A number of music industry leaders, artists and legal experts are joining forces to urge the American legal system to restrict rap lyrics from being used as evidence in court.
Together, the group has penned an open letter titled Art on Trial: Protect Black Art which has been signed by three major record labels including Warner Music, Sony and Universal. Streaming companies like Spotify, YouTube Music and TikTok are also pushing for the change. The letter was released by Warner Records and posted to their Twitter account and was signed by the likes of Drake, 21 Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, J. Cole and many more. Variety reported the full list of artists who supported the movement.
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 marginalised communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph.”
According to the book, Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics and Guilt in America, there are more than 500 cases involving rap as evidence in public records and they note this number is just the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, researchers have found just four instances since the 1950s of non-rap lyrics being submitted as evidence – three of those cases were thrown out and the fourth was overturned after conviction.
Legislators at state and federal level are already taking action on the unjust cases. Governor Newson recently signed a bill into law in California and there are other bills currently being considered in New York and New Jersey, as well as the RAP (Restoring Artistic Protection) Act introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the US Congress.
The Protect Black Art movement began earlier this year when Kevin Liles, CEO and Chairman of Warner’s 300 Entertainment, launched a change.org petition, which today has nearly 65,000 signatures with a target of 70,000.