The “Rap Music On Trial” legislation is intended to protect First Amendment rights and prevent prosecutors from using artistic expression as evidence in criminal trials.

Hip-hop police remain prevalent in New York City but in more instances recently, prosecutors across the country used rap lyrics as forms of evidence in a criminal trial. It’s a problematic practice that infringes on the right to free speech and freedom of expression. We’ve seen Drakeo The Ruler, YNW Melly, and other rappers face the court system with their lyrics being presented in their trials. 

Taylor Hill/Getty Images

According to the New York Post, two lawmakers in the state of New York aim to put a restriction on the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal procedures. Sens. Brad Hoylman and Jamaal Bailey introduced the “Rap Music On Trial” legislation aiming to limit prosecutors’ use of “creative or artistic expression” against defendants unless it provides “clear and convincing proof” of its connection to the crime.

The legislation, if passed, would provide clearer protection of New Yorkers’ First Amendment rights and those accused of alleged crimes. The proposed bill says that defendants should be strictly tried on the evidence presented of the alleged crime, “not the provocative nature of their artistic works and tastes.”

“The right to free speech is enshrined in our federal and state constitutions because it is through this right that we can preserve all of our other fundamental rights,” Bailey (D-The Bronx) said Wednesday. “The admission of art as criminal evidence only serves to erode this fundamental right, and the use of rap and hip-hop lyrics, in particular, is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system.”

The bill adds that the practice of using rap lyrics against the defendant in court “warp[s] criminal courts into instruments for suppressing provocative speech.”