Hip-hop is heading back to the Supreme Court thanks to a case involving Taylor Bell, a 22-year-old rapper from Mississippi. The New York Times reports that as a senior in high school in 2011, he was suspended from Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, MI for recording and posting a song that called out two coaches for a string of sexual harassments, and now some of hip-hop biggest names are attempting to urge the judges that Bell was within his rights to do what he did.
Rappers who have signed the brief include Killer Mike, T.I., Big Boi, Pharoahe Monch, Boots Riley, Jasiri X, Toni Blackman, and Favianna Rodriguez. School officials claimed that Bell’s song, called “PSK da Truth,” was guilty of harassment itself and “threatening two named educators with gun-related violence,” but Bell himself thinks that the message went over their heads. “These coaches are basically assaulting the children, even if it’s verbally,” he said in a statement.
And that wouldn’t be surprising, considering the fact that judges like Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale are condemning the song for being “Incredibly profane and vulgar” and for its “numerous spelling and grammatical errors.” Killer Mike urged the justices to approach the song the way they’d approach a song from any other genre of music: “Anyone who is learned in law,” Killer Mike argued, “is capable of separating art and lyrics, whether you agree with them or not, and actual human behavior. I think the courts understand it when it’s Johnny Cash. I think they understand it when it’s Robert Nesta Marley.”
Bell didn’t record the song on school campus, but is still being punished by officials. He and his mother are suing the school to restore his record. The court will decide whether or not the case is fit to officially go to trial in February, so here’s hoping that the Bell family gets some justice.