California Rap Lyrics Bill Becomes State Law

Too $hort, Killer Mike, Ty Dolla $ign, YG, Meek Mill, E-40 and CEO of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr. were on deck at a virtual bill signing this week as Governor Gavin Newsom signed The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, which restricts the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court in California.

The California Senate and Assembly unanimously approved AB 2799 in August. Leaders from the Black Music Action Coalition and Songwriters of North America also joined the signing ceremony.

"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 Songwriters of North America," said in a press release. "This legislation sets up important guardrails that will help courts hold prosecutors accountable and prevent them from criminalizing Black and Brown artistic expression. Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for setting the standard. We hope Congress will pass similar legislation, as this is a nationwide problem.” 

Co-Founder and Co-Chair of BMAC Willie “Prophet” Stiggers added: “The signing of AB 2799 (The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act) into California law is a huge victory for the artistic and creative community, and a big step in the right direction towards our federal legislation – The RAP Act (Restorating Artistic Protection Act) – preventing the use of lyrics as the sole basis to prosecute cases. The Black Music Action Coalition applauds Governor Newsom for his willingness to stand with Artists and defend our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.”

RIAA CEO and Chairman Mitch Glazier encouraged Newsom to sign the bill last month in an open letter and applauded the governor for seeing it through. 

"Today we applaud Governor Newsom on this pivotal decision that will allow all creators to express themselves and follow their artistic vision without barriers of prejudice!" he said. "The RIAA has been a vocal advocate for AB 2799 because all too often rap and Hip Hop artists have suffered for the same kind of hyperbole and imagery other genres routinely use without consequence. With the signing of the California rap lyrics bill into law, voices that may have been stifled are now fully open to expression.”