Some of the biggest names in rap are in support of a recently proposed New York state bill to prohibit rap lyrics from being used in criminal trials. The artists included behind the move include Jay-Z, Big Sean, Fat Joe, Killer Mike, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, and more.
Proposed in November, Bill S.7527/A.8681 — “Rap Music on Trial” — passed through a Senate Codes committee today, according to Rolling Stone, clearing the way for a vote in the bicameral state legislature. Should it pass Senate and Assembly votes, it’ll go to Governor Kathy Hochul, who Jay and his fellow signatories urged to sign the bill into law in a letter from Jay-Z’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, who co-wrote the letter along with University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson.
Professor Nielson is the author of Rap On Trial, which examines and criticizes the use of rap lyrics to paint rappers as violent individuals, biasing juries against them in trials that often have little to do with the contents of their music.
“This reform is urgently needed,” reads the letter. “Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally – in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ – even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry.”
In a statement, Senator Jamaal Bailey of the Bronx, who co-authored the bill alongside Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, said, “Presuming a defendant’s guilt based solely on musical genre or creative expression is antithetical to our foundational rights and perpetuates the systemic racism that is embedded into the criminal justice system through discriminatory conflations of hip-hop and rap with criminality.”
It wasn’t too long ago before the murder of Drakeo The Ruler, that the rapper was sentenced to two years in jail in Los Angeles by the city’s District Attorney. The prosecutor used lyrics by the artist rather than hard evidence to get him convicted. Drakeo was later released after a new District Attorney was voted in, but had lost two valuable years of freedom, a case made all the more tragic by his death in December.