Five years ago, a then-19-year Pittsburgh rapper by the name of Jamal Knox (Mayhem Mal) was sentenced to two-to-four years in prison, and one of his songs that allegedly includes threats to area police officers was used as evidence against him. Now, seven months after his appeal was denied, his fellow rappers Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Chance The Rapper, Killer Mike, Yo Gotti, Styles P and Fat Joe are trying to get the Supreme Court to revisit the case.
According to a report The New York Times published Wednesday afternoon (March 6), that aforementioned group of rappers filed a briefing urging the Supreme Court to review Knox’s case. The brief, which was filed on the grounds of Knox’s First Amendment rights, includes a primer on rap music.
In the doc, it’s said that the primer “illustrates how 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 and may falsely conclude a rapper intended to convey a true threat of violence when he did not.”
The primer’s intention is obviously one that relates to the case of Knox, who drew some unwanted attention from law enforcement with a song called “Fuck the Police.” On the track, he supposedly raps about bringing some harm to specific law enforcement figures. Although the lyrics are incendiary by any measure, Killer Mike, who’s been known to voice his opinion on matters of social justice, believes the lyrics are perceived in a particularly negative light because Knox is a Black man.
“Outlaw country music is given much more poetic license than gangster rap, and I listen to both,” Mike said in an interview with The Times. “And I can tell you that the lyrics are dark and brutal when Johnny Cash describes shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die and when Ice Cube rapped about a drive-by shooting early in his career.”
Knox’s lawyer, R. Stanton Jones, echoes Killer Mike’s sentiment. “While famous rappers like Eminem win Grammy Awards and make millions off the violent imagery in their songs, judges and juries are routinely convinced that lesser-known rap artists are somehow living out their lyrics as rhymed autobiography,” explained Jones, who believes the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was wrong to review Knox’s lyrics by reading them off of print-outs.
The court maintains its belief that Knox’s lyrics indicated plans to actually harm the people he mentioned on the song, which would put them outside the realm of the First Amendment’s protection.
This news comes up just about a day after Jay-Z’s Roc Nation helped one sixth grade student out with an apparent First Amendment issue. Last month, one Florida student named Jabari Talbot was arrested after he refused to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag. On March 5, Roc Nation confirmed that the case against Talbot had been dismissed.
See Photos of Meek Mill’s Different Looks Over the Years