It looks like rappers and singers might now have some breathing room when writing lyrics for their music.
Amid the 56-count indictment against Atlanta rapper Young Thug and members of his Young Stoner Life imprint (YSL), including Gunna, the New York State Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would limit song lyrics as evidence in court during criminal cases, according to Pitchfork.
In the case of Thug, Gunna and YSL, their lyrics and music videos were a majority of the evidence used against them by the state of Georgia in indicting them on RICO charges.
Senate Bill S7527 says explicitly, “Limits the admissibility of evidence of a defendant’s creative or artistic expression against such defendant in a criminal proceeding.”
Although the bill would not completely ban the use of lyrics or other creative material in court, they have to prove that the lyrics are literal and not fictional.
The bill, which was once known as “Rap Music On Trial” is sponsored by New York State Senators Jamaal Bailey and Brad Holyman, and is also supported by well-known rappers Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Killer Mike and Fat Joe, along with many others.
Singers, rappers and MCs should not rejoice just yet though, because before the bill can become law, it has to pass the New York State Assembly. A companion bill sponsored by Assembly member Catalina Cruz is awaiting a vote.
A letter written by Alex Spiro, Jay-Z’s attorney, and University of Richmond professor Erik Nielson, urged the New York State Senate to pass the bill because it “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.”
It continued, “No other fictional form, musical or otherwise, is (mis)used like this in courts. And it should come as no surprise that the overwhelming majority of artists in these cases are young Black and Latino men.”
The letter was signed by rappers and artists including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Big Sean, Kelly Roland, Yo Gotti, Rapsody, Vic Mensa and a myriad of others.