California Governor Signs the Decriminalizing Artistic Express Act

Prohibiting prosecutors from using rap lyrics as evidence

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will prevent the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials. The California legislature approved Assembly Bill 2799 in late August.

Mitch Glazer, RIAA Chairman & CEO: “Today we applaud Governor Newsom on this pivotal decision that will allow all creators to express themselves and follow their artistic vision without barriers of prejudice! The RIAA has been a vocal advocate for AB 2799 because all too often rap and hip-hop artists have suffered for the same kind of hyperbole and imagery other genres routinely use without consequence. With the signing of the California rap lyrics bill into law, voices that may have been stifled are now fully open to expression.”

Artists such as Killer MikeMeek Mill, Too $hort, YG, Ty Dolla $ign, E-40, and Tyga, as well as CEO of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr. Leaders from the Black Music Action Coalition and Songwriters of North America also joined the virtual signing ceremony. The bill was set in place to reduce racial biases in the criminal justice system.

In a press release, the Black Music Action Coalition called the bill a “crucial step in the right direction” of not injecting racial bias into court proceedings, especially given the recent indictment of Young Thug and Gunna, whose lyrics were directly quoted and used against them in an ongoing RICO trial. Lyrics have been a central and controversial tool used by prosecutors in several recent high-profile cases.

“For too long, prosecutors in California have used rap lyrics as a convenient way to inject racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process,” said SONA’s Dina LaPolt in a statement about the bill. She continued, “This legislation sets up important guardrails that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression. Thank you, Gov Newsom, for setting the standard. We hope Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a nationwide problem.”

There is still a push for federal legislation for Resorting Artistic Protection (RAP) Act.

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