Jay-Z is among a list of high profile celebrities pushing their weight behind a proposed New York bill that aims to stop prosecutors from using rap lyrics in court.
Back in November we reported that two New York lawmakers, Senator Brad Hoylman and Jamaal Bailey were introducing a bill that could stop rap lyrics from being used as evidence in criminal cases.
Now in a new update by Rolling Stone, the outlet reports Hov and other celebrities including Meek Mill, Big Sean, Fat Joe, Kelly Rowland, Yo Gotti, Killer Mike, Robin Thicke, have signed a letter letter urging state lawmakers — and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul — to make the proposed bill titled “Rap Music on Trial” (S.7527/A.8681) a state law.
In the letter co wrote by Jay-Z’s lawyer, Alex Spiro and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson, Spiro argues that rap is a “form of artistic expression” and that rap lyrics should not be taken literally.
“This reform is urgently needed,” the letter reads. “Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally – in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ – even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry.”
Speaking with Rolling Stone, Fat Joe says “Our lyrics are a creative form of self-expression and entertainment – just like any other genre. We want our words to be recognized as art rather than being weaponized to get convictions in court. I hope the governor and all the lawmakers in New York take our letter into consideration, protect our artistic rights and make the right decision to pass this bill.”
Spiro adds that the bill is important and he hopes Jay-Z’s involvement, as well as those of his colleagues can help the bill become a law.
“This is an issue that’s important to (Jay-Z) and all the other artists that have come together to try to bring about this change. This is a long time coming. Mr. Carter is from New York, and if he can lend his name and his weight, that’s what he wants to do.”
Back in November Senator Holyman – one of the senators responsible for the bill – said “Art is creative expression, not a blueprint of criminal plans,” citing Johnny Cash’s (“I Shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”) and David Byrne (“Don’t touch me, I’m a real live wire, psycho killer) as examples of songs from other genres that weren’t questioned.