A fascinating legal article is Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps by Caleb Mason, Saint Louis University School of Law.
The author does a line-by-line analysis of the second verse of this hit rap song “from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor.” It’s a valuable and unusual exercise in brushing up on your Fourth Amendment rights as it relates to vehicle stops.
The nation surely failed its black male citizens by targeting and imprisoning them when joblessness and the crack epidemic left them with few real options. They were conveniently villainized, arrested and warehoused to help politicians, judges, prosecutors and police win the public trust.
But hip-hop also failed black America, and failed itself. It’s unavoidable that hip-hop and the war on drugs would become intertwined. But the music could have been a tool of resistance, informing on the drug war’s hypocrisies instead of acquiescing to them. Hip-hop didn’t have to become complicit in spreading the message of the criminalblackman, but the money it made from doing so was the drug it just couldn’t stop getting high on.