Killer Mike, who’s been outspoken about justice on stage and on wax, recently cowrote a column titled “Rap’s Poetic (in)justice” with Erik Nielson in USA Today. The column, about how rap lyrics are used as evidence in criminal trials, also explains how rap is meant to help those who practice it. “In its formative years, for example, it was explicitly conceived by many as an alternative to the violent gang culture that consumed cities like New York,” Mike and Nielson say. “Since then, it has offered countless young men and women opportunities to escape the poverty and violence in America’s urban centers.”

Rap’s dark moments are also discussed in the piece. “It is true that hip-hop has been scarred by violence,” they add. “Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., for example, two of rap’s most important and influential artists, were killed in the prime of their careers. But for each instance of violence, there are countless examples of lives saved or made stronger. Trust us on this: The kids spending hours per day writing rap songs aren’t a threat to society; they are often trying to escape the threats from society.” The full column is available via USA Today.