Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art

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Kevin Liles started this petition

Born from street culture nearly 50 years ago, hip-hop has grown to become the most popular genre of music around the world. Fans of our culture know that creative expression in music is rooted in what artists see and hear, and hip-hop often magnifies the good and the bad happening in impoverished communities around the world. Rap artists are storytellers. As with all entertainment, hip-hop artists create entire worlds populated with complex characters who often play both hero and villain.

Today in courtrooms across America, Black creativity and artistry is being criminalized. With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions. This practice isn’t just a violation of First Amendment protections for speech and creative expression. It punishes already marginalized communities and silences their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph.

Currently in Georgia, multiple artists belonging to Young Stoner Life Records – including Grammy-winning artists like Young Thug – are facing more than 50 allegations, including RICO charges which claim the record label is a criminal gang. The allegations heavily rely on the artists’ lyrics that prosecutors claim are “overt evidence of conspiracy.” In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like “ready for war like I’m Russia” are a confession of criminal intent.

This shameful and un-American practice must end. We urge the prompt adoption of legislation at the Federal and State level that would limit how prosecutors can use creative and artistic expression as evidence against defendants in criminal trials. We applaud the New York State Senate for passing S.7527 – the “Rap Music on Trial” Bill – in May.  We hope that it and similar Bills will become law across America to end this attack on our First Amendment freedoms that disproportionately harms Black and other minority artists. 

We must protect Black art, creativity, and communities. 

#RaponTrial
#ProtectBlackArt

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