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Atlantic and 300 Entertainment execs call for federal “Rap Music On Trial” law

300 CEO Kevin Liles and Atlantic COO Julie Greenwald are circulating a “Petition to Protect Black Art.”

June 09, 2022
Atlantic and 300 Entertainment execs call for federal “Rap Music On Trial” law Julie Greenwald and Kevin Liles.   Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

The ongoing YSL RICO indictment in Georgia has reignited a long-running debate about the legal admissibility of rap lyrics as evidence of criminal wrongdoing. In response to recent events, 300 Entertainment co-founder and recently appointed CEO Kevin Liles and long-time Atlantic Records COO Julie Greenwald have circulated “Rap Music on Trial: A Petition to Protect Black Art.”

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“Weaponizing creative expression against artists is obviously wrong,” Liles and Greenwald write. “But what gets us so upset is what’s happening to Young Thug, Gunna, and YSL is just the most high-profile case. In courtrooms across America, Black creativity and artistry is being criminalized. With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions, just like they’re doing in this case.”

The Atlantic and 300 executives have a vested interest in clearing Thug and Gunna’s names and returning YSL to good public standing — Thug’s Young Stoner Life Records is distributed by 300 and Atlantic, and both artists are signed to all three labels — but their sentiments have been echoed across the country. Last month, S.7527/A.8681 (better known as the Rap Music On Trial bill) was approved by the New York State Senate. If it passes through the State Assembly and is signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, it will force prosecutors to show that a lyric is actual proof of a crime before it is shown to a jury, bucking the historic trend of hip-hop’s use as highly prejudicial character evidence.

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In their letter, Liles and Greenwald call for similar standards to be adopted nationwide, a desire also expressed by previously incarcerated Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda in a recent TMZ interview.

Read the full petition below.

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Friends and Family,

Those of you who know us well know that we have a hard time seeing wrong done in front of our eyes and not doing something about it. That’s why we’ve created a petition we would ask you to sign and share to help us protect Black art.

Sign Here: https://chng.it/HLPmYr96

As you may know, currently in Georgia, multiple artists belonging to Young Stoner Life Records – including celebrated artists like Young Thug and Gunna – are facing more than 50 allegations, including RICO charges which claim the record label is a criminal gang. The allegations heavily rely on the artists’ lyrics that prosecutors claim are “overt evidence of conspiracy.”

Weaponizing creative expression against artists is obviously wrong. But what gets us so upset is what’s happening to Young Thug, Gunna, and YSL is just the most high-profile case. In courtrooms across America, Black creativity and artistry is being criminalized. With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions, just like they’re doing in this case.

This practice isn’t just a violation of First Amendment protections for speech and creative expression. It punishes already marginalized communities and silences their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph. It is a racially targeted attack, and this shameful and un-American practice must end.

Others like our friends Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Reform Alliance, and many more have been working on this issue for some time, and there’s a bill recently passed by the New York State Senate – S.7527/A.8681, better known as the “Rap Music on Trial” Bill – that’s now up for vote in the New York State Assembly. We need to step up, support these efforts, and get this bill across the finish line.

We need to urge the prompt adoption of legislation at the Federal and State level that would limit how prosecutors can use creative and artistic expression as evidence against defendants in criminal trials. It’s our hope that this legislation and similar Bills will become law across America to end this attack on our First Amendment freedoms that disproportionately harms Black and other minority artists.

We ask you to sign and share with others you know. And if you live in New York, call your representative in the Assembly and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill and vote yes in the next session.

Enough is enough. We must protect Black art, creativity, and communities.

Thank you and God Bless,

Kevin Liles and Julie Greenwald

Atlantic and 300 Entertainment execs call for federal “Rap Music On Trial” law