As the debate around the use of rappers’ lyrics in criminal cases against them grows, artistes across the genres of R&B, hip hop, and pop, as well as media companies, have signed an open letter calling for an end to the use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence in the United States of America.
The letter, entitled Art On Trial: Protect Black Art, was published on Tuesday in the New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The piece was signed by over 100 individuals in the music industry, such as Drake, Roddy Ricch, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Megan Thee Stallion, and DJ Khaled.
It was also cosigned by several media companies, including Spotify, TikTok, YouTube Music, Sony Music Group, and SoundCloud. More so, it aims to encourage legislators to limit the use of musicians’ creative expressions against them in court and urged prosecutors to stop the practice in their jurisdictions.
“In courtrooms across America, the trend of prosecutors using artists’ creative expression against them is happening with troubling frequency,” the letter begins. “Regardless of the medium – music, the visual arts, writing, television, film – fans implicitly understand that creative expression is rooted in what artists see and hear; it’s a reflection of the times we live in. The final work is a product of the artist’s vision and imagination.”
The letter describes rappers as storytellers and goes on to criticise the use of their lyrics as confessions, specifically referencing the ongoing criminal case against rappers, Young Thug and Gunna. Both artists and their Young Stoner Life (YSL) associates are currently facing Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges and multiple other allegations in Georgia’s Fulton County.
Describing the use of lyrics as racially motivated, as well as a disregard for free speech, the letter closed by stating, “The work is far from done, and we must all join together to defend creative freedom and expression.”
Read the full letter below.