Rap Is Art Not Evidence
February 1, 2024
As the gang conspiracy trial of rapper Young Thug and his famed rap collective, YSL, extends past 20 days in Atlanta, we’re bringing you a conversation about the use of rap lyrics in court.
Despite a groundswell of activism and legal opposition against the legal admissibility of Young Thug’s lyrics, a judge ruled in November that lyrics from Young Thug and other YSL artists can be used by the state against them as evidence pointing to the gang’s existence and the members’ attitudes towards the crimes they are charged with.
We’re revisiting an episode from our archive about how the use of an artist’s creative work in court allows for implicit bias to run roughshod on rappers’ lives and lead to wrongful convictions. Joining us to discuss the evolution of this practice is Erik Nielsen, professor at the University of Richmond and co-author of the book “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America.” We are also joined by New Orleans rapper, songwriter, and former member of the 504boyz, Mac Phipps who experienced firsthand how the use of lyrics on trial can lead to a wrongful conviction.