In 2014, Jamal Knox — a then-19-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh — was sentenced to two years in prison for “issuing terroristic threats and intimidating witnesses. The charges stemmed from a song that Knox — who rapped under the name “Mayhem Mal” — recorded following his arrest for illegal drug and gun possession. In the song titled “Fuck the Police,” Knox rapped “let’s kill these cops ’cause they don’t do us no good” and named specific members of the Pittsburgh Police force. Knox’s case has now reached the Supreme Court, and on Wednesday, a collection of prominent rappers filed a brief in support of the young rapper.
According to The New York Times, the brief — which was spearheaded by Killer Mike and University of Richmond professor Erik Nielson and features contributions from Chance The Rapper, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, and 21 Savage — serves as both an attempt to contextualize Knox’s lyrics and also as a “primer on rap music and hip hop” for the Supreme Court justices, whose average age is about 66.
“This is a work of poetry. It is not intended to be taken literally, something that a reasonable listener with even a casual knowledge of rap would understand,” the brief states. “It is told from the perspective of two invented characters in the style of rap music, which is (in)famous for its exaggerated, sometimes violent rhetoric, and which uses language in a variety of complex ways. It is not intended to be taken literally, something that a reasonable listener with even a casual knowledge of rap would understand.”
You can read the full brief here.