‘Voice’ Coaches Sign Petition to Ban Use of Rap Lyrics as Evidence in Court

John Legend and Camila Cabello

The Voice / YouTube John Legend and Camila Cabello

Multiple coaches from “The Voice” are making their voices heard, in a new report by Entertainment Tonight. John Legend, Camila Cabello, and former coach Christina Aguilera have joined over 100 musicians, industry leaders, and legal experts in signing an open letter to “Protect Black Art”.

The use of rap lyrics and other works of art as evidence of wrongdoing in trials is an issue that many industry musicians have been fighting for years, and a Change.org petition for the cause has amassed over 65,000 signatures.

What Does the “Protect Black Art” Petition Say?

The biggest issue the “Protect Black Art” petition is fighting to resolve is the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court cases.

“Rappers are storytellers, creating entire worlds populated with complex characters who can play both hero and villain,” the letter reads, “But more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry.”

The practice of using rap lyrics in trials has been going on for decades now. According to NPR, McKinley “Mac” Phipps Jr was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murdering somebody at a concert after his rap lyrics were used against him in court, despite a security guard at the venue else confessing being the one to fire his gun.

“I didn’t have any criminal history for them to look into,” Mac said of having his lyrics used as evidence in his trial. “I guess they was like, well, [we] have to find some indication that this person has a dark side. So that’s when they turned to the music.”

The “Protect Black Art” petition provides another example:

For example, currently in Georgia’s Fulton County, numerous members of the Young Stoner Life record label, led by Grammy-winning artist Jeery Lamar Williams (aka Young Thug), are facing more than 50 allegations, including RICO charges that the label is a criminal gang. The allegations rely heavily on the artists’ lyrics, which prosecutors claim are “overt evidence of conspiracy.” In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like “I get all type of cash, I’m a general” are a confession of criminal intent.

Progress is Being Made on This Issue

With the recent fight to ban art from being used as evidence in courts come progress.

Artists like Jay-Z and Meek Mill have been fighting for this cause since last year, asking the New York State government to pass laws to limit the admissibility of a defendant’s music or other art as evidence for a jury unless the prosecution can first clearly prove that the art is clearly applicable and related to the facts of the given case. The bill was passed by the New York State Senate in May, according to Pitchfork, and will need to pass the state Assembly before the Governor can sign it into law.

According to Variety, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a similar bill into law for Californians, The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, another positive step for the “Protect Black Art” movement, and with Congressmen Jamaal Bowman (NY) and Hank Johnson (GA) introducing the Restoring Artistic Protection Act (RAP Act) earlier this year, these changes could be implemented at the federal level.

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