Wanted: Expert Witness in Nizzle Shizzling

In a copyright battle between two British rap bands, an English court ruled that rap lyrics should for practical purposes be considered a “foreign language,” requiring expert testimony as to their interpretation.

British band Ant’ill Mob sued another band, Heartless Crew, alleging the defendant disparaged the band’s copyright for its 2001 hit song, “Burnin’,” by remixing the song using lyrics the plaintiff considered objectionable because they allegedly refer to drugs and violence, including the terms “shizzle my nizzle,” “mish mash man,” and “string dem up.”

Even after playing the record at half speed and consulting the Urban Dictionary, Judge Kim Lewison said he could not determine the meaning of the phrases without an expert witness.

The amusing predicament of three uppercrust, white, middle-aged judges trying to unravel rap slang was not lost on Judge Kim, who commented on the “faintly surreal experience of three gentlemen in horsehair wigs examining the meaning of such phrases.”

According to the Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com), “shizzle my nizzle” means:

a bastardization of “fo’ sheezy mah neezy,” a bastardization of “for sure mah n—,” a bastardization of “I concur with you wholeheartedly my African-American brother.

Confetti Records v. Warner Music UK Ltd, [2003] EWHC 1274 (Ch). Thanks to Cynthia Cohan, Elise Hendrick, and Catherine Seville for sending this opinion. Catherine is the Director of Studies in Law at Newnham College in Cambridge and reports that Judge Lewison is “a good Cambridge man.” Indeed.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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