In 2011, Taylor Bell’s motive for recording the song “PSK da Truth,” was to draw attention to two coaches at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, whom were accused of committing sexual misconduct towards female students. After the song was uploaded to Facebook and YouTube, Bell’s school reacted quickly—by suspending him, an act that added a disciplinary charge to his high school record. Bell responded by suing the Itawamba County school district, fighting to get the disciplinary charge removed from his academic history. Bell argued that his first amendment rights were violated, especially since the song was recorded off school grounds. The Fifth Circuit heard the case, determining that the lyrics of “PSK da Truth” were “threatening, harassing, and intimidating and upheld the decision of the school district.
This year, Kendrick Lamar—after (finally) winning best rap album category for To Pimp A Butterfly—took the stage at the 58th Grammys, using his set to make a political statement against racial inequality and police brutality. The performance was history making, beautiful, and as expected, disturbed many.
Lamar’s performance occurred a week after Beyoncé’s use of black panther themes resulted in police officers throughout the country deciding to boycott her concerts. Fox News analyst, Geraldo Rivera said that “Alright”—of the three songs performed by Lamar—contained a message of hatred, one that “did more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.”
Lamar responded to Rivera’s interpretation of the performance, and by doing so, helped merge the gap between the author and the audience:
“This is my world.”
The frustrations of African Americans being disproportionately killed by the police is not one of fiction, but a reality that has impacted millions, especially those living in poverty-stricken communities. Lamar’s lyrics were not instructions for what young people in society should do, or what he wants them to do. His words are illustrations on where our society currently stands. For Lamar, hip-hop highlighted a problem that most may not be able to relate with personally, but many don’t see or choose to ignore: injustice.
“PSK da Truth” was a song that took an issue and brought it to the forefront of the students, teachers, and faculty of the Itawamba County school district. Currently, the Supreme Court is reviewing an amicus brief which was authored in-part by some of hip-hop’s most respected lyricists (TI, Big Boi, Killer Mike), as well with hopes that the Court will hear Bell’s case. The brief highlights the history of hip-hop, explaining a musical genre that at times, has lyrics that can paint disturbing images, but carries messages much more powerful than the words used to express it. Hopefully, the brief and the attention that Kendrick Lamar’s performance garnered is enough for the Supreme Court Justices to truly understand the messages in hip-hop.
The brief can be found here.
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