Rap Lyrics Bill Passed By California Legislature, Awaiting Signature From Governor


California will be the first state to place limits on when rap can be used in court.

On Monday (August 22), California lawmakers gave their final approval to legislation that would restrict prosecutors’ right to cite rap lyrics in their evidence. As Billboard reports, this is a first-of-its-kind legislative victory against something that critics maintain can sway juries’ use of racial bias.

The Senate approved AB 2799 unanimously a few days ago, and earlier today they re-voted in favour of a bill that had already been passed months earlier, marking the final thing standing in their way of clearing the legislature. Now, the bill will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, who many believe will sign it into law.

If passed, the new law will only allow the use of lyrics in the courtroom when “prosecutors can show that they are directly relevant to the facts of the case and won’t ‘inject racial bias into the proceedings.'”

Earlier this year in New York a similar effort was stalled – after making it to the state Senate, it failed to get a vote in the Assembly. California’s regulation would require courts to hold that musical evidence offers “minimal” value unless the state “can show that the expression was created near in time to the crime; bears a level of similarity to the crime, or includes ‘factual details’ about the crime are not otherwise publicly available.”

The bill also asks that courts admit testimony about “experimental or social science research” that shows how a particular genre “introduces racial bias into the proceedings.”

As noted by Billboard more than one empirical study has shown that jurors view hip-hop lyrics as more dangerous than other genres, even if the artists are singing the same words.

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