Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Just Out: "Hip Hop and the Law"

The Carolina Academic Press has just published Hip Hop and the Law, edited by the late Pamela Bridgewater, Donald Tibbs and andré douglas pond cummings.  The Book is available at the CAP website and on Amazon.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lil' Wayne Sues Cash Money

public domain
"What I'm Doing, Getting Money; What We Doing, Getting Money;
What They Doing, Hating On Us; But They Neva Cross;
Cash Money Still a Company and B***h, I'm The Boss"

-Li'l Wayne in "Stuntin' Like My Daddy"

Recently, Lil' Wayne filed a $51 million lawsuit against Cash Money Records, for allegedly failing to pay him millions of dollars in royalties due.  Cash Money is still a company but, apparently, a very unscrupulous one; at least, according to Little Wayne, who has now changed his tune about his affinity for the record label.  In a 21-page lawsuit filed by Wayne (real name: Dwayne Carter, Jr.), the rapper brings to light the shady dealing of his "daddy" Birdman and Cash Money.  Wayne alleges that:

-He does not even own his own label, Young Money Entertainment.  Birdman is 51% owner.

-Cash Money failed to provide accounting statements to Young Money for years.

-Cash Money has failed to provide monthly accounting statements and/or failed to pay Young Money its share of receipts with regard to Drake’s recordings, who is signed to Young Money.

-Cash Money has failed to pay Young Money any royalties for recordings owned by Young Money.

-Cash Money failed to properly register the copyright in the Young Money Label recordings as jointly owned by Cash Money and Carter/Young Money LLC.

-Cash Money refused to sign artists that Wayne brought to Young Money.

-Cash Money failed to pay third parties (i.e. producers) involved in Young Money projects.

After some back and forth following the filing of the lawsuit, Lil' Wayne dismissed the suit originally filed in New York and refiled in Louisiana where Wayne was originally signed by Cash Money.  Cash Money threatened to challenge the venue if the case remained in New York.  The dispute continues with Lil' Wayne determined to get out of his contract with Cash Money.

It seems Wayne is the one hating on Cash Money now, to the tune of a $51 million lawsuit.  That's a lot A Millis.

co-drafted by Grant Stupeck, 2L, Indiana Tech Law School and andré douglas pond cummings

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Executed for a Broken Taillight

Walter L. Scott, U.S. Coast Guard Photo
Hip hop has long decried police brutality and the hyperpolicing of black communities.  In 2015, it appears that the problems of police killing and racial profiling are continuing and perhaps growing, not dissipating.  When jaywalking, selling loose cigarettes, and driving with a broken taillight end up in the death of the African American citizens, we have a compelling need to reform policing.

Take for example the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.  Before the video became public, the story told by police officer Michael Slager was one of justified killing.  "He took my taser" was his tagline and "I was in fear for my life" would have been the testimony, just as it was for a carefully-coached officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson.  However, here, the video simply cannot support a story of "stolen taser" and "fear for life."  The video shows Officer Slager shooting a slowly running away Walter Scott in the back eight times.  Any reasonable viewing of the video shows a calm and callous Slager not only firing eight times without giving further chase, but then that Slager later picks something up that was at his feet when shooting, carries it to the prone Scott and drops it down next to the body (the taser?).  Officer Slager has been charged with murder.  Video is here.

Law Professor and Vice-Provost Dorothy Brown discusses the events above and deconstructs them for CNN in "Did Cops Learn From Mistakes of Ferguson?" posted earlier today.  Professor Brown writes:

"This time the stage was set in North Charleston, South Carolina, a city of about 100,000 people. Walter Scott was stopped by Officer Michael Slager for a broken taillight, and within minutes Scott was dead. According to the incident report, Slager said: "Shots fired, and the subject is down. He took my Taser." His attorney at the time, David Aylor, said that Slager "felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon."

But then came the video.

We watched in horror as we saw Slager shoot Scott in the back multiple times. Then we saw Slager pick up something from one location and place it near Scott's lifeless body. On Tuesday, the officer was arrested on murder charges. North Charleston police Chief Eddie Driggers told reporters, "I have watched the video, and I was sickened by what I saw." Apparently so was Slager's attorney, who announced after the video was made public that he was no longer representing the officer."

As we argue repeatedly in this blog space, the United States must get it right by reforming carceral policy in this nation and figuring out a different and better way to police our citizens.  We have suggestions . . .

cross-posted on the Corporate Justice Blog

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In Memoriam - Pamela Bridgewater

Pamela Bridgewater - RIP
On December 27, 2014, our community lost a fierce and devoted legal scholar, activist, teacher, and friend when Professor Pamela Bridgewater passed away after battling cancer for several years.  Pam lived a life full of giving mentorship and dedicated activism.  She was an innovator and a creative thinker.  She believed that the law could give voice to the powerless.  Pam was a feminist who wrote about reproductive rights.  Pam was a hip hop head that wrote about hip hop's impact on law and culture.  She co-founded this blog, HipHopLaw.com.  She founded Roots and Reality at American U. Law School.  She is the co-author of the forthcoming, first-of-its-kind casebook, Hip Hop and the Law (Carolina Academic Press).

Pam Bridgewater was all of these things and more.  To me, she was a soulful human being.  She cared about peace and justice.  She cared about the success and potential impact of her colleagues and friends.  She was gentle yet forceful when pushing for innovative change in the law or important revisions on book manuscripts.  Pam fought for affirmative action, recognition of equal marriage rights, reproductive rights for women and particularly women of color, and urged all who knew her to get behind these equal rights.

At base, Pam loved well, lived well, and left a legacy of mentorship, equality, and fierce activism.  She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.  She was loved by many.  Pamela Bridgewater's passing leaves a void in the legal academy that will be difficult to fill.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, February 1, 2015, at the Women's National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hip Hop's Role in Teaching Communication Skills

Nick Sciullo
Hip Hop Law Blog contributor Nick Sciullo has a compelling piece up at Communication Currents entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Hip-Hop: Hip Hop’s Role in Teaching Communication Skills.  In the post, Sciullo states:

"My argument is that hip-hop music is an increasingly effective tool for teaching communication. This is because many of today’s undergraduate and graduate students, as well as new professors in rhetoric, communication, and media studies grew up listening to hip-hop. Hip-hop music conveys myriad messages about love, life, law, ethics, and politics. Music has long played a central role in our lives, from the first album we bought with our own money to our prom songs, wedding songs, and the like. Many significant events and time periods in United States history, including the Civil Rights Movement, the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, become tied to music."

Check out the rest of the piece here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gangsta Rap Lyrics as Evidence of Guilt?

Today, the New York Times caught up with what Professors Donald Tibbs and Andrea Dennis have been talking about, even sounding a warning bell against, for years.  In the Times story "Legal Debate on Using Boastful Rap Lyrics as a Smoking Gun," reporter Lorne Manly describes the growing trend amongst prosecutors across the nation to use gangsta rap lyrics in charging crimes and trying young black men primarily for crimes allegedly committed based on gangsta rap lyrics scribed by the young men charged.

Manly writes of the "more than three dozen prosecutions in the past two years in which rap lyrics have played prominent roles. The proliferation of cases has alarmed many scholars and defense lawyers, who say that independent of a defendant’s guilt or innocence, the lyrics are being unfairly used to prejudice judges and juries who have little understanding that, for all its glorification of violence, gangsta rappers are often people who have assumed over-the-top and fictional personas."

This story shines a spotlight on this "new," yet age-old practice of discriminatory prosecution, where primarily white prosecutors are seeking to convict primarily young men of color for hip hop lyrics used as evidence of guilt, when musical genres of all types engage in the same sort of specific violent and profane lyrics.  Of course, rock, country, and metal receive no attention from law enforcement, but instead are viewed as first amendment expression, rather than literal behavior. Manly writes "Those who oppose the use of the lyrics say prosecutors have singled out rap as a literal evocation of reality when the lyrics in other musical genres have long been acknowledged as fictional."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Michigan Law School Panel

On March 14, 2014, at the University of Michigan Law School, Professors Donald Tibbs and andré douglas pond cummings will present "Hip-Hop Mass Incarceration, and the Private Prison Industrial Complex" at 12 noon in Hutchins Hall, Room 100.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

courtesy of Alex Simms/Wikimedia Commons

We at the Hip Hop Law Blog are grateful to our readers, commentators, and contributors.  Thanks to all of you that support our work, challenge our insights, and work with us toward social and racial justice. 

Happy New Year to all of our readers and supporters.  We wish everyone a safe and prosperous 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hip Hop and the Law: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement

Professors Donald Tibbs, Pamela Bridgewater and andré douglas pond cummings have agreed in principle to publish their anthology "Hip Hop and the Law: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement," with the Carolina Academic Press, slated to appear in Fall 2014.  This book project is based primarily on the Hip Hop and the American Constitution course offered in 2012 at Drexel Law and West Virginia Law, and the "Evolution of Street Knowledge" symposium hosted at WVU Law School, keynoted by Cornel West and Talib Kweli in 2009.

Hip Hop and the Law will feature 30 contributing authors who have critically interrogated American law through the lens of hip hop and the hip hop generation.  The subject matter ranges from constitutional issues such as search and seizure, copyright, trial by jury, prison policy, trademark to gender and hip hop and private prison corporate profit, and much more.  The anthology promises to be pathmarking. Updates will be provided periodically here at the Hip Hop Law Blog.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Papers of the 2012 Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection Conference: Hip Hop, Education & Expanding the Archival Imagination

The Papers of the 2012 Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection Conference: Hip Hop, Education & Expanding the Archival Imagination has now been published.  The file is available here.  Last Fall the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center (Clark Atlanta University, Spellman College, Morehouse College, and Interdenominational Theological Center) hosted a conference that brought together scholars from across disciplines and across the world.  This blogs very own, andré douglas pond cummings and Nick J. Sciullo both presented.  Sciullo's paper can be found at pp. 32-37 of the conference proceedings.  

This interdisciplinary exploration of Tupac, hip-hop, and the archival imagination should be of tremendous interest to hip hop, law, criminology, and librarianship scholars.

-- Nick J. Sciullo

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Momentum Shift in the Failed War on Drugs

Important news last week out of Washington D.C.:  The Justice Department will not challenge state laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize marijuana and will abruptly change focus in the prosecution of the War on Drugs.  In what is no doubt bad news to the private prison industry, federal enforcement will now shift focus from scooping up low level, non-violent drug offenders and instead prioritize stopping large drug cartels and kingpin operations.

From CNN:  "Under the new guidelines,  federal prosecutors are required to focus on eight enforcement priorities, including preventing marijuana distribution to minors,preventing drugged driving, stopping drug trafficking by gangs and cartels and forbidding the cultivation of marijuana on public lands. . . . 

Nineteen states and the District ofColumbia allow some legal use of marijuana, primarily for medicinal
purposes.  The attorney general told  the Washington and Colorado governors that the Justice Department will work with the states to craft regulations that fall in line with the federal priorities, and reserves the right to try to block the laws if federal authorities find repeated violations."

As private prison profiteers have raked in billions of dollars of taxpayer money warehousing low level marijuana users, this shift in focus will now harm bottom line profitability.  Private prison corporations, perhaps anticipating the impending sea change, have already re-focused efforts to fill prison beds and maintain profitability by lobbying furiously for detention policies that imprison immigrants.  The next battle against the perverse incentives that motivate private prison corporations is shaping up to take place along immigration reform lines.

Hip hop has long exposed the discrimination and racism inherent in the prosecution of the War on Drugs calling for its end.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Failed War on Drugs and Hip Hop

Attorney General Eric Holder
Terrific news this week for those interested in fairness and justice in connection with the failed War on Drugs in the United States.  Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will end its ridiculous prosecution of low level, non violent drug offenders as mandated for so long by the skewed sentencing guidelines, that locked up low level offenders for time periods one typically would associate with drug kingpins and cartel bosses.

Holder reasoned:  "'Too many Americans go to  too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason,' Holder told the American Bar Association's House of  Delegates in San Francisco.  He questioned some assumptions about the criminal justice system's approach to the 'war on drugs,' saying that excessive incarceration has been an 'ineffective and unsustainable' part of it.  Although he said the United States should not abandon being tough on crime, Holder embraced steps to address 'shameful' racial disparities in sentencing, the budgetary strains of overpopulated prisons and policies for incarceration that punish and rehabilitate, 'not merely to warehouse and  forget.'"

From the New York Times:  "In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration moved . . . to ease the overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses."

The Hip Hop Law Blog has often reported on the massive failures associated with the War on Drugs, including the perverse involvement of the private prison industry on the continuing incarceration of American citizens for "no truly good law enforcement reason," but instead to increase profits for executives and shareholders.  The private prison corporation regime has for years lobbied for draconian mandatory minimum sentences in order to increase the length of time that low level prisoners would remain incarcerated.

Artists like Talib Kweli, Lil' Wayne, Mos Def, Common, and many others have repeatedly pointed out the failures in the War on Drugs and the perversity of the prison industrial complex.

cross-posted on the Corporate Justice Blog.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lauryn Hill Reports to Prison

Lauryn Hill - Wikimedia Commons/Brennan Schnell

Last week, Lauryn Hill's tax issues landed her in a prison cell.  Hill was sentenced to three months in federal prison for failing to file tax returns on earnings of more than $1.8 million purportedly collected on royalties between 2005 and 2007.  She will serve her three months in the low security female facility in Danbury, Connecticut.

Hill's prison sentence highlights the disparities that exist between artists and the music industry.  Hill has sold more than 16 million records, but "lives modestly considering the amount of money her music has earned for others."  When she appeared before the court in May 2013, she stated:  "Someone did the math, and [record sales] came to around $600 million, . . . And I sit here before you trying to figure out how to pay a tax debt? If that's not like enough to slavery, I don't know."

According to CNN Entertainment: "The U.S. attorney's office said that the income in question was earned mainly from music and film royalties that were paid to companies she owned from 2005 to 2008. According to the prosecutor, the sentence handed down 'also takes into account additional income and tax losses for 2008 and 2009 -- when she also failed to file federal returns -- along with her outstanding tax liability to the state of New Jersey, for a total income of approximately $2.3 million and total tax loss of approximately $1,006,517.'"

Following her three months in federal prison, Hill will serve three months of home confinement followed by a year of supervised probation.  Reportedly, Hill has signed a new record deal agreeing to produce new music in order to pay the fines, penalties and back taxes.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hip Hop and the Law Isn't Just for the Academy: A Practitioner's Take on Kanye West and Family Law

From the email files...

Attorney Joshua E. Stern recently emailed HipHopLaw.com to tell us about some work he had done on Kanye West and Illinois family law.  Have a question about child support?  Kanye's got your answers according to Stern in this post.

Joshua Stern works in Evanston, Illinois, not far from Northwestern University.  He received his J.D. from Emory and B.S. from DePaul.  While at Emory he worked on the Emory International Law Review.  And, aside from this impressive pedigree, he's a bit of a hip hop aficionado.

Councilor Stern's post highlights a key point we at HipHopLaw have been trying to make, namely that hip hop has influenced and will continue to influence lawyers, law students, legal activists, and legal scholars.  The point is not that hip hop solves all of the world's problems, or that only hip hop can help us understand the law, but is instead that hip hop is an important way many people come to understand the law and that to understand law we must be cognizant of the influences popular culture has on popular conceptions of law.  In short, hip hop can help us.  If  clients or students come into our office, sometimes it's easier to explain things using Kanye or Jay-Z than talking about Blackacre or a "bundle of rights."

How are other practitioners thinking about hip hop?  We'd like to know...

Photo credits: Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern and UPROXX.com.

-- Nick J. Sciullo