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Federal Bill Reintroduced To Restrict Rap Lyrics In Court Proceedings

May 3, 2023 | By Kali Girl

According to Billboard, the Black Music Coalition (BMAC), the Recording Academy, and SAG-AFTRA united with Congressmen Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) to reintroduce the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act. The proposed legislation aims to combat the misuse of song lyrics in court proceedings, a practice that has long been unfairly targeted towards Black artists in the rap and hip-hop genre.

“Since the 1990s, there are hundreds literally hundreds of documented cases where prosecutors use lyrics as criminal evidence in court and this practice disproportionately affects rap artists,” said Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. during a press conference announcing the bill’s reintroduction. “But this act is absolutely not just about hip-hop artists. Silencing creative expression is a violation against all artists and all forms of creative expression. The Restoring Artistic Protection Act affirms that every single artist, no matter the discipline, should be able to express themselves without fear of prosecution.”

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, who was also in attendance, advocated for the First Amendment rights of musicians. “Rap music actually is folk music, because folk music is the voice of the people,” she said. “I urge Congress to pass the RAP act to ensure fair and equitable treatment in the justice system.”

First introduced in July 2022, if passed, the RAP Act would be the first federal law to limit the use of lyrics in criminal cases.

Also participating in the press conference was 300 Elektra Entertainment CEO Kevin Liles, who urged bipartisan support for the bill: “For the first time in a long time, I have hope…in groups on the right and the left both saying that this is against the values of Americans.”

In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into a law, a similar bill known as the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act. 

Songwriter-producer-artist Rico Love, who serves as chair of the Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective added, “Music makers are storytellers who have provided important insight into our country throughout history. We have the responsibility to protect them and their works of creative expression, which helped define American culture.”

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