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Op-Ed: Should Rap Lyrics Be Used As Evidence?

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Op-Ed: Should Rap Lyrics Be Used As Evidence?
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has reignited the debate on whether lyrics should be used as evidence against rappers when facing criminal charges.

At a press conference recently, Willis gave Atlanta rappers some “legal advice, don’t confess to crimes on rap lyrics if you do not want them used, or at least get out of my county.”

“I think that you decide to admit your crimes over a beat, I’m gonna use it,” Willis said.

 

The Fulton County DA has renewed a debate on social media that has been around since the beginning of rap; should rap lyrics be taken literally as an admission of guilt?

At the beginning of 2022, a group of rap and hip-hop artists, led by Jay-Z, backed a New York Senate bill titled “Rap Music on Trial” aimed at stopping prosecutors from using rap lyrics as purported blueprints to alleged crimes.

The bill was backed by Meek Mill, Big Sean, Fat Joe, Kelly Rowland, Yo Gotti, Killer Mike, Robin Thicke, and others all as celebrity signatories.

“Our lyrics are a creative form of self-expression and entertainment – just like any other genre. We want our words to be recognized as art rather than being weaponized to get convictions in court. I hope the governor and all the lawmakers in New York take our letter into consideration, protect our artistic rights and make the right decision to pass this bill,” Fat Joe told Rolling Stone.

Rappers’ arrest reignite debate on using rap lyrics as criminal evidence

California lawmakers have since passed a similar bill, while the New York bill has stalled, forcing prosecutors to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that a rapper’s lyrics are “literal, rather than figurative or fictional.”

The bill passed both state chambers last week, and if signed by Governor Gavin Newsome, will be the first in the nation of its kind.

The debate reached a highpoint when artists Young Thug and Gunna were arrested for allegedly violating the RICO Act, with lyrics from both artists cited by prosecutors as evidence.

Young Thug and Gunna were arrested along with 26 other defendants and were charged as acting in a gang enterprise.

Despite critics of her approach, Willis said she will continue to use rap lyrics as evidence and is “not apologizing for that.”

Crime spree leads to RICO arrests

A recent string of home invasions and robberies by an Atlanta gang led to Willis’ comments. A 220-count indictment was submitted Monday, charging 26 people, with charges of carjacking, kidnapping, armed robbery, shootings, and home invasions.

The gang has allegedly targeted Atlanta-area homes of famous athletes and celebrities including Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley and Mariah Carey. 

 

Willis read off some of the lyrics used in the indictment detailing the crimes being committed; 

“Me and my crew striking out, striking in all black, send me the drop, we’ll kick in the house. If we steal a car we’re gonna take off the tag.”

“Well they’re kicking in doors, committing home invasions, and now I’m using those lyrics that they’re admitting to doing that,” Willis said.

What do you think? Should rap lyrics be used as evidence or should it be protected as artistic expression?

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