“They Ain’t Gonna Arrest Stephen King For His Words”: New California Law Limits the Use of Rap Lyrics as Evidence in Court Cases
The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act states that a court is required “in a criminal proceeding where a party seeks to admit as evidence a form of creative expression, to consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice. ” The bill was met with unanimous approval in the California Senate and Assembly in August—the first in the nation.
“Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” Newsom said in a statement on Friday. “California’s culture and entertainment industry sets trends around the world and it’s fitting that our state is taking a nation-leading role to protect creative expression and ensure that artists are not criminalized under biased policies.”
After the legislation was signed, rapper ice Cube told TMZ that he supported the move, comparing rap lyrics to suspense novels: “They ain’t gonna arrest Stephen King for his words.”
The law came a few months after rapper Yung Thug was indicted by a grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia, after he and other members of the “criminal street gang” YSLof which Yung Thug is a co-founding member, were accused of a slew of crimes, including violating RICO, attempted murder and murder. The indictment cited lyrics from nine songs by the artist, including “Smith & Wesson .45 put a hole in his heart / Better not play with me, killers they stay with me.” Yung Thug will be behind bars until his trial in January 2023; in June, he asked people to sign a petition asking for legislators to enact laws that limit