Rowland and Killer Mike are among the star names arguing for a change in New York law that would prevent rap lyrics being used as evidence in criminal trials.
The vocalists, joined by Fat Joe, Yo Gotti, Robin Thicke and more, have signed a letter urging lawmakers in New York state to back the proposed change and uphold freedom of expression.
The legislation, titled Rap Music on Trial, was first proposed in November by state senators Brad Hoylman and Jamaal Bailey, to prevent prosecutors from citing lyrics except in cases of “clear and convincing proof” of a link between lyrics and a crime.
“The right to free speech is enshrined in our federal and state constitutions,” Bailey said at the time. “The admission of art as criminal evidence only serves to erode this fundamental right, and the use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system.” The legislation passed an initial stage in the state senate earlier this week.
“This is a long time coming,” said Alex Spiro, Jay-Z’s lawyer, who drafted the letter. Speaking to Rolling Stone, he said: “By changing the law here, you do a lot of good for the cases that it affects, but you also send a message that progress is coming. We expect it will be followed in a lot of places.”