New York Lawmakers Introducing Bill to Limit Rap Lyrics as Evidence in Criminal Trials

November 16, 2021

Originally published in Rolling Stone on November 16, 2021.

The proposed bill from state senators Brad Hoylman and Jamaal Bailey, titled “Rap Music on Trial,” would protect defendants’ “creative expression” and guard against racial bias

Two New York state lawmakers are set to unveil new legislation this week aimed at making it harder for prosecutors to introduce rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials, Rolling Stone has learned.

The proposed bill from state senators Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-The Bronx), titled “Rap Music on Trial,” would amend state criminal procedure law to strictly limit the admissibility of a defendant’s lyrics, videos, or other “creative expression” as evidence shown to a jury. According to the draft legislation reviewed by Rolling Stone, the bill would set a new, high bar compelling prosecutors to show “clear and convincing evidence” that a defendant’s rap song or other creative work, is “literal, rather than figurative or fictional.
 

There’s a glaring double standard that often happens when it comes to artists of color,” Bailey tells Rolling Stone. “There’s a lyric by Jay-Z that always speaks to me: ‘Scarface the movie did more than Scarface the rapper to me.’ It underlines the point that we don’t see this happening with movies. We don’t see this happening with other forms of creative expression. But we see it happening with hip-hop.