Governor Newsom recently signed Assembly Bill 2799 into law. The so-called “Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act” now makes rap lyrics inadmissible in California court! The California rap lyrics law is a step in the right direction for those who wish to pass federal legislation, like the Restoring Artistic Expression Act (RAP).
At this time, there is no national legislation regarding the use of rap lyrics in a criminal context. Rappers continue to be victimized for their art in courts throughout the country. Pitchfork reports that the new law will “hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression” according to Dina LaPolt of the Songwriters of North America (SONA). Rappers like T.I. and Killer Mike attended virtually.
Hip-hop benefits from increased freedom of expression more than other genres due to its nature. The street-wise personas of hip-hop artists may be performative, but the aesthetic is real. Allowing rappers to vocalize their aggressions and feelings openly will hopefully give them the opportunity to choose peace for themselves and for their futures. When so much of rap lyricism these days is fictional anyway, why stifle the creativity of future generations to cram more bodies into prison cells?
Any law that inhibits sending largely people of color to prison is a good law.
Freedom of speech, includes freedom of expression. Keeping in mind though that words have power so we should be mindful with how we use them!