RAP Act Bill That Bans Lyrics As Evidence in Court Introduced in Congress

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U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.

The RAP Act, or the Restoring Artistic Protection Act, is meant to protect artists, particularly rappers, and the use of lyrics in court proceedings as evidence. On Wednesday, it was introduced in the United States Congress by Congressman Hank Johnson and Jamaal Bowman, according to the office of Rep. Johnson.

This bill adds a presumption to the Federal Rules of Evidence that would limit the use of an artist’s lyrics as acceptable evidence in court.

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Many of the most powerful groups in the music industry are supporting this bill including the Recording Academy (the GRAMMYs), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group, Warner Records, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Nashville, Artists Rights Alliance, SAG-AFTRA, BMAC (Black Music Action Coalition), MAC (Music Artists Coalition), SONA (Song Writers of North America), 300 Elektra Entertainment, Warner Chappell Music, Warner Music Group, Warner Music Latina.

In the press release, Congressman Johnson said, “Freedom of speech is the constitutional foundation the framers thought necessary to enable a new and free society to craft not only its own destiny through commerce and innovations, but through culture, expression, and art.”

He continued, “It is no longer enough that the Bill of Rights guarantees that freedom: without further Congressional action, the freedom of speech and of artistic expression present in music will continue to be stifled, and that expression will be chilled, until the voices behind that protected speech are silenced. I thank my colleague Congressman Bowman for joining me in co-leading this legislation.”

Congressman Bowman added on, “Rap, hip-hop and every lyrical musical piece is a beautiful form of art and expression that must be protected. I am proud to introduce the RAP Act alongside Rep. Hank Johnson. Our judicial system disparately criminalizes Black and brown lives, including Black and brown creativity.”

The fight against the judicial system and the lyrics of rappers has been going on for a while now. In May, the “Rap Music On Trial” bill that would limit the use of song lyrics in court was approved by the New York Senate. It was backed by many rappers including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Killer Mike and many others.

In June, music executives Kevin Liles and Jullie Greenwald started a petition on this same issue called “Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art.” Liles specifically points out the RICO YSL trial and how prosecutors have used lyrics against Young Thug, Gunna and other Young Stoner Life artists to indict them in court.