Sunday, July 22, 2012

New Article: Jay-Z's 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps

Caleb Mason (Southwestern Law School) recently published Jay-Z's 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps in the Saint Louis University Law Journal (Vol. 56, No. 2, 2012).  The article has received mentions in the Huffington Post,, The Grio, BET,, Music Law Seminar,,, and the Wall Street Journal blog.  The YouTube video of Jay-Z's song:

The article has also inspired a Canadian response authored by Emir Crowne.  From the abstract from Mason's original article:
This is a line-by-line analysis of the second verse of 99 Problems by Jay-Z, from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor.  It’s intended as a resource for law students and teachers, and for anyone who’s interested in what pop culture gets right about criminal justice, and what it gets wrong.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Are Jay-Z and Kanye West Revolutionary?

Much has been said and written about Jay-Z and Kanye's "Watch the Throne" record.  With the 2012 release of the video "No Church in the Wild," Jay and Kanye straightforwardly invite the comparison between themselves and revolutionary historical figures.  In fact, Jay-Z has stated on the record that because he is a black man in America that has become wealthy despite racism and discrimination, that fact alone makes him a revolutionary.  Yet, with all of the bling glorification that permeates "Watch the Throne," the question remains, can you fully embrace riches and excess and still lead a revolution?

Writer Cord Jefferson takes up that question in his provocative article "What's 50 Grand to a Revolutionary Like Me?: Watch the Throne and the New Black Power."  Within, Jefferson writes: "If you're wondering what Jay and West have done, exactly, to deserve the title of neo-black power icons, the answer appears to be both straightforward and confusing: They've gotten rich. Today's black power, today's black revolution, seems to be indistinguishable from, say, Donald Trump's power, the power that comes from being able to possess a lot of stuff. You needn't take my or Global Grind's word for it; just listen to Watch the Throne for a whole host of revelations about what its creators deem worthy of celebrating. The album's second single, "Otis," finds Jay-Z proclaiming, "New watch alert!" in reference to Hublot, a Swiss watchmaker whose wares go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Later on the same song, West boasts about his "other, other Benz." On Watch the Throne's biggest hit, "Niggas in Paris," which Jay-Z and West have been performing several times a night on their current European Watch the Throne tour, Jay says he's totally forgotten the worth of $50,000."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hip Hop, Mass Incarceration and the Shoe Wars

The "shoe wars" have escalated in urban America to the point that Adidas recently believed that marketing the shoes pictured here (immediate left) was a good idea.  Jason Whitlock recently responded with a thoughtful article tracing the shoe wars back to Air Jordans, Reagan's War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

Whitlock writes:  "The outraged, well-intentioned critics of Adidas’ initial decision to launch the 'JS Roundhouse Mids' are upset about the wrong thing. They think the shackled shoes are connected to America’s despicable history of African-American slavery. They’re wrong. The shoes are an attempt to capitalize off America’s despicable drug war and subsequent mass incarceration of minority men of color."

Whitlock connects the shoe wars with Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow," identifying the massive incarceration increases in the United States in the last thirty years based primarily on a failed drug war, and recognizes that when you have a massive prison underclass, it becomes a potential profit stream at which marketing efforts can be aimed.  In this way, the shoe wars have escalated to the point that placing shackles on basketball shoes seems like a smart marketing ploy to misguided shoe designers sitting in Adidas' development meetings.

Indeed, the National Basketball Association has sought and continues to seek to profit from urban, hip hop and prison culture, while at the same time distancing itself (see NBA Dress Code as Pre-text for Racial Discrimination) from that very culture that it hopes to exploit for gain.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

SALT/LatCrit Junior Faculty Development Workshop

This announcement may be of interest to law school junior faculty and lawyers interested in entering the academy (as well as senior faculty with expertise and interests to share):

LatCrit, Inc. and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) are pleased to invite you to the Tenth Annual Junior Faculty Development Workshop (FDW), immediately preceding the SALT Teaching Conference. The conference will be held at the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore, MD.

This annual workshop is designed for critical, progressive, and social justice oriented pretenure professors, including clinicians and legal writing professors, as well as those who may be contemplating a teaching career. The FDW is designed to familiarize critical, progressive, and social justice oriented junior faculty with LatCrit and SALT principles and values and support them in the scholarship, teaching, and service aspects of professional success.

Sessions at this year's workshop will focus on entering the academy, connecting critical theory and social justice lawyering in the classroom, and developing a flourishing social justice scholarly and teaching agenda.  In addition, the workshop will offer a limited number of opportunities for FDW attendees to present mock job talks.  And this year, as part of the community building dinner, the FDW will offer an open mic night!

Registration for the FDW (which will take place in conjunction with the SALT Teaching Conference) will open on August 15.  You can obtain more information and register here.  For more information about the mock job talk opportunity, please email Professor Jonathan Glater or Professor Christopher Hines.  To sign up for the open mic night, email Professor Jaime Lee.