A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Fast Times For Lil Poopy

Lil Poopy rapping

By Jennifer Williams

The role of Michelle Tanner, the youngest of three daughters on the hit television show, “Full House,” was played by twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. They were cast when they were just six months old.

Abigail Breslin made her on-screen debut at just three years old in a television commercial. At five she starred alongside Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix in “Signs.” And at six she was cast as the lovable Olive Hoover in “Little Miss Sunshine,” a role that would earn her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 2007 Academy Awards.

And then there is Luie Rivera Jr., aka “Lil Poopy” or “Coke Boy.” Mr. Rivera, like the Olsen twins and Ms. Breslin, has found his calling early. He’s just nine years old, but he’s already gaining the attention of  “powerful people” like P. Diddy and French Montana.

A music video starring Lil Poopy has recently created a stir because the young rapper is seen slapping a grown woman’s behind and repeating the phrase “coke ain’t a bad word.” The video triggered an investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) after local police filed a complaint against the rapper’s father, Luis Rivera, alleging child abuse and/or neglect.

The Rivera’s attorney, Joseph Krowski, claims that young Luie has First Amendment protection to rap about whatever he wants, even if people find the content offensive or distasteful.

LASIS wondered if, in fact, Lil Poopy can rap freely under protection of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment protects, among other things, the right to freedom of expression and speech. In Ward v. Rock Against Racism, the Supreme Court found in 1989 that “music, as a form of expression and communication, is protected under the First Amendment.”

And courts generally provide broad protection to forms of music. Last month, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York considered a claim brought by Lindsay Lohan against rapper Armando Perez, aka Pitbull, because Mr. Perez used Ms. Lohan’s name in his song without her consent. The court found that Mr. Perez’s song, including the “I got locked up like Lindsay Lohan” lyric, was “pure First Amendment speech in the form of artistic expression . . . [which] deserves full protection.”

So Lil Poopy’s rap seems to be protected. That is until you consider the main issue here: the rapper’s age. In 1968, the Supreme Court was asked to determine in Ginsberg v. New York if an obscenity statute in New York, which prohibited the sale of material deemed to be obscene to minors under the age of 17, was unconstitutional.

The Court concluded that it “cannot say that the statute invades the area of freedom of expression constitutionally secured to minors” noting that it was “not constitutionally impermissible for New York, under this statute, to accord minors under 17 years of age a more restricted right than that assured to adults.”

Which means the broad protection given to Pitbull may be narrower than given to Lil Poopy.

As to the issues of child abuse and neglect, DCF in Massachusetts defines abuse as the non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child under age 18 which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury; or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth; or any sexual contact between a caretaker and a child under the care of that individual.”

Neglect is defined as “failure by a caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition.”

Even though Mr. Krowski claims that the nine-year-old “is a thriving, well-adjusted fourth-grader with a good home life, good grades and musical talent,” DCF will speak to everyone who lives in Lil Poopy’s home, and others who have contact with him, such as school officials.

At the center of any DCF investigation is determining what is in the best interest of the child. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts determined in 1990 that though the preference of a court is that a child be raised in the care of his parents, “that is not the case ‘if the parents have grievous shortcomings or handicaps that would put the child’s welfare in the family milieu much at hazard.’”

Is it a grievous shortcoming to allow and perhaps encourage a nine-year-old to rap like Lil Poopy? Not on its own, but in conjunction with evidence of an inappropriate  home life, it’s possible. Time and the interviews conducted by DCF will tell more.

Five years from now, Lil Poopy may be easily forgotten. Or he may be the next Jay-Z. Big Poopy, perhaps.

UPDATE, April 5, 2013:  A judge rules that there can be more fast times for Lil Poopy.

 

Comments

2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Iliakostas says:

    It seems to me that whether he grows up to be Little or Big Poopy, his mother/father/guardian should care about what this little boy is engaging in and since coke is not a bad word [as per the song/rap] and we know he’s not talking about a soda pop, Mommy and Daddy should not be so concerned about his First Amendment right, but rather his future. Most rappers never make it to the ripe old age of 40. Gee! I wonder why? Now I’m all for music, and I’m not a prude, and I do agree that he has a 1st amendment right, but as a parent I would worry about the drugs, the alcohol, and the sexual liberty that Poopy will be surrounded by. It’s the culture of rap! Listen, the Bloods and the Latin Kings didn’t get to where they are, [that would be jail] listening to Mozart! So go ahead Mr. Poopy, rap to your little heart’s content. Beware Momma and Poppa Poopy of what your son will grow up to be!

  2. Howard G. says:

    Elizabeth, I fear you’re right. I just took a look at this young fellow’s tweets, under the name @poopythedon,
    and I don’t think it’s at all appropriate for a 9 year old.

    https://twitter.com/poopythedon

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