(KRON) – A bill that would limit the admissible use of rap or hip-hop lyrics in a court of law is now on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk after passing both houses of the legislature.
Assembly Bill 2799, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), would require a judge to consider whether creative expression is “evidence of the defendant’s propensity for violence or criminal disposition,” and whether admitting it would “inject racial bias into the proceedings.”
“The bill would require a court to determine the admissibility of a form of creative expression in a hearing outside the presence and hearing of the jury, and state on the record the court’s ruling and reasoning therefore,” the legislative counsel’s digest states.
The Restoring Artistic Protection, or RAP, Act in the United States House of Representatives would make similar changes on the federal level. It, and the California version, are supported by major record labels and others in the music industry.
The Recording Industry Association of America stated, for example, in reference to AB 2799: “Hyperbole and fantastical imagery are customary, and often necessary, elements of that creative expression. Bob Marley and Eric Clapton understood this when they sang about shooting the sheriff. Johnny Cash understood it when he claimed to have ‘shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.’ The Beatles weren’t ones to truly subscribe to the notion that ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun.’ And no one truly believed that Freddie Mercury ‘just killed a man’ in Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
KRON ON is streaming live
“Yet, when rap and hip hop artists adhere to this time-honored tradition of make-believe, their lyrics are too often – and unfairly – taken literally, stripped of the poetic license afforded other genres,” the statement continues.
If Newsom signs AB 2799 into law, California would be the first state to change its rules of evidence to limit the use of rap or hip-hop lyrics in court.