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Source: Fulton County PD / Fulton County Sheriff’s Department

The movement to prohibit the usage of rap lyrics in criminal cases by prosecutors has now reached the federal level, as a new bill with that aim has been introduced in the United States Congress.

On Wednesday (July 27th), the RAP Act was introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives by Democratic Representatives Hank Johnson (GA-04) and Jamaal Bowman (NY-16). The Restoring Artistic Protection Act looks to protect artists from the wrongful usage of their lyrics against them in civil and criminal court cases. Representative Johnson shared the news through his Twitter account.

“Freedom of speech is the constitutional foundation the framers thought necessary to enable a new and free society to craft not only its own destiny through commerce and innovations, but through culture, expression, and art,” said Rep. Johnson in the official statement. “It is no longer enough that the Bill of Rights guarantees that freedom: without further Congressional action, the freedom of speech and of artistic expression present in music will continue to be stifled, and that expression will be chilled until the voices behind that protected speech are silenced. I thank my colleague Congressman Bowman for joining me in co-leading this legislation.”

The RAP Act builds on the protections put forth in a similar bill that passed the New York State Senate in May. Hip-Hop artists have been highly targeted by these moves, with the congressmen citing the statistic of prosecutors using lyrics as evidence in 500 cases since 2020. The proposed legislation also arrives as Young Thug and Gunna are currently incarcerated awaiting trial on racketeering charges that were brought against them and their Young Slime Life (YSL) collective in Atlanta in May. The prosecution has included lyrics from nine songs from Young Thug which they cite are “an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

The RAP Act has gained the support of the major recording entities in the music industry including the Recording Academy (the GRAMMYs), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Universal Music Group, and the Sony Music Group, and Warner Records among others. “Rap, hip-hop, and every lyrical musical piece is a beautiful form of art and expression that must be protected,” Representative Bowman said in the statement. “I am proud to introduce the RAP Act alongside Rep. Hank Johnson. Our judicial system disparately criminalizes Black and brown lives, including Black and brown creativity.