Analysis on the use of rap lyrics as evidence in a trial

The arrests of Young Thug and Gunna for organized crime have been the main topic of debate in the rap world in recent days. As expected, 6ix9ine (a guy who has had beefs with everyone from Lil Durk to Fivio Foreign) has not hesitated to mock Young Thug in his social media posting some photos of the one from Atlanta with lipstick and painted nails.

6ix9ine said that Thug “can already be himself”, referring to his time in prison and the homosexual relations that are usually carried out there. The New Yorker also added: “In prison they will go crazy for their brother”.

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Although 6ix9ine assures that the man dressed as a woman in his images is Young Thug, the truth is that the information is not verified. We are no longer in times of making absurd jokes about people’s sexual orientation and how they want to dress, but that is another story.

Be that as it may, Tekashi took advantage of the photos to make retrograde fury about his enemy’s taste in women’s clothing (see the historic cover of ‘Jeffery’). Although Tekashi frivolizes with all this, the truth is that the situation of Thug and Gunna is worrying and he could sit a preceding in using rap lyrics as legal evidence.

Not because it is the first time, but because it is the most relevant and media.

Is it fair and honest to use rap lyrics as evidence in court?

Things as they are: the truth is that courts in most US states have already used lyrics as evidence against an artist. The first time was in the case of the state of New Jersey vs. Skinnerin 2014. Lyrics by the artist were used, in which he spoke of a alleged murder, against him. After hearing what he said in the Skinner songs, the jury found against him, even though the song had been written years before the shooting in which he was involved.

It happens more and more. Just a month ago, the state of Maryland used a verse from Lawrence Montague as alleged evidence of the murder of George Forrester. Montague rapped on the phone from prison, the call was recorded (as always in this situation) and the State introduced it as evidence of his alleged admission of guilt. Lawrence was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for second-degree murder and use of a firearm in a crime with violence.

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The issue is more complicated than it seems. The romanticization of violence as a narrative in something common in hip hop, to the point that, if there is no criminal past, it is invented in the songs. Even some of the rappers named as gangsta (you know, subgenre based on a violent and lawless lifestyle) have not even been arrested in their life. This does not mean that violence is not something inherent in rap, unfortunately, but rather that, on many occasions, the lyrics are something merely creative about events that may never have happened.

However, this clashes with the first amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, which speaks clearly and explicitly about freedom of expression. For this reason, big names in the industry such as JAY-Z and Meek Mill are fighting so that rap lyrics are not used as evidence in court. These two artists have been joined by many others such as Fat Joe, Big Sean, Yo Gotti, Kelly Rowland, Killer Mike or Robin Thickewho signed the letter «Rap Music on Trial» (“Rap music in the trials”) and that has already achieved the first steps to be voted on in the Senate.

JAY-Z, Meek Mill and many others try to make the lyrics not count as evidence

In Spain, even saving the distances, the names of paul hasel (currently serving a sentence) or Valtonycwho lives outside the country so as not to have to go to prison.

Of course, the two national artists are not in that situation due to alleged murder (it is usually the most common case in the United States, although we must remember that YSL’s main problems are with the RICO law).

Hasel is in prison for glorifying terrorism, for assaulting a journalist and for assaulting a witness in a trial against a Civil Guard, and Valtònyc is being held in Belgium until his case is clarified for glorifying terrorism, apology for ideological hatred, incitement to violence and insults to the crown. In both cases, the lyrics of their songs have been essential to judge their situations.

However, violence and even murder has been something usual in songs of all genres, including examples in pop like ‘Helter Skelter’ by the Beatles or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by What in, for using two accessible classics. That is why in the United States many have described racist the fact of being able to use song lyrics as judicial evidence.

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On the other hand, it is true that hip hop is one of the few musical genres that pride of being violent in many of his songs. Although the debate is complex: poverty, exclusion, desperation to survive, easy access to weapons and a society that values ​​economic success At whatever price as an unavoidable goal.

Maybe rap shouldn’t be blamed, and a more honest and painful analysis should be made, even if that includes the self-criticism: the musical genre tells of desperation, violence and a reality that exists in the United States, but not guilty of creating it.

In the end, perhaps it is a story that is familiar to us: pointing at the moon and staring at the finger. That Does not exempt of any guilt to those who have committed heinous crimes, it would be missing more, but if we only frivolize with the musical genre and not with the underlying realitythen we are eternalizing a problem that has persisted for decades in the country of stars and stripes.

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Analysis on the use of rap lyrics as evidence in a trial

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