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California bill banning use of rap lyrics as evidence signed into law

After unanimous approval in the Senate and Assembly, the California bill aimed at limiting the use of rap lyrics as evidence for prosecutors in criminal cases was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday, Variation reports.

Killer Mike, Meek Mill, Too $hort, Tyga, YG, E-40, Ty Dolla $ign and Recording Academy boss Harvey Mason Jr. was among those who “participated” in the virtual bill signing.

The law will allow judges to press the prosecutor’s office about the formula behind including texts as evidence and ask whether this injects “racial bias into the proceedings.”

“Artists of all stripes should be able to create without fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” Governor Newsom said in a statement. “California’s culture and entertainment industry sets trends around the world, and it is fitting that our state takes a national leadership role in protecting creative expression and ensuring that artists are not criminalized under partisan politics.”

“Today we celebrate an important victory for music creators in the state of California,” Harvey Mason Jr., executive director of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. suppressing any genre or form of artistic expression is a violation of all music people. The history made in California today will help pave the way forward in the fight to protect creative freedom across the country. We thank Assemblywoman Jones-Sawyer for her leadership on this issue and to Governor Newsom for recognizing the importance of protecting artistry and signing the Decriminalization of Artistic Expression Act.


The bill has similarities with the New York bill, and also seeks to limit the use of song lyrics in court. However, that legislation never made it past the state assembly. Efforts are also being made at federal level to remove rap lyrics from the back pocket of the public prosecutor’s office. The Restoring Artistic Protection Act, better known as the RAP Act, has been introduced to the House of Representatives with a similar goal of protecting creative expression from being attacked by artists in court.

According to the current law, rap artists can avoid being read their Miranda rights before they even start writing music: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the bill’s author, told Pitchfork in a statement.

He added: “We should not hinder the artists’ creative expression. Unfortunately, racial bias plays a role when talking about musical genres. Rap music lyrics share many similarities with other musical categories, but are separated out by the legal system of characterizing an artist. AB 2799 would deny prosecutors from inciting racial bias or reinforcing racial stereotypes, and it would provide judges with guidance on the use of creative expression in court.”

Conversations around the legislature especially picked up after Young Thug and Gunna were arrested in Georgia on RICO charges. The charge, especially for Gunna, depends on the rapper’s lyrics.

“It is intensely problematic that the state depends on song lyrics as part of its claims,” ​​insisted Gunna’s lawyer in a proposal that he be released on bond, which was ultimately rejected. “These texts are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal rendering of facts and circumstances. Under the state’s theory, any artist with a song that references violence could find themselves the victim of a RICO indictment.

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