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Rap Snitches: Examining The Ones Who Tell on Themselves

Keeping it real can be costly.

Jamie Wilson

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“Rap snitches, telling all they business, sit in the court they be they own star witness, do you see the perpetrator? Yeah I’m right here, fuck around get the whole label sent up for years”

Those lyrics were written 15 years ago by rapper MF Doom in a song (“Rap Snitches Knishes”) which was a comical take on rap artists who continuously advertise their street activity in songs, without considering the repercussion of disclosing private or dangerous information about themselves.   

Years later, that song proves to be prophetic in light of rapper Tay-K being sentenced to 55 years for a murder from 2016. Tay-K (real name Taymor McIntyre) was found guilty of murder after a home invasion turned deadly. After being charged, McIntyre was put on house arrest. This became the inspiration for his hit song “The Race.” 

In “The Race”, Tay-K gloats about breaking his house arrest and running from the law. The song skyrocketed him to stardom. 

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Live From the Gates of Hell #FreeMe

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Now it seems the song that rose him to fame will be his downfall.  Aside from other evidence used on the case, such as the victim’s girlfriend’s testimony, the prosecution cited lyrics from “The Race” to support claims of him being guilty.

In recent years, a few other rappers have had their music used against them while trying to beat their cases.

The same has happened to rapper YNW Melly for his hit “Murda on my Mind.” While on trial for a series of misdemeanors, a state’s attorney read a verse from the song in the courtroom. The song vividly spoke of gruesome murder.

Months after the song’s release, Melly was accused of murdering two of his long-time friends. He denied his involvement with the crime but YNW Melly ended up facing two counts of first degree murder and the death penalty.

Whether using song lyrics as justifiable evidence is a different debate. But it is clear that in no way has his lyrical content helped him.

Some fans have claimed that prosecutors using rap lyrics against the artists in courts of law is borderline racist, claiming the justice system often does not have the cultural range to understand the music as an art form and end up taking lyrics too literally.

 This also happened to rapper Bobby Shmurda for his hit “Hot Nigga.” In the song, Shmurda name dropped several of his gang affiliates and spoke openly about their street activity.

As the song rose in popularity, Bobby was simultaneously facing charges of possession and conspiracy to murder. The song was not officially used against him as evidence in his trial but, the head of the Brooklyn South Violence Reduction Task Force that arrested him, James Essig, believed his song was a legitimate depiction of what the rapper was actually doing in the streets.

The pattern for rappers telling on themselves is not new. And it may not even be fair to consider it as ratting themselves out.

A large part of rap’s art form is storytelling. The good, the bad, the ugly. The flashiness, the struggling, the violence. Regardless, it is obvious that what is said can, will be, and has been used against rappers.

Hip hop is a culture of keeping it real and clearly it can be costly. 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

A Communication student at the University of Baltimore who has a passion in many mediums of writing.

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