Megan Thee Stallion, John Legend and More Sign Open Letter to Protest Using Rap Lyrics in Court

Megan Thee Stallion, Drake and John Legend
Rodin Eckenroth/Karwai Tang/WireImage/John Lamparski/2022 Getty Images

Megan Thee Stallion, Drake and more have spoken out against the use of rap lyrics as evidence in legal trials.

Multiple musicians have teamed up to speak out against the use of rap lyrics as evidence in legal trials. On Monday, an open letter signed by over 100 artists, industry leaders, and legal experts was published in the New York Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Described as a call to "Protect Black Art" and creative expression, the letter articulates the desire for an end to prosecutors treating rap lyrics as confessions.

"Rappers are storytellers, creating entire worlds populated with complex characters who can play both hero and villain," the letter reads. "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 specifically mentions the YSL RICO indictment where Young Thug is facing more than 50 allegations against him, many of which use his lyrics as evidence in the trial.

"Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph," the letter adds.

The call has support from all across the music industry, including streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal, record labels including Republic Records, Capitol Records, Warner Music and Universal Music Group, and organizations like the American Association of Independent Music, the American Civil Liberties Union, Artist Rights Alliance and Black Music Action Coalition. 

Signatures from artists and songwriters include 2 Chainz, 21 Savage, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Big Sean, Black Eyed Peas, Breland, Brothers Osborne, Bryce Vine, Busta Rhymes, Camila Cabello, Christina Aguilera, Coldplay, DJ Khaled, Drake, Erica Banks, Fat Joe, Future, Giveon, Ice-T, J. Cole, Jack Harlow, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Megan Thee Stallion, Michelle Branch, Miguel, Normani, Post Malone, Quavo, Questlove, Regina Spektor, Ty Dolla $ign, WILLOW and Yo Gotti.

California became the first state to restrict the use of rap lyrics as evidence during trials earlier this month. The landmark legislation came after the California Senate and Assembly unanimously approved the bill in August.

"Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution," state Gov. Gavin Newsom said of the move. "California's culture and entertainment industry set 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."

New York senate recently approved the "Rap Music on Trial" bill which, if passed by the New York assembly, would limit prosecutors' use of song lyrics and other forms of "creative expression" as evidence in criminal cases. While it wouldn't ban presenting lyrics or other material to a jury, it would require prosecutors to show that the work is "literal, rather than figurative or fictional." It's currently being ordered to a third-reading rule in the New York assembly.

In August, Georgia congressman Hank Johnson and New York congressman Jamaal Bowman introduced the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act in the House of Representatives.

All three bills were cited in the open letter, which concludes with, "The work is far from done, and we must all join together to defend creative freedom and expression."