Via The Guardian and Slate, a law professor analyses (verse 2 of) 99 Problems, a 2004 song by Jay-Z, from the point of view of criminal law: Caleb Mason, Saint Louis University School of Law, Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps.
1. The year is ‘94 and in my trunk is raw
2. In my rearview mirror is the motherfucking law
3. I got two choices y’all, pull over the car or
4. Bounce on the double put the pedal to the floor
5. Now I ain’t trying to see no highway chase with jake
6. Plus I got a few dollars I can fight the case
7. So I . . . pull over to the side of the road
8. And I Heard “Son do you know what I’m stopping you for?”
9. “Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low?
10. Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
11. Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo?”
99 Problems is a song by Jay-Z1. 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. And as it turns out, I’m not late to the game after all: Jay-Z recently published a well-received volume of criticism and commentary that includes his own marginal notes on Verse 2 of 99 Problems.
LATER NOTE: I don’t read much US criminal law so I had to look up suppression claim – suppression of evidence (Unterdrücken von Beweismaterial?). The article is helpful to drug dealers, who need to know in exactly which circumstances evidence produced in the search of a car can be suppressed by the court because the search was unlawful, and to police, who need to know that it’s best if the K-9 unit – vehicle with drug-sniffing dogs – is already there when the vehicle is stopped.