Perhaps you have heard of rapper Jay-Z’s declaration concerning his “99 Problems.” Whether you love or hate the ditty for its explicit and/or offensive word choice, its content—particularly the second verse—is noteworthy. Just as police procedurals on television brought Miranda into the pop culture lexicon, “99 Problems” introduces the listener to the ins and outs of the Fourth Amendment’s terms of search and seizure. But is the content in the second verse in “99 Problems” legally sound?
Caleb Mason’s article, “Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps,” from the Saint Louis University Law Journal breaks down the verse, line by line, to determine what information is accurate and what is artistic license. (Not to spoil the article for you, but if you find yourself debating whether you should pay for a criminal procedure textbook or just download the song, I would pony up for the textbook.) Mason’s article made a splash (at least among my Facebook friends from law school) last month, and shows how law can use pop culture for a genre-crossing “teaching moment.”