California’s Rap Lyrics Bill Becomes State Law

California governor Gavin Newsom signed the state legislature Assembly Bill 2799—also known as the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act—became law today, barring the use of rap lyrics in prosecutions. Killer Mike, Meek Mill, E-40, Ty Dolla $ign, and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason, Jr. was one of those who attended the virtual signing ceremony. Representatives for North American songwriters and the Black Music Action Coalition also participated in the proceedings. The bill aims to reduce racial bias in the criminal justice system.

“For too long, California prosecutors have used rap lyrics as a convenient way to inject racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process,” SONA’s Dina LaPolt said in a statement about the bill. He continued, “This legislation puts in place important guardrails that will help the courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression. Thank you, Gov Newsom, for setting the precedent. We hope that the Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a nationwide problem.

The lyrics have been a central and controversial tool used by prosecutors in several recent high-profile cases, including Mayo’s. RICO broom which put Young Thug, Gunna, and some of their associates in jail. The prosecuting district attorney maintained that their references to drugs, weapons, and violence were evidence of gang activity. The California state legislature approved and the bill was passed to Newsom’s desk in late August. Advocates for the new California law continue to push for federal legislation to the same end, the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act.

Read about Pitchfork »What Young Thug and Gunna’s Charge Means for Rap Music on Trial.”

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