US rappers like 6ix9ine and Lawrence Montague were undoed by lines about criminal machinations in court cases. In both cases, prosecutors produced song lyrics intended to serve as evidence to incriminate the musicians. Two New York senators now want to stop this development. Your draft law stipulates that rap texts may only be used to a limited extent in court.
Usable confession or artistic freedom?
Senators Bran Hoylman and Jamaal Baily want to prevent public prosecutors from using the “creative or artistic expression” of artists in court against them, should there be a direct link between artistic work and not be explicitly demonstrable in a criminal offense. In addition, both argue that a misunderstanding of the “provocative nature” of the hip-hop genre should not lead to a general restriction of artistic freedom.
Baily, who grew up in the Bronx himself, said in a statement about the present design:
“The admission of art as criminal evidence only serves to undermine the fundamental right (freedom of expression). The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is a symbol of the systemic racism that pervades our criminal justice system. “
The bill, titled „Rap Music on Trial,“ would ban the use of rap lyrics as evidence against defendants in criminal cases. https://t.co/4wjtiRTvB5
— Times Union (@timesunion) November 17, 2021
New York lawmakers are set to present a „Rap Music on Trial“ bill to limit the use of rap lyrics in criminal prosecution.https://t.co/YDGwTo6uFd pic.twitter.com/4J8rpw4Bcd
— The FADER (@thefader) November 17, 2021
Rappeled lines over the phone supported a life imprisonment sentence
A precedent was set in Maryland in 2017. The rapper Lawrence Montague, who had already been imprisoned at the time, spontaneously rapped a few lines during a phone call with a friend, the contents of which were later used against him to prove the crimes he was accused of. According to judicial recordings, Montague’s friend is said to have warned him during the conversation, to which he is said to have replied: “It’s a rap. What the hell are you going to do with a rap? ” At the end of the trial, the rapper was sentenced to 50 years in prison – 30 years for murder and 20 years for using guns. In the case of 6ix9ine, lines of text were used to prove its membership in the infamous Nine Trey Blood gang.
Back in 2014, a New Jersey Supreme Court judge ruled that rap lyrics had no value in court. As an example, he cited that Bob Marley could not be accused of having shot a sheriff just because he sang about it in his 1973 hit “I Shot The Sheriff”.