California Becomes First U.S. State To Ban Using Rap Lyrics In Court

Following proposals from New York, California will protect rappers from being unfairly judged for their artistry.

BYGabriel Bras Nevares
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California has become the first state in the U.S. to ban lyrics from being used against rappers as evidence in court proceedings. The landmark law came into effect on Friday, when Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill to limit "creative content" from being held against artist or musicians in the state. It's been a long and arduous fight for advocates against this practice, but recent legislation in New York points towards a brighter future along with this bill. Amid the YSL indictment that put Young Thug and Gunna behind bars in large part due to their lyrics, fans are probably grateful to see their outrage result in action from authorities.

Gavin Newsom, Governor of California - Monica Schipper/Getty Images

That New York bill did not completely ban the use of lyrics, though, and there's a similar loophole in California's bill: lyrics can be used but only if reviewed and deemed necessary for the verdict by the judge. Even with this caveat, AB 2799 (the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act) is a one-of-a-kind piece of legislation that takes unprecedented steps to protect rappers' creative works. Governor Newsom signed the bill on a Zoom call with rappers E-40, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, YG, and more in attendance.

Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, who introduced the bill, expressed his belief that the DAE Act "will give judges needed guidance for evaluating whether a creative expression is admissible during a criminal trial and provides a framework which will ensure creative expression will not be used to trigger or reinforce stereotypes or activate racial bias.” Entertainment attorney Dina Polt was one of many to celebrate the achievement.

"This legislation sets up important guardrails that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression," she stated. "Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for setting the standard. We hope Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a nationwide problem."

A similar bill was introduced in Congress last July, so rap lyrics might still have a chance for salvation at the federal level. For now, state laws are what stands between a rapper's artistic expression and jail time, and California is setting an important precedent for the rest of the union.


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About The Author
Gabriel Bras Nevares is a music and pop culture news writer for HotNewHipHop. He started in 2022 as a weekend writer and, since joining the team full-time, has developed a strong knowledge in hip-hop news and releases. Whether it’s regular coverage or occasional interviews and album reviews, he continues to search for the most relevant news for his audience and find the best new releases in the genre. What excites him the most is finding pop culture stories of interest, as well as a deeper passion for the art form of hip-hop and its contemporary output. Specifically, Gabriel enjoys the fringes of rap music: the experimental, boundary-pushing, and raw alternatives to the mainstream sound. As a proud native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he also stays up-to-date with the archipelago’s local scene and its biggest musical exponents in reggaetón, salsa, indie, and beyond. Before working at HotNewHipHop, Gabriel produced multiple short documentaries, artist interviews, venue spotlights, and audio podcasts on a variety of genres and musical figures. Hardcore punk and Go-go music defined much of his coverage during his time at the George Washington University in D.C. His favorite hip-hop artists working today are Tyler, The Creator, Boldy James, JPEGMAFIA, and Earl Sweatshirt.