Over 100 artists signed a letter calling for an end to the use of lyrics in criminal trials across the U.S.. The letter was drafted by WMG, and cosigned by Sony Music Group, SiriusXM, Spotify, TikTok, and others. The artists to put their names on it are 50 Cent, Lil Baby, J. Cole, Jack Harlow, John Legend, Killer Mike, Alicia Keys, Camila Cabello, Christina Aguilera, Coldplay, DJ Khaled, Drake, Future, and many more.
“In courtrooms across America, the trend of prosecutors using artists’ creative expression against them is happening with troubling frequency,” the letter begins. “Regardless of the medium – music, the visual arts, writing, television, film – fans implicitly understand that creative expression is rooted in what artists see and hear; it’s a reflection of the times we live in. The final work is a product of the artist’s vision and imagination. Rappers are storytellers, creating entire worlds populated with complex characters who can play both hero and villain. But more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry.”
In the letter, the group praised the work of Governor Gavin Newsom and also noted the work of Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the U.S. Congress, who introduced the RAP (Restoring Artistic Protection) Act. The letter was published in the New York Times.
California passed legislation that will regulate the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials.
The State Assembly voted in favor of AB 2799, after the State Senate unanimously approved the bill, and now the bill goes to Governor Gavin Newsom, who can sign it into law. The law bans rap lyrics from the courtroom unless prosecutors can prove they’re directly relevant to facts. California will be the first to pass the bill, as New York attempted to do so, but failed to get approval from the Assembly.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Chairman & CEO Mitch Glazier fired off a letter in support of AB 2799.
“When rap and Hip Hop artists adhere to this time-honored tradition of make-believe, their lyrics are too often—and unfairly—taken literally, stripped of the poetic license afforded other genres.” said Glazier.