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Jay-Z and Meek Mill supporting legislation to limit use of rap lyrics in criminal trials

Written by on January 20, 2022

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Reform Alliance

Jay-Z and Meek Mill are among the artists supporting a bill in the New York State legislature that would restrict the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials.

Fat Joe, Robin Thicke, Killer Mike and many more joined the duo in signing a letter to New York lawmakers demanding the reform, according to Billboard. Senate Bill S7527, known as “Rap Music on Trial,” which would limit the admissibility of someone’s music as evidence against them in a criminal trial.

“This reform is urgently needed,” wrote Alex Spiro, Jay-Z’s attorney, and Erik Nielson, a professor at the University of Richmond who wrote a book on the subject. “This tactic effectively denies rap music the status of art and, in the process, gives prosecutors a dangerous advantage in the courtroom: by presenting rap lyrics as rhymed confessions of illegal behavior, they are often able to obtain convictions even when other evidence is lacking.”

If passed, prosecutors could only present rap lyrics to jurors if they can show that an expressive work is “literal, rather than figurative or fictional.”

Jay-Z’s letter cited a study that showed participants viewed violent rap lyrics more threatening than violent lyrics from a country song. “No other fictional form, musical or otherwise, is (mis)used like this in courts,” Spiro and Nielson wrote. “And it should come as no surprise that the overwhelming majority of artists in these cases are young Black and Latino men.

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