The state v. hip-hop

Jamal Knox was sent to prison for his lyrics. The courts have a history of criminalizing rap music. “One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric,” the Supreme Court crooned in 1971, in a decision that declared public, four-letter political criticisms—like “Fuck the Draft”—to be protected speech under the First Amendment. But last week, a very different Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of Jamal Knox, a Pittsburgh rapper sentenced to two to six years in prison for his lyrics.