You may not have thought a rapper like Jay-z would have much to say about something like, say, the Fourth Amendment. Well, you’re wrong because Jay-Z the rich rapper has some interesting observations on such matters as traffic stopping and things like two party consent for audio recording.
The rapper-law article appeared in the St Louis University Law Journal (see: Fourth Amendment Article)and included some sage words from the rich rapper on some interesting legal observations, such as the second verse in his album “99 Problems” which author Caleb Mason wrote:
“99 Problems is a song by Jay-Z. It’s a good song. It was a big hit in 2004. I’m writing about it now because it’s time we added it to the canon of criminal procedure pedagogy. In one compact, teachable verse (Verse 2), the song forces us to think about traffic stops, vehicle searches, drug smuggling, probable cause, and racial profiling, and it beautifully tees up my favorite pedagogical heuristic: life lessons for cops and robbers.”
As the WSJ Law Blog writes:
The verse in question, whose 24 lines can be found high in Mason’s piece, briefly discusses an encounter the narrator has with the police after being pulled over for “doing fifty-five in a fifty-four.”
Mason goes through the verse, line by line. The result, in our opinion is both instructive and, well, amusing. (What’s funny about it, you ask? It’s hard to put a finger on it, exactly, but something about the juxtaposition of the languages here — Jay-Z’s set against Mason’s professorial tone — that make us giggle slightly.)
One of our favorite snippets of textual analysis:
Line 8: Do you know what I’m stopping you for?
This is an important part of any traffic-stop colloquy that should be memorialized by the prudent driver, ideally on a cell phone, unless you are (unluckily) in one of the thirteen states that require two-party consent for audio recording. Neither New York nor New Jersey is on the list, so Jay-Z could record the stop, both the real one and the one in the video. His West Coast rivals are not so lucky, however: California is a two-party consent state.
Memorialization of the stated basis for the stop is important because the government must be able to show that the stop was based on probable cause, and you’ll be able to put the cop on the stand. So if you later develop evidence that you were not in fact doing what the officer said you were at the time, the officer will either have to fight the evidence, or else come up with a different basis for the stop, in which case he’ll have to contradict his contemporaneous explanation. This can happen, and judges find it most displeasing.