Sonic Jihad — Muslim Hip Hop in the Age of Mass Incarceration

11 Florida Intl. L. Rev. 201 (2015)

19 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by SpearIt


University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: April 19, 2016


This essay examines hip hop music as a form of legal criticism. It focuses on the music as critical resistance and “new terrain” for understanding the law, and more specifically, focuses on what prisons mean to Muslim hip hop artists. Losing friends, family, and loved ones to the proverbial belly of the beast has inspired criticism of criminal justice from the earliest days of hip hop culture. In the music, prisons are known by a host of names like “pen,” “bing,” and “clink,” terms that are invoked throughout the lyrics. The most extreme expressions offer violent fantasies of revolution and revenge, painted within a cosmic worldview that likens present conditions to the slave system that first brought African Muslims to America as slaves. The discursive war challenges the notion that the most radical voices in Muslim America are to be found in mosques or other Muslim gatherings. Such a position must contend with this sonic jihad and its aural assault against prisons. These artists arguably represent the most radical Islamic discourse in America today that undoubtedly ranks Muslim rappers among the most cutting-edge critics of mass incarceration.

Keywords: Hip hop, Muslims, sonic jihad, prisons, incarceration, Islam, rap

Suggested Citation

SpearIt, Sonic Jihad — Muslim Hip Hop in the Age of Mass Incarceration (April 19, 2016). 11 Florida Intl. L. Rev. 201 (2015), Available at SSRN:

SpearIt (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

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Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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