Hip Hop Experts are now Key Witnesses

by Lady Glock


In March, school officials in a school outside Pittsburgh alerted officials of a student who was writing violent rap lyrics. Soon after, 14-year old Anthony Latour was charged with terroristic threats and harrassment for the lyrics which he wrote outside of school. He was later expelled.

Now the ACLU is trying to get him re-instated into the classroom. Kim Watterson, the attorney representing Latour's case, stated in a hearing on Thursday that while the lyrics were violent, they were taken out of the context of battle rapping.

To back up her point, Watterson brought in author Bakari Kitwana as a expert witness on hip hop culture. Kitwana has written three books on hip hop culture, most notably The Hip Hop Generation.

Kitwana explained that the lyrics were a central part of the verbal challenges and that, to an outsider of the hip hop world, the words may seem strong and highly violent. But, he stressed, they are just words. An example of Latour's lyrics:

“So watch what you say about me, I'm everywhere son, And the word of mouth is that I'm carrying guns.”

Later, Kitwana said that Latour's lyrics were “amateurish” and “standard fare”, but encouraged Latour to continue his efforts in rap lyric writing.

The Judge still has not made her ruling on the case, but did appreciate Bakari Kitwana's testimony. She was quoted as saying “Probably of anyone in this room, I am the least familiar with hip-hop culture,”