T.I., Killer Mike and Big Boi are among the rappers seeking First Amendment protection for a former high school rapper in a case that has been filed to the Supreme Court over a controversial rap song posted online.
The hip-hop notables will be asking the justices on Monday (Dec. 21) to hear an appeal from Taylor Bell — a former high school senior who still raps under the name T-Bizzle — who was suspended from his Fulton, Miss. high school in 2011 and sent to a different school for uploading an original track that called out two coaches for allegedly sexually harassing several female students. They will also be briefing the court on hip-hop, as their musical tastes veer towards opera.
“The government punished a young man for his art — and, more disturbing, for the musical genre by which he chose to express himself,” the brief says, according to the New York Times.
The track — originally released as “P.S. Koaches The Truth Need to be Told” — finds Bell saying, “Looking down girls’ shirts, drool running down your mouth / Going to get a pistol down your mouth.” Killer Mike said that he hopes the justices would treat the violent images in Bell’s song as they would vivid lyrics from the likes of Johnny Cash — who sang “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” on “Folsom Prison Blues” — and Bob Marley, whose catalog includes the 1973 track “I Shot the Sheriff.”
“Anyone who is learned in law is capable of separating art and lyrics, whether you agree with them or not, and actual human behavior,” Killer Mike told the New York Times. “I think the courts understand it when it’s Johnny Cash. I think they understand it when it’s Robert Nesta Marley.”
School officials stated in the appellate brief that Bell was guilty of harassment, intimidation and “threatening two named educators with gun-related violence.” The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case in February.
Billboard has reached out to reps for T.I., Big Boi and Killer Mike for further comment, and they did not immediately respond.