2020 has been a year of extreme ups and downs for rapper Megan Thee Stallion. Her song “Savage” topped the charts and she appeared in an episode of “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Chris Rock. On the other hand, she is engaged in a tough legal battle with her record company, 1501 Entertainment.
When Megan was 19, she signed a 360 contract with 1501, which means the label is entitled to a percentage of everything she does, from music to sponsors. However, Megan claims that she did not understand what she was signing at the time. Things came to a head last year when the label tried to stop him from releasing music. Megan took to Instagram to express her frustration, begging the label to release her. Fans joined her, showing their support by posting the hashtag #FreeMegan. The case will go to court later this year.
In Georgia State University’s new Hip-Hop and the Law course, students discuss cases like this and the many ways hip-hop artists interact with the legal system.
Professor Mo Ivory of the Faculty of Law and Professor Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences co-teach hip-hop and law to undergraduate and law students. Throughout the semester, students have the opportunity to delve into the intersection of hip-hop and various legal fields, including intellectual property, capital punishment, and immigration. Each week, they review critical moments in hip-hop legal and political history, such as the release of NWA’s “F *** the Police” in 1988, as well as timely screenings of series such as ” Free Meek “.
“Art is political and musical culture can help fight injustice, if only to educate others about the issues of marginalized communities,” said Bonnette-Bailey. “Hip-hop is a marginalized community. What are some of the problems of those who are often speechless, and how do they use culture and alternative means to make their voices heard? “
Ivory and Bonnette-Bailey are students of hip-hop culture and share a love of music.
Ivory, who grew up in the Bronx around the time rap was born, is the director of the Entertainment, Sports and Media Law Initiative at the College of Law. She has represented numerous hip-hop artists as an entertainment lawyer for 15 years and consults political campaigns on supporting hip-hop artists engaged in political activism.
Bonnette-Bailey is a hip-hop scholar whose research focuses on how hip-hop affects political attitudes and behavior. She is particularly interested in the impact of hip-hop on criminal justice reform and the Black Lives Matter movement, which she spoke about in an episode of the College of Arts & Sciences podcast. She had wanted to teach hip-hop and law for years, and when she saw what Ivory was doing in “The Legal Life of…” classes, she thought there might be a synergy.
“The first hip-hop song I memorized was ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ by Tupac Shakur,” Bonnette-Bailey recalls. “There are so many policies and laws implicit in the song such as welfare recipients, incest, and reproductive rights.”
In class, Bonnette-Bailey provides historical and political background on the content of rap lyrics while Ivory presents legal arguments and challenges hip-hop artists to American jurisprudence. Their common goal is to examine how policies have been used against the public and hip-hop artists as well as how freedoms have been used to protect hip-hop culture.
Ivory says she wants students to know that hip-hop music influences traditional economy and culture, not just African American culture.
“If students intend to practice in the field of entertainment law, aspire to be an artist, sports agent or business owner, this course teaches the relationship between hip-hop culture and all of these industries,” said Ivory. “My students will come away knowing that hip-hop culture isn’t all about downloading rap music from iTunes.”
Written by Kelundra Smith