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Rap Lyrics Bill Heads to the Governor
By Sentinel News Service
Published August 26, 2022

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (Courtesy photo)

AB 2799 addresses the growing use of rap lyrics by prosecutors against artists in trials. The very first time this tactic was used was in 1993 against Snoop Dogg, who was ultimately found innocent of all charges.

Since that time, prosecutors have been advised to search artists’ work as admissible evidence. This practice is only used against rap artists who are Black and Latino.

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) wrote the bill to ensure a fair trial is afforded to all and not have an artist’s work, no matter what creative medium they are in, used to stir up racial biases and stereotypes.

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“Under current law rap artists can feel as though they are being read their Miranda Rights: ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,’ said Jones-Sawyer.

He added, “We should not stymie the creative expression of artists. Unfortunately, racial biases play a role when talking about musical genres. Rap music lyrics share many similarities to that of other musical categories yet are singled out by the judicial system to characterize an artist.

The intent of AB 2799 sets perimeters in cases to disallow prosecutors from triggering racial biases or reinforcing racial stereotypes and gives judges guidance on the use of creative expression in court.”

The Assembly passed the bill on August 23 on a 65-0 vote. AB 2799 now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for signing consideration.

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