In a blow to Hip-Hop artists, an Atlanta judge has ruled that lyrics by Young Thug and other of his YSL associates can be used at his RICO trial.
“They’re not prosecuting your clients because of the songs they wrote,” Judge Ural Glanville said after a November 8 hearing, denying free-speech concerns raised by Brian Steel, an attorney representing Thug (born Jeffrey Williams).
According to Vulture, “These are party admissions,” said Michael Carson, a prosecutor, during the hearing. “They just happen to come in the form of lyrics.”
The issue of using rap lyrics in court is one that has been pressing to the hip-hop community. In November of 2022, more than 100 rap artists including Drake and Megan Thee Stallion signed a letter to protest the use of lyrics in court. As previously reported by HipHopWired, artists, industry leaders, and legal experts have joined together in a call to “Protect Black Art,” publishing an open letter in The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution urging legislators across America to limit how creative expression can be used against defendants on trial. Specifically, it calls for an end to the racially discriminatory practice of treating rap lyrics as confessions.
The letter reads, in part, “Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph.”
It was published by Warner Music Group.
The letter was released just months after one success when the state of California put forward a bill banning lyrics from being used in court–it passed both the State Senate and State Assembly. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill in October of last year.
Earlier last year, 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.
“Rap, hip-hop, and every lyrical musical piece is a beautiful form of art and expression that must be protected,” Representative Bowman said in a statement.
Despite the blow, there is no doubt that the battle will continue. Because hip-hop doesn’t give up and we don’t back down.
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