Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to restrict prosecutors from using rap lyrics as evidence against criminal defendants in California.
Newsom signed on the dotted line of a new bill — the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, also known as AB 2799 — on Friday, which advocates say will help protect artistic expression in hip-hop and rap.
The bill was approved by state lawmakers in August after mass backlash over the imprisonment of some big names in rap, including Young Thug, Gunna, and the late rapper Drakeo the Ruler.
Used as evidence against them were their song lyrics, as prosecutors alleged Young Thug formed a street gang and promoted it through his songs.
A trial date is expected to take place on Jan. 9, 2023.
The case echoed that of late rapper Drakeo the Ruler, who was facing first-degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder charges before his death in Dec. 2021.
The LA-based rapper, who was 28 when he died, had lyrics from his song “Flex Freestyle” pulled as evidence he killed a 24-year-old man. He was later acquitted.
Rappers Tyga, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Too $hort, Ty Dolla $ign, YG, and E-40, were virtually present when Newsom signed the bill.
The signing was also virtually attended by Calif. Rep. Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of The Recording Academy.
“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, co-founder of Songwriters of North America, said in a statement, according to Variety.