Story Behind “Kill The Messenger,” Time (October 10, 2014)

[52] The Thirteenth Amendment, section one, reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” U.S. Const. amend. XIII, § 1.

[53] See generally Michele Goodwin, The Thirteenth Amendment: Modern Slavery, Capitalism, and Mass Incarceration, 104 Cornell L. Rev. 899 (2019); Cynthia Elaine Tompkins, Private Prisons: Profiting From, and Contributing to, Mass Incarceration, 8 L. J. Soc. Just. 1 (2017); andré douglas pond cummings & Adam Lamparello, Private Prisons and the new Marketplace for Crime, 6 Wake Forest J. L. & Pol’y 407 (2016).

[54] Kanye West, On God, on Jesus is King (GOOD, Def Jam 2019) (“And all my brothers locked up on the yard / . . . Went from one in four to one in three / Thirteenth Amendment, gotta end it, that’s on me.”); Kanye West, Hands On, on Jesus is King (GOOD, Def Jam 2019).

[55] Many religious leaders call rap “pathologically immoral.” Emma Green, A Calling to Redeem Rap Music, The Atlantic (Apr. 1, 2015)

[56] “Killer Mike”

[57] “The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.”- from FBI memo, Dhoruba bin Wahad, Assata Shakur, and Mumia abu Jamal, Still Black, Still Strong: Survivors of the War Against Black Revolutionaries (1993).

[58] See generally Sarah Rogerson, Using Hip-Hop’s Lyrical Narrative to inform and Critique the Family Justice System, in Hip Hop and the Law supra n. 5 at 219; Nick J. Sciullo, Hip Hop’s corporate Cypher: Collaboration and the Entrepreneurial Ethic of Hip Hop, in Hip Hop and the Law supra n. 5 at 243; Todd J. Clark, Hip Hop’s Critical role in Awakening Urban America’s Corporate Consciousness and Activist Spirit, in Hip Hop and the Law supra n. 5 at 249; Lisa T. Alexander, Hip-Hop and Housing: Revisiting Culture, Urban Space, Power, and Law, in Hip Hop and the Law supra n. 5 at 359.

[59] See text accompanying nn. 13-15.

[60] Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, 140-41 (2007) (“You cannot talk about apple juice to someone who has never tasted it. No matter what you say, the other person will not have the true experience of apple juice. The only way is to drink it . . . If you talk about things you have not experienced, you are wasting your time and other people’s time.”); See also David Foster Wallace & Mark Costello supra n. 32 at 35, (“Serious Hard raps afford white listeners genuine, horse’s-mouth access to the life-and-death plight and mood of an American community on the genuine edge of im-/explosion, an ugly new subnation we’ve been heretofore conditioned to avoid, remand to the margins, not even see except through certain carefully abstract, attenuating filters: cop show and news special, crafted commercial fad, the Bush-appointed Drug Czars and sober editorials we demand as ‘Concerned Citizens’ deeply concerned about the future of urban districts we might, after all, want to build co-ops in someday.”).


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