California becomes the first state in the country to limit the use of rap lyrics as circumstantial evidence on Friday.
Governor Newsom signed a bill that will limit the use of “creative content” against rappers and musicians in the state. Their lyrics cannot be used against them as evidence unless a judge reviews and approves them.
AB 2799 — or The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act is the first bill of its kind and comes after rappers Young Thug and Gunna were indicted by authorities with the help of the lyrics they’ve used in songs.
Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, who introduced the bill, stated that AB 2799 “will give judges needed guidance for evaluating whether a creative expression is admissible during a criminal trial and provides a framework which will ensure creative expression will not be used to trigger or reinforce stereotypes or activate racial bias.”
Dina Polt, an entertainment attorney, said in part:
This legislation sets up important guardrails that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression. Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for setting the standard. We hope Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a nationwide problem.
Rap Lyrics Bill Introduced To Congress
A similar bill was introduced to Congress by lawmakers in July. According to Billboard, the ‘Restoring Artistic Protection Act,’ also known as the RAP Act, would limit the use of artistic or creative evidence against the person who created it.
Music industry professionals have been lobbying for a law of this kind for years. Of course, with such a split congress, it’s unclear whether the new federal bill has any real chance of passage. Artists have celebrated today’s announcement like #MeekMill, who’d had his music cited during a previous run-in with the law.
Chairman and CEO Kevin Liles of 300 Elektra Entertainment called out the prosecutors during Young Thug’s bond hearing last month for attempting to use the rapper’s lyrics to prosecute him, saying:
This racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph. Authorities are criminalizing black creativity and artistry, and this bill will help end that. We must protect Black art.
Judge Rules NBA YoungBoy’s Lyrics Can’t Be Used Against Him
Most recently, a judge prevented prosecutors from using NBA YoungBoy’s lyrics against him in a federal firearms case.
NBA YoungBoy‘s trial for gun possession began on Tuesday (July 12). In a ruling in court today, Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California shut down the prosecution’s attempts to use the Baton Rouge, La. rhymer’s lyrics as evidence. XXL has confirmed the ruling.
He was later found not guilty of all charges.