Photo: Getty
  /  10.01.2022

The use of rap lyrics in criminal court cases is now restricted in the state of California. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act into law on Friday (Sept. 30). It requires a court in a criminal proceeding “to consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice.”

“Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” said Newsom. He added, “California’s culture and entertainment industry set trends around the world and it’s fitting that our state is taking a nation-leading role to protect creative expression and ensure that artists are not criminalized under biased policies.”

Killer Mike, Meek Mill, Too $hort, Ty Dollar $ign, CEO of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr., and several others all showed their support by attending a virtual signing of the legislation. “Silencing any genre or form of artistic expression is a violation against all music people. The history that’s been made in California today will help pave the way forward in the fight to protect creative freedom nationwide,” said Mason in a statement.

The bill, AB 2799, was unanimously approved by the state’s Senate and Assembly in August. High-profile criminal cases, such as the ones Young Thug and Gunna are facing in Georgia, helped the Black Music Action Coalition and state representatives push for legislation to protect artists from having their lyrics used against them in indictments.

“Today, too many artists, almost always hip-hop artists, face allegations of wrongdoing which rely heavily on their lyrics as evidence. Beyond the disregard for free speech protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph. Black creativity and artistry are being criminalized, and this bill will help end that. We must protect Black art,” said Kevin Liles, chairman and CEO of 300 Elektra Entertainment.

New York lawmakers proposed similar legislation last summer. Thus far, the proposed bill has passed in New York’s Senate but has yet to pass through the State Assembly.

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