The use of rapper’s lyrics in court cases has been making headlines as of late. With states like New York getting big names to advocate for laws to protect artists, California may also soon be on board. Yesterday (Aug. 22), the California Senate and Assembly approved a bill to limit how lyrics from rap songs could be used against rappers in court proceedings. Now, the bill must be approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Sources say he is expected to sign it.
According to Pitchfork, if an artist’s lyrics are used during a trial, experts familiar with the genre must also be present during prosecution. The expert would show research on how rappers often fall victim to racial bias. Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer wrote the bill and shared a statement with the media. “Under current law rap artists can feel as though they are being read their Miranda Rights before they even begin to write music: ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,’” he began.
Jones-Sawyer continued, “We should not stymie the creative expression of artists. Unfortunately, racial biases play a role when talking about musical genres. Rap music lyrics share many similarities to that of other musical categories yet are singled out by the judicial system to characterize an artist. AB 2799 would disallow prosecutors from triggering racial biases or reinforcing racial stereotypes and it gives judges guidance on the use of creative expression in court.”
After New York’s similar rap lyrics bill was denied by the Assembly earlier this year, if approved by Gov. Newsom, California would become the first state to incorporate this measure. Billboard reports that lawmakers in New York will be able to re-introduce the bill during the next session. The outlet adds that Washington, D.C. may also look into similar protections for artists.