RAP Act Reintroduced In Congress, Aims To Ban Use Of Lyrics As Court Evidence

Democratic congressmen Hank Johnson and Jamaal Bowman brought the bill back to attention.

BYGabriel Bras Nevares
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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.

RAP Act Returns To Congress

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman and U.S. Representative Hank Johnson speak during Grammys On The Hill: Advocacy Day on April 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

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. Regardless of your take, come back to HNHH for the latest on the RAP Act and other news in the hip-hop world.


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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.