New York’s state Senate has passed the “Rap Music on Trial” bill that will not ban song lyrics from being used as evidence in court. However, it would limit the use of "creative expression" as evidence of a crime.
According to Pitchfork, on Tuesday (May 17), Senate Bill S7527 “would not ban prosecutors from presenting lyrics or other material to a jury, but would require them to show that the work is “literal, rather than figurative or fictional.”
Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Fat Joe, Robin Thicke, and other artists have each publicly supported the bill that Senators Jamaal Bailey and Brad Hoylman sponsored.
In Jan. 2022, Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro, issued a letter to state lawmakers urging for the bill to be passed.
“This is an issue that’s important to [Jay-Z] and all the other artists that have come together to try to bring about this change,” Spiro told Rolling Stone. “This is a long time coming. Mr. Carter is from New York, and if he can lend his name and his weight, that’s what he wants to do.”
Prior to the approval of the bill, several artists have taken the stand in court to have their rap lyrics used against them.
Former No Limit rapper, McKinley “Mac” Phipps Jr., was convicted of manslaughter in 2001 as a result of prosecutors citing his lyrics in court. Phipps shared a statement responding to the “Rap Music on Trial” bill being passed, Complex reports.
“Criminal cases should be tried on factual evidence not the creative expression of an artist, but unfortunately hip hop has been held to a very different standard in the criminal justice system within the last three decades,” Phipps said. “The passage of the New York bill gives me hope that situations like the one that I faced will be prevented from happening to other artists in the future.”
Phipps was released in 2021 after serving 21 years of a 30-year sentence.
The timing of Bill S7527 comes on the heels of the active RICO case against Young Thug, Gunna, and other members of Young Slime Life where song lyrics connected to the rappers have been used for their indictment.
Before the “Rap Music on Trial” bill can be enacted into law, it must pass the state assembly.