Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act Friday, which restricts the use of rap lyrics as evidence in California courts, according to Variety.
The state Senate and Assembly unanimously approved the bill, AB 2799, in August. Rap artists Killer Mike, Meek Mill, Too $hort, Ty Dolla $ign, YG, E-40 and Tyga reportedly spoke about the importance of the legislation at a virtual bill signing ceremony, as well as Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of The Recording Academy.
"Today we celebrate an important victory for music creators in the state of California," Mason said. "Silencing any genre or form of artistic expression is a violation against all music people. The history that's been made in California today will help pave the way forward in the fight to protect creative freedom nationwide."
Also reportedly joining the event were leaders from the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) and Songwriters of North America (SONA).
The BMAC said the bill was a "crucial step in the right direction" of preventing racial bias from influencing court proceedings, especially in light of the recent indictment of Young Thug and Gunna, whose lyrics were used as evidence against them in a recent anti-racketeering law trial.
"For too long, prosecutors in California have used rap lyrics as a convenient way to inject racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process," Dina LaPolt, entertainment attorney and co-founder of SONA, said. "This legislation sets up important guardrails that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and brown artistic expression."
Willie "Prophet" Stiggers, co-founder and co-chair of BMAC, called the signing of the measure a "huge victory for the artistic and creative community."
"The signing of AB 2799 into California law is … a big step in the right direction towards our federal legislation — The RAP Act [Restoring Artistic Protection Act] — preventing the use of lyrics as the sole basis to prosecute cases," Stiggers said. "The Black Music Action Coalition applauds Gov. Newsom for his willingness to stand with artists and defend our First Amendment right to freedom of speech."
U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., took the stage ahead of a panel discussion Thursday at the Recording Industry Association of American in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the RAP Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this summer.
LaPolt told Variety in May that the use of Young Thug's lyrics as evidence in court is "unprecedented racism." Legal expert and University of California, Irvine professor Jack Lerner told the outlet that this process "could really affect the way people make music."
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