CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Alexander on Hip Hop and Criminal Enforcement

Taifha Alexander has posted Chopped & Screwed: Hip Hop from Cultural Expression to a Means of Criminal Enforcement (available at on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article argues that officers, prosecutors and judges have erroneously utilized and misinterpreted Hip Hop to bolster society’s stereotypes of Black men as criminals unworthy of justice, which contributes to mass incarceration in the United States. Part I of this paper examines the mass incarceration of Black men in the United States. Part II suggests that criminal justice officials use Hip Hop to contribute to the mass incarceration of African American men in at least three ways. First, through admission of admitting rap lyrics into criminal proceedings against Black rappers. Second, through implicit biases that allow judges and police officers to hold inaccurate stereotypes against Black men because rap music sensationalizes Black men as drug dealers and abusers, which, third, contributes to many Black men being unjustly imprisoned. As a result, the perception of prison in the Black community has transformed from a form of punishment to a rite of passage. Part III of this paper suggests that the probative versus prejudicial test for admission of rap lyrics as evidence specific to a crime generally tips against the Black defendant. To demonstrate this point, the article analyzes two cases to highlight the low, oftentimes subjective, standard of the probative versus prejudicial test, which result in the inappropriate incarceration of Black men who utilized rap as a creative outlet.

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