Everyone knows you can’t be compelled to testify against yourself. Unless you’re like… a rapper or something. Desperate prosecutors have taken to using song lyrics to pin criminal charges on rappers. Advocates of free speech and anti-racism have pushed back against the tendency. Art loses much of its power when censorship arises and there seems to be some racial animus to singling out rap music as evidence — many lyrics from death metal songs haven’t gotten nearly as much attention in court. Thankfully, California is doing its part to prevent rappers from ending up behind bars for their bars alone.
[I]t won’t be nearly as easy to make the First Amendment subservient to judiciary activism or law enforcement overreach in the state of California. The state’s governor has signed a bill that effectively takes rap lyrics off the table in criminal prosecutions, as Eddie Fu reports for Consequence of Sound.
The bill [PDF] does not completely lock law enforcement out of using rap lyrics as evidence. But it does create a new set of restrictions that must be met before prosecutors can introduce rap lyrics as evidence of criminal culpability.
Who knew Gavin Newsom would be the face of saving rap from prosecutors? I wish Kendrick, Roddy Rich, Vince Staples, Remble, and Baby Keem good luck as their home state makes it a little easier to do what they do best.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.