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Megan Thee Stallion, Coldplay and Future are among a group of artists and music industry figures calling for restrictions on the use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence in US court.
A new open letter titled Art on Trial: Protect Black Art includes the support of the three major record labels, Warner, Sony and Universal, and companies such as Spotify, TikTok and YouTube Music.
Momentum for their unified argument has already been supported — and won. On Oct. 3, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the state legislature’s Assembly Bill 2799—also known as the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act. The law will prevent the use of rap lyrics in prosecutions.
Rap Lyrics Can No Longer Be Used as Evidence in California After Gov. Newsom Signs New Bill https://t.co/WNyWHAK8dR
— Variety (@Variety) September 30, 2022
“In courtrooms across America, the trend of prosecutors using artists’ creative expression against them is happening with troubling frequency,” the letter drafted and published by Warner Music Group reads. “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.”
The letter, which was written and published by Warner and published on 1 November in the New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, asks prosecutors to end the “racially targeted” practice of using rap evidence in trials, and for legislators at the state and federal level to limit how such work can be used against defendants.
Young Thug's lyrics from his tracks 'Ski', 'Slatty', and most ironically 'Take it to Trial' are to be used as evidence in court. pic.twitter.com/OJX8iU4RuL
— DailyRapFacts (@DailyRapFacts) May 26, 2022
According to The Guardian, the letter draws on allegations facing Jeffery Lamar Williams (AKA Young Thug) and other members of his Young Stoner Life record label. In May, the rapper’s lyrics were mentioned in an indictment for suspicion of gang involvement and other offenses, as they allegedly constituted “an overt act in furtherance of this conspiracy.” Lyrics by label mate Gunna were accused of the same offense.