Hip-Hop and Critical Race Theory
Kashema Hutchinson is a doctoral student in the Urban Education program at the Graduate Center (CUNY). She is currently the Co-Director of the Undergraduate Leadership Program and a Doctoral Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center at The Futures Initiative. Recently, she has facilitated discussions with incarcerated populations at the Rikers Island Facility in New York.
For 11 years, rapper Meek Mill has either been in jail or on probation. Today at the age of 32, Meek Mill is well aware of the legal system and the impact it has not only on his life, but of “Young Black America.” Meek, who has been rapping since he was an adolescent, has lyrically chronicled and highlighted the racial and economic injustices that have impinged millions of lives especially through the American court system. His first-hand accounts of the carceral continuum, challenges and critiques the judicial system and other institutions of systemic oppression. However, Meek is not the only rapper who provides critical commentary, since the birth of hip-hop culture in the 1970s rappers have been vocal about the injustices that they see on a daily basis.
The 1970s also saw the emergence of Critical Race Theory (CRT), as a response to the racial inequalities of the Civil Rights Acts of the previous decade. A tenet of CRT is the centrality of experiential knowledge in which Critical Race theorists prioritize the voices and perspectives of marginalized groups to change the unjust legal policies and procedures and social structures in the United States. There are strong similarities between hip-hop and CRT. In this Olio, we will examine the similarities of hip-hop and Critical Race Theory along with its’ theorists of the past and present such as Derrick Bell and Mari Matsuda. In addition, we will look at the discography of Meek Mill and his experiential knowledge to answer the question, is Meek Mill a Critical Race Theorist?