Dozens of Artists, Music Labels and Legal Experts Join Together To ‘Protect Black Art’

Photo:  Warner Music Group
Photo: Warner Music Group

As Gunna and Young Thug still sit in an Atlanta jail awaiting their in their YSL RICO case, others on the outside are still fighting on their behalf.

A plethora of artists, music labels and legal experts have signed an extensive open letter drafted and published by Warner Music Group calling on legislators nationwide to restrict the use of rap lyrics against artists in court and the racially discriminatory practice of treating lyrics from rappers as legal confessions.

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The list includes some of the most popular artists in the world including Drake, J. Cole, Lil Baby, 2 Chainz, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Big Sean, Black Eyed Peas, DJ Khaled, Quest Love, Lil Uzi Very, Mary J. Blige, Meek Mill and an excess of others.

Companies that have signed off on the letter include Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, BMG, Kobalt, Live Nation Entertainment, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, Spotify, TIDAL, TikTok, YouTube Music and many others.

More from Warner Music Group:

“Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph…”

Experts have found more than 500 cases involving rap as evidence in public records, and they note this number is just the tip of the iceberg. For the most part, this does not account for indictment proceedings, juvenile cases, or cases that end in a plea bargain, and plea bargains are an overwhelming majority of outcomes in criminal prosecutions. Meanwhile, researchers have found only four instances since the 1950s of non-rap lyrics being submitted as evidence – three of those cases were thrown out, and the fourth was overturned after conviction.

In August, Kevin Liles, co-founder and CEO of 300 Entertainment, and Julie Greenwald, COO of Atlantic Records, started the #ProtectBlackArt movement by starting a petition on change.org. In that petition, they specifically point out how prosecutors in the YSL trial have used lyrics against Gunna, Young Thug and other YSL members to indict them in the RICO case.

Just like in movies, books or any other art form, rap is used as creative expression, and in many cases, the lyrics in songs can be over-exaggerated. Similar to how an action scene in a movie can overexaggerate the blood and gore in an action scene (see Django Unchained). Everything said in a song can’t be judged at face value.

We also have to wonder, why is this only happening to rappers and not artists in any other genres? I think we know why, but I think the legal system needs to take a hard look at that as well. If we’re going to indict and convict artists based on their lyrics, keep that same energy for every genre of music, not just rap.

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