Published: Feb. 27, 2024 By

Group PhotoOn February 15, 2024, The University of Colorado Law School’s Black Law Students Association partnered with The Byron R. White Center Study for the Study of American Constitutional Law to host a Hip Hop and the Law Lunch Talk celebrating Black History Month and the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop. This event celebration brought together legal scholars from across the nation, including Dr. Gregory Parks, Professor of Law at Wake Forest University, Dean André Douglas Pond Cummings, Associate Dean at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, and our very own Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss of Colorado Law School. These panelists discussed the prevalent issues at the intersection of hip-hop, feminism, and criminal law to a packed-out room full of law students and professors alike. 

Hip Hop Lunch TalkIn February 2022, Dr. Parks and Frank Rudy Cooper of The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ William S. Boyd School of Law published Fight the Power: Law and Policy through Hip-Hop Songs, which brought together leading legal commentators to make sense of some of the most pressing law and policy issues in the context of hip-hop music and the ongoing struggle for Black equality. Each of the panelists at the Lunch Talk were contributors to the book and throughout the event evaluated specific hip-hop songs that have provided a pop culture lens through which to view legal and policy issues. 

Notably, Dean cummings lauded Meek Mill’s “Trauma” as illustrative of the many adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that people of color face at disproportionate rates, such as verbal and physical abuse, single-parent households, parent incarceration, family drug addiction, and other factors that statistically contribute to shorter lifespans. Hip-hop has become a means to educate and bring to light to the masses the lived experiences of systemic injustice faced by people of color in America. Ursula Davy, the Black Law Students Association President, shared,

“Getting to hear about the law within the framework of something as culturally significant as hip-hop was really interesting.” 

Lunch talk photo holding posterThe final question of the Lunch Talk centered around whether hip-hop, as it has become more mainstream and consumed by a wider audience, has maintained its poignancy in confronting social justice issues such as policing and incarceration, or if it has lost its sting to cater to the growing audience in a more palatable way. The panelists were split on how exactly the social force of hip-hop has evolved over the past thirty years, but looked to artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance the Rapper to reaffirm that hip-hop is still breaking barriers and unapologetically addressing the reality that people of color face.

Watch a full recording of the event here: