In an op-ed for CNN, Killer Mike defends Mississippi high school student Taylor Bell who was suspended from school for recording a rap song. In the song, Bell accuses coaches at his school for engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with his female classmates. When school employees heard the song, they suspended Bell because they felt “threatened, harassed, and intimidated.”
As the case (Bell v. Itawamba County School Board) nears the Supreme Court, Killer Mike and co-writer Erik Nielson make the case that Bell wasn’t disciplined for what he said. He was disciplined for how he chose to delivered that message. “Bell wasn’t being punished for making threats against school employees, even if that was the school’s justification,” Mike writes. “Instead, he was being punished for using the wrong art form, rap music, as his voice of protest.”
His argument revolves around a double-standard that has troubled hip-hop artists for years.
“We don’t assume that Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King or Johnny Cash carry out the (sometimes extreme) violence depicted in their art — because we acknowledge it as art. But as we have noted before, rap is often denied that respect, particularly in the criminal justice system.”
Although some of Bell’s lines were violent, Killer Mike argues that they weren’t out of line with anything Ice Cube, Eminem, Jay-Z or Nas has ever said (and been celebrated for). He defends Bell on the grounds that the culture of hip-hop has been misunderstood yet again.
“Rap, which grew out of black and Latino communities that were facing urban decay at its worst, has been contentious, sometimes polarizing, for as long as it has existed. No doubt, this is in large part because of rappers’ willingness to confront institutions of power and openly defy social conventions with language that is provocative, even offensive, to some.”
Read the full piece here.