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Governor Newsom signed the housing package

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In a positive move for Hip-Hop, the state of California became the first state to ban the usage of rap lyrics in its criminal cases. Meek Mill, E-40, and others joined the state’s governor to celebrate the signing of the new law.

Last Friday (Sept. 30), California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act into law. The landmark legislation, also known as AB 2799, puts a presumption against using rap lyrics against a defendant in a criminal court case. The exceptions would be if the state could prove that the lyrics were created in close proximity to the time of the crime, contains details of the crime that aren’t publicly available, or bears a high amount of similarity to the crime. The new law also applies to “performance art, visual art, poetry, literature, film, and other media.”

The bill passed unanimously in the State Senate in August before reaching Newsom’s desk, which he signed during a ceremony held via Zoom. “Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” Newsom said during the ceremony. “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.”

The ceremony was attended by Meek Mill, Too $hort, E-40, Killer Mike, YG, Ty Dolla $ign, and Tyga. Other participants who participated in the video call included REFORM Alliance’s Jessica Jackson, former Def Jam Records president Kevin Liles, and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. “The history that’s been made in California today will help pave the way forward in the fight to protect creative freedom nationwide,” Mason Jr. said in a statement afterward.

The move by California is a positive sign in the fight against rap lyrics being used in damaging ways in criminal cases. Democratic congressmen Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) put forth legislation in the House of Representatives in July to implement bans on rap lyrics used in the courtroom, but the bill’s momentum has stalled. The practice has also come under scrutiny in Fulton County’s RICO case against Young Thug, where prosecutors cited lyrics as examples of “overt acts” committed by the rapper.