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Congressman Jaamal Bowman Takes Stand Against Using Rappers' Lyrics In Courtrooms

Democratic Congressman Jaamal Bowman has had it with prosecutors having free reign to use rap lyrics in the courtroom to criminalize rappers.

Jaamal Bowman
Photo Credit: Instagram - @JamaalBowmanNY

Bowman of New York discussed his plans to prevent this during the Congressional Black Caucus 52nd Annual Legislative Conference, holding a conversation with music executive Willie ”Prophet” Stiggers, Kevin Liles, chief executive officer of 300 Entertainment, industry attorney Shay M. Lawson and the co-authors of the 2019 book, Rap on Trial, professors Andrea L. Dennis and Erik Nielson, according to TheGrio.

“Artists in general should not be criminalized because of their art,” Bowman said to TheGrio, “And since rap artists are artists, they need to be treated as such. They fall into the same First Amendment protection rights as every other artist or American falls under."

“…This is a racial justice issue because most rappers are African-American and/or Latino, and so it belongs in a CBC conversation. It belongs as a part of the ALC.”

Dennis said this whole situation when it comes to using rap lyrics should be done away with.

“There should be some sort of legislation to prohibit it or at least potentially restrict rap lyrics from being admitted,” Dennis said, adding that the legal system is not race-neutral. “(The act) is an effort to try to counteract what is happening in thousands of cases that don’t receive much attention, it any attention at all, from reporters, from the legal system.”

When did this all start? The legislation was reintroduced by Bowman as well as Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) last session, and it is aimed to halt prosecutors from “unfairly using rap lyrics to incriminate rappers.”

This RAP ACT followed months after rapper Young Thug was arrested for RICO charges “for his alleged participation in a Georgia street gang." The judge in the case actually read lyrics from many of his songs in the courtroom as evidence to make him look like a criminal.

Bowman said this is a racial justice issue.

“This is a free speech issue. Rappers are being targeted because they’re Black, and that is not how our justice system is supposed to work,” he said.

It is imperative for those reading to understand what the RAP Act actually is.

“I want them to know what’s in the bill, how they can be helpful in getting the legislation passed in Congress,” he said. “I want to share some of the prejudicial aspects of what’s been happening over the last decade with rappers being targeted versus (artists) of other genres of music. And hopefully, get them inspired to plug into our democracy and get more involved.”


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