New York’s State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday, May 17, that would put new measures on the use of song lyrics as evidence in criminal cases, Pitchfork reports. Senate Bill S7527 would not be an outright ban on prosecutors from using lyrics or other forms of “creative expression” at trial, but would require them to prove that the words are “literal, rather than figurative or fictional” before presenting them to a jury.
Senator Brad Hoylman (pictured above) and Jamaal Bailey sponsored the bill, which has previously been backed by rappers including Jay-Z, Killer Mike, and Meek Mill. The next stage for organizers is to pass the law at New York State Assembly; a companion bill sponsored by Assembly Member Catalina Cruz is pending before a committee and awaiting a vote.
While not new, the act of presenting rap lyrics as evidence in court has gathered steam in recent years. The most notable example in recent weeks being Young Thug and Gunna's RICO charges, with prosecutors citing large swathes of lyrics from songs they appear on in their evidence. The FADER's Jordan Darville wrote about this and the way "free speech" advocates have so far remained silent on the subject in a piece you can read here.