Rap Music on Trial Protect Creative Artistic Expression | 2023 NYS Legislative Agenda

In courtrooms across the nation, and here in New York, rap music has been increasingly used as evidence in criminal prosecutions. Rap music has been used to “prove” a wide variety of factual issues, and these tactics threaten to chill the creative expression of ordinary New Yorkers. Rap lyrics have even been used as purported confessions. These practices have not been limited to cases where the accused himself created the lyrics at issue—courts have gone so far as to admit evidence that a defendant merely listened to a song. Because rap music is the only genre of music consistently used as evidence in this way, the practice threatens to invite racial discrimination and stereotyping into criminal prosecutions. The Rap Music on Trial Bill would protect free expression by imposing sensible limitations on the Government’s use of creative expression as evidence in criminal trials. The bill would make the introduction of a defendant’s “creative artistic expression” presumptively inadmissible. The bill does not, however, completely bar the introduction of such evidence, creating reasonable requirements for prosecutors and the court to meet. The City Bar supports the Rap Music on Trial Bill as necessary to supplement the traditional evidentiary principles requiring that the probative value of proffered evidence outweigh its potential for prejudice.

– New for 2023 –


Passed the Senate – May 15, 2023