The Restoring Artistic Protection Act (RAP Act), aimed at quelling the use of rap lyrics as permissible evidence in court, was introduced in the United States Congress on Wednesday, by Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).
Per Variety, the bill would add a presumption to the Federal Rules of Evidence laws in order to “limit the admissibility of evidence of a defendant’s creative or artistic expression against such defendant in a criminal proceeding, and for other purposes.”
“Freddy Mercury did not confess to having ‘just killed a man’ by putting ‘a gun against his head’ and ‘’pulling the trigger,” a release announcing the proposed legislation read. “Bob Marley did not confess to having shot a sheriff. And Johnny Cash did not confess to shooting ‘a man in Reno, just to watch him die.’”
Rep. Bowman added that rap music in particular needs to be protected.
“Rap, Hip Hop and every lyrical musical piece is a beautiful form of art and expression that must be protected,” he said. “Our judicial system disparately criminalizes Black and brown lives, including Black and brown creativity.”
He continued, “Evidence shows when juries believe lyrics to be rap lyrics, there’s a tendency to presume it’s a confession, whereas lyrics for other genres of music are understood to be art, not factual reporting. This act would ensure that our evidentiary standards protect the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. We cannot imprison our talented artists for expressing their experiences nor will we let their creativity be suppressed.”
The RAP Act comes after the New York Senate passed the “Rap Music on Trial” bill back in May, which requires lyrics to be proved in a “literal” sense rather than in a scenario that is “figurative or fictional” in order for them to be considered viable evidence. The bill was widely supported by various music industry figures including Jay-Z, Killer Mike, Fat Joe and Meek Mill.
Meek also echoed his support for the RAP Act, taking to Twitter on Wednesday to share a Billboard report on the legislation.
The RAP Act also arrives as prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia aim to use rap lyrics against Young Thug and Gunna to prove that their Young Slime Life collective was a “criminal street gang” responsible for numerous violent crimes in Atlanta. Both Thugga and Gunna face racketeering charges along with 26 of their fellow YSL label mates, and are currently behind bars awaiting trial.
Prosecutors will partially rely on nine Young Thug songs to help connect him to the alleged crimes, and previously claimed that lyrics such as, “It’s all mob business, we know to kill the biggest cat of all kittens,” prove he had “an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.”