The Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act was a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress in July of last year. Just when we thought it was going nowhere, two congressmen reintroduced the bill and brought it back to national attention. Moreover, the bill aims to protect artists whose lyrics are wrongfully used to determine their verdict in a court case. Democrats Hank Johnson and Jamaal Bowman also participated in a livestream hosted by the Recording Academy with various First Amendment advocates fighting for free speech. Furthermore, these included the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), SAG-AFTRA, the Black Music Collective, and others.
Of course, the most present example of lyrics as evidence is currently the RICO trial of Young Thug and YSL as a whole. Prosecutors used various lyrics to paint the crew as a criminal gang, which Gunna supported through statements when he took his Alford plea. Since 2020, over 500 criminal cases involved prosecutors using an artist’s lyrics against them as evidence. With this in mind, the RAP Act would add a presumption to the Federal Rules of Evidence that would limit the ability to present said artistic expression against them in court.
To elaborate, Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, who co-founded BMAC and acts as its chair, gave low-profile examples of this bill’s necessity. One of these is the case of Derek Foster, who the court convicted in 1991 and who used a rap verse in his notebook against him, even though the notebook did not relate as evidence to his charges. Another case he mentioned was that of Jonair Tyreece Moore. Prosecutors gained permission to show 20 minutes of rap videos, which the court found irrelevant to his charges. Moreover, the prosecution intended to “show his knowledge of drug distribution and his motive for engaging in it.”
Of course, many believe that this is a lost cause already. However, if more prominent figures in hip-hop and beyond support it, a continuous fight for these rights until they see recognition could follow. Until then, courts may continue to subvert and warp artistic expression in lieu of hard evidence to land innocent artists in prison. Follow The Drop NYC For Updates.
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