Azealia Banks wrote a song about executing Elon Musk. Is that legal?
Azealia Banks teased new music on her Instagram Tuesday night, and one song in particular, "96'Corolla (Motorman)," seems to be a thinly-veiled fantasy about executing Elon Musk.
The song is about an “ungrateful technocrat who's [sic] ego becomes too big for his britches,” according to the since-deleted post. The song’s villain, Alon Dust, is plotting to use the brains of the poor to power his neural network, Neuralink. But things go sideways when Neuralink recognizes Dust himself as a threat. The AI overlord, played by Banks in the song (but originally written for Poppy, according to the Instagram post), decides to cut the technocrat’s neural activity off via satelite, “rendering him a vegetable and erasing him as a threat to humanity.”
Banks has had a bone to pick with Musk since last August, when she flew to LA to collaborate on a single with his girlfriend Claire Boucher, aka Grimes. Banks alleged Grimes never showed and she was left alone to wander Musk’s mansion “for days” and said it was “like a real life episode of Get Out.”
In a string of mostly now-deleted Instagram posts, Banks railed against the singer and the tech tycoon, calling Grimes a "dirty-sneaker-inbred-out of the woods Pabst beer pussy methhead-junkie" and Musk a "trash ass beta male" with "pork skin."
The rapper is hardly the first to compare Musk to a Bond villain-in-the-making, but the fact that her song clearly and specifically envisions the execution of a powerful public figure throws the ethics and legality of her creativity into question. Freedom of Speech debates rage in America today, and many of the arguments involve social media.
In 2014, a man named Anthony Elonis was sentenced to 44 months in prison for a series of posts he made on Facebook, mostly in the form of rap lyrics, threatening to harm his estranged wife and a female police officer. Elonis ended many of the posts with the lines, “Art is about pushing limits. I’m willing to go to jail for my constitutional rights. Are you?” In 2015, the US Supreme Court heard his case on appeal to settle the narrow legal standard of what constitutes a “true threat” versus harmless creative fantasizing. The justices reversed Elonis’ conviction in an 8-1 decision — but they didn’t decide the case on First Amendment grounds. The court said the government just couldn’t prove whether Elonis intended to act from his Facebook alone.
It’s unclear how Banks’ foray into “revenge art” will play out in the court of public opinion or the actual legal system. But she arguably knows Musk and Grimes personally. She could potentially harbor ill-will towards them. But come on, "96'Corolla (Motorman)” is a work of science fiction. There’s no way Banks would advocate for actual violent revolution against the capitalists, right?