Nah I Ain’t Pass The Bar But I Know A Lil Bit: Hip Hop and the Law

“Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live.”  –KRS-One

Hip-Hop has always been more than sex, drugs and money. From the time of its inception, Hip-Hop has been racism personified. A thought provoking, real time analysis of poverty, politics, the criminal justice system and all aspects of Blackness. But what good does it do to point out a problem and offer no solutions? Matthew Murrell argues that Hip-Hop is more than a bunch of rappers complaining about life and glorifying crime—that it both comments on the legal system and pushes its own theory of justice. Murrell focuses on two parts of Hip Hop’s theory of Justice: (1) Hip-Hop’s commitment to Black Nationalism and revolutionary politics and (2) its rejection of social control.

The article sites some of the most famous Hip-Hop thinkers like Public Enemy, Mos Def, Jay Z, NWA and OutKast and uses lyrics as evidence of Hip-Hop’s contribution to legal analysis and critical race theory. Take, for example, this verse from Paris’s “The Devil Made Me Do It”:

Pro-black and it ain’t no joke
. . . .
And keep in tune, on point, on target
The revolution won’t be thwarted

A setback ’cause, my man, it’s plain to see
Lost in a white supremacy
. . . .
And now you know just why a Panther went crazy
The devil made me

This song, an obvious nod to the Black Panthers and their contribution to the Black Liberation movement, is just one of many used in the article and in hip-hop, in general, to comment on racism in America. The article goes on to explain that much of hip-hop in the 1990s also shows its support of the Black Panther Party. I’d go even further to point out a Rick Ross song from the early 2000’s called “Tears of Joy”. The song begins with a sound byte from Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party.

The article goes on to discuss hip-hop’s comments on the persecution of Black men by white police officers, an issue that sits squarely on our laps still to this day. This article explains exactly how important hip-hop is to Black culture, but it also shows us that even the least intelligent, most dangerous, vicious, aggressive and savage part of the human race, have the ability to recognize and analyze its position in society.

Photo via Unsplash


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