People including musicians, industry executives, legal experts and record labels have put their name on a letter defending creative expression while also protesting the way rap lyrics are used to criminalise Black artists.
The letter refers to rapper Young Thug, who is currently incarcerated at Georgia's Fulton County jail on RICO charges - the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act - with his lyrics cited as evidence of "an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy".
Warner Music Group has drafted and published the letter, which reads: "In courtrooms across America, the trend of prosecutors using artists’ creative expression against them is happening with troubling frequency.
“Regardless of the medium – music, the visual arts, writing, television, film – fans implicitly understand that creative expression is rooted in what artists see and hear; it’s a reflection of the times we live in. The final work is a product of the artist’s vision and imagination.”
Also putting their name on the statement are Normani, John Legend, Post Malone, Willow and Alicia Keys, plus companies like Universal Music Group, Live Nation Entertainment, Spotify, TikTok and YouTube Music, among others.
The letter continues: "Rappers are storytellers, creating entire worlds populated with complex characters who can play both hero and villain.
"But more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry.”
The letter describes the use of lyrics "against artists in this way" as "un-American and simply wrong", claiming an "obvious obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment", and describing it as a "racially targeted practice".
California governor Gavin Newsom has signed into a law a bill requiring judges to push prosecutors to explain the purpose behind lyrics being used as evidence.
The letter continues: "We urge prosecutors to voluntarily end this practice in their jurisdictions.
“In the meantime, we encourage legislators at the state and federal level to explicitly limit how creative expression can be used against defendants on trial."
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