New York’s state Senate passed a bill that would limit how the use of rap lyrics can be presented as evidence in court, Pitchfork reports.
New York’s State Senate approved Bill S7527, also known as “Rap Music on Trial,” Tuesday (May 17), which would limit prosecutors’ use of song lyrics and other forms of “creative expression” as evidence in criminal cases. The bill will not exclude the use of song lyrics altogether, but prosecutors will now have to argue that the lyrics are “literal, rather than figurative or fictional.”
The bill was sponsored by Senators Jamaal Bailey and Brad Hoylman and received public support from influential hip-hop artists such as Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Fat Joe, and more.
In January, Jay’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, sent a letter to state lawmakers urging the bill to be passed per Complex.
“This is an issue that’s important to (Jay-Z) and all the other artists that have come together to try to bring about this change,” Spiro said. “This is a long time coming. Mr. Carter is from New York, and if he can lend his name and his weight, that’s what he wants to do.”
The use of rap lyrics used as evidence is not uncommon. Rapper Mac Phipps was convicted of manslaughter in 2001, and prosecutors cited his lyrics as evidence during his trial. Phipps reflected on what this bill being passed meant to him.
“Criminal cases should be tried on factual evidence, not the creative expression of an artist, but unfortunately, hip hop has been held to a very different standard in the criminal justice system within the last three decades,” Phipps said per the outlet. “The passage of the New York bill gives me hope that situations like the one that I faced will be prevented from happening to other artists in the future.”
Before the bill can be enacted, it must still pass the state assembly.
The passing of Bill S7527 comes just a week after Young Thug, Gunna, and other members of YSL were hit with RICO charges in which prosecutors have been relying on song lyrics impart for their indictment.