Several hip hop heavyweights are uniting to appeal the sentencing of rapper Mayhem Mal (real name Jamal Knox).
Killer Mike, Meek Mill, Chance the Rapper, 21 Savage, Yo Gotti, and Fat Joe recently sent a brief to the Pennsylvania Supreme court arguing why the courts should consider reviewing Knox's case. In 2014, Knox received a two-year prison sentence over a song he posted in 2012 titled "F—k the Police." The rapper, 18 years old at the time, was disgruntled with law enforcement when he recorded the song. He was arrested by two Pittsburgh officers who allegedly found 15 bags of heroin in his vehicle, a loaded stolen firearm, and cash, CBS Pittsburg reports.
On the explicit track, Knox directly addressed the officers who apprehended him. He also reportedly rapped about "kill[ing]" cops and felt the song should have been protected by the First Amendment. However, the courts found his diss record constituted terroristic threats and witness intimidation.
"The calling out by name of two officers involved in (Knox's) criminal cases who were scheduled to testify against him and the clear expression repeated in various ways that these officers are being selectively targeted in response to prior interactions with (Knox), stand in conflict with the contention that the song was meant to be understood as fiction," a Chief Justice for the State Court wrote.
Knox appeal was denied and now rappers like Chance, Meek, and Savage are speaking up on his behalf.
The rappers released their brief hoping to explain the history of hip hop to the courts and give context to violent lyrics often featured in rap. "A person unfamiliar with what today is the nation's most dominant musical genre or one who hears music through the auditory lens of older genres such as jazz, country or symphony may mistakenly interpret a rap song as a true threat of violence," a portion of the document explains.
Killer Mike sat down with the New York Times recently and argued why Knox's case is one we should all be paying attention to. "Outlaw country music is given much more poetic license than gangster rap, and I listen to both," he said. "And I can tell you that the lyrics are dark and brutal when Johnny Cash describes shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die and when Ice Cube rapped about a drive-by shooting early in his career. It's no different from stop and frisk. It's another form of racial profiling."