In May, rapper Young Thug and 27 other men associated with his YSL (Young Stoner Life) record label were arrested and charged with 56 counts of criminal activity. The indictment alleges they have committed crimes spanning murder, attempted murder, carjacking, robbery, possession of drugs and firearms, and witness intimidation. Essentially, prosecutors allege that Young Thug is the leader of a street gang. "The artist is at the centre of one of the biggest rap court cases in music history; a legal saga that has halted his career at its commercial peak and, with his lyrics being employed against him by prosecutors, reignited the debate around using art as evidence in court" - The Fa

Anything you rap can be used against you!
August 30, 2022

USA attorney to use rap lyrics as evidence

Atlanta’s top legal representative Fanni Willis said she has no plans to stop citing rap songs' lyrics in criminal indictments any time soon, Rolling Stone reports. “I think if you decide to admit your crimes over a beat, I’m going to use it... You do not get to commit crimes in my county, and then get to decide to brag on it, which you do that for a form of intimidation and to further the gain and to not be held responsible” - Willis said during a press conference for a criminal case that does use lyrics as evidence. Her statements come months after Young Thug and Gunna were arrested for allegedly violating the RICO Act. Young Thug's lyrics were cited heavily in his indictment.

Beyoncé and Lizzo amended their songs following criticism by fans on social media. The Face argues in favor of the (responsible) power of the people: "In the case of ​“sp*z” and derogatory terms in music, cultural customs (i.e. the use of problematic terms when ignorant) don’t necessarily align with the ​“right” and ​“justified” action in real time. Values change over time, and so does the context of certain words. It’s OK for artists to learn, like every flawed human on the planet. Evolution and dismantling harmful practices is something to be embraced and welcomed, not scrutinised. These days, artists are scanning social media for feedback and potential edit suggestions. Let’s hope the fans use their power responsibly".

Guardian shares a moving story about members of Iranian-Norwegian band Confess Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani who got arrested in 2015, and spent 18 months of incarceration awaiting trial. Their crime was writing anti-establishment metal music, for which they were charged with blasphemy and propaganda against the state. After paying am $80,000 bail, they waited for the trial and, following a guilty verdict that sentenced them to six years in prison, they sought asylum in Norway. Now they have an album out 'Revenge at All Costs' where they're "making the statement that you cannot do this to a human".

Great Bill Maher on words-redefining: "The words 'victim' and 'survivor' have traveled a long way from their original usage. The baby from the Nirvana album says he's a victim. He's suing Nirvana for lifelong damages. I never thought I'd have to say this to a baby, but stop being such a fucking baby. You're not a victim. There's no reason you can't have a normal, happy life just because people look at you and think, 'baby penis'".

John Hinckley Jr., the would-be assassin of former American President Ronald Reagan, complained about alleged unpaid royalties for a song he says he "co-wrote" with the band Devo. Hinckley wrote a poem as an obsessive verse written to actress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley had been stalking and hoped to impress by assassinating Reagan. Devo's Gerald V. Casale said that DEVO was "blown away by the poetic sociopathy" of Hinckley's poetry and used a few of his verses in their song 'I Desire'. It seems he got at least $610 in royalties so far. Newsweek brings the crazy story.

Don't excuse your French
July 02, 2021

LilyIsThatYou and the power of TikTok

Rolling Stone explores the power of TikTok on the example of LilyIsThatYou whose song 'FMRN' the popular social media took down due to, well, simple and explicit lyric - “Can you come fuck me right now?”. A snippet of the hither chorus on TikTok drew over a million views in 24 hours, only to be removed by the editors of the social. After RS inquired about the removal of the snippet, TikTok put it back online. "This episode illustrates the power that platforms like TikTok have over artists’ trajectories in 2021. By now, TikTok’s wide reach is the stuff of music industry legend — in select instances, it is capable of delivering a song by an unknown act to legions of new listeners before lunch. But the platform can take away as quickly as it gives. And because services like TikTok are so dominant, they don’t always have to justify their actions, especially regarding smaller, independent artists".

In 2008 Katty Perry released her hit-single 'I Kissed A girl'. "For as groundbreaking as it felt to hear a woman explicitly singing about being with another woman then, it would take another 13 years for a man explicitly singing about being with another man to appear on the charts — enter Lil Nas X’s 'MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)'" - The Pudding goes into the history of same-sex lyrics in pop songs.

"The only way forward for me is to leave the band. I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences. I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best" - Mumford & Sons banjo player Winston Marshall wrote in a Medium blog post officially announcing his departure from the band. The pressure he felt has started after he supported controversial right-wing figure Andy Ngo. Marshall believes it had also started to be "distressing" for his bandmates as well.

"Despite all the restrictions and prohibitions, I will complete the album. Maybe that will lead to a return to prison, but it really does not matter to me. I am doomed to produce music" - Iranian artist Mehdi Rajabian (31) says in a Rolling Stone interview from a solitary confinement in a basement. He is about to release his new album 'Coup of Gods', where he mixes classical strings, Middle Eastern instruments, and gorgeous vocalizations, as well as female voices which could bring him back to jail.

“The hatred shown towards me from the creators of the Simpsons is obviously a taunting lawsuit, but one that requires more funding than I could possibly muster in order to make a challenge” - Morrissey writes on his website after a Simpsons episode which parodied the former Smiths frontman. "The worst thing you can do in 2021 is to lend a bit of strength to the lives of others. There is no place in modern music for anyone with strong emotions … In a world obsessed with Hate Laws, there are none that protect me” - the singer says. Morrissey satirised during the episode 'Panic on the Streets of Springfield', in which Lisa Simpson becomes obsessed with a fictional band called the Snuffs and befriends its frontman, Quilloughby.

'The United States vs. Billie Holiday' comes down to what one single song does to the life of the singer, to the society, and the system. LA Times recalls what really happened when federal officers prosecuted Billie Holiday because of the song about a lynching in the American South - the powerful 'Strange Fruit', with the excuse of fighting against the drugs. Critics don't really like the movie.

Photo: Òmnium Cultural

Spanish rapper Valtònyc, originally from Mallorca, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail after being convicted of slander, Lèse-majesté, and glorifying terrorism in his lyrics. A day before his arrest in May 2018 he fled to Belgium. Recently, another Spanish rapper, Pablo Hasél, was arrested while also practicing his freedom of speech. Valtònyc looks back on his sentence: "It seemed like a joke – almost four years in jail for a song. But it wasn’t: there are 18 rappers in Spain facing jail for similar charges".

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition - in 21st century
February 22, 2021

Barcelona: Five days of protests after rapper gets jailed

Five nights of protests in Barcelona have followed after the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasél, convicted of criticizing the country's monarchy and glorifying a separatist group in a series of tweets, Reuters reports. Thousands took to the streets Saturday night, protesting Hasél's conviction and nine-month sentence. Protests turned violent on Saturday with protesters throwing objects at police, setting fires and looting and vandalizing many luxury shops.

Anti-riot police have arrested Spanish rapper Pablo Hasél who barricaded himself with dozens of his supporters in a university, BBC reports. The rapper was escorted by riot police out of Lleida University's rectorate building, in the northeastern Catalonia region, where he and over 50 supporters had locked themselves in since mid-Monday. Hasél has been sentenced to 9 months in prison for glorifying terrorism and slandering the crown and state institutions over tweets and lyrics that attacked the monarchy and police.

Freedom on the verge of a nervous breakdown
February 11, 2021

Spanish rapper Pablo Hasél sentenced to prison for tweets about the king

Spanish rapper Pablo Hasél has been ordered to report to prison to serve nine months and one day, for glorifying terrorism and insulting the Crown and state institutions in a series of tweets. After over 200 artists – including the filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar – signed a petition defending the rapper, the Spanish government announced that it is planning a reform to the criminal code that would eliminate prison terms for crimes involving freedom of expression, el Pais reports.

Pandemonic incriminations
February 09, 2021

Behemoth frontman Nergal sued for stepping on Virgin Mary image

Behemoth frontman Nergal is facing a charge of blasphemy in his native Poland due to an image in which he is seen stepping on artwork that depicts the Virgin Mary, Loudwire reports. The Polish musician, real name Adam Darski, is accused of “publicly insulting the object of Christian religious worship in the form of the person of the Mother of God” by sharing the offending image on social media. Nergal confirmed there was “another lawsuit in the process”, but claimed it was “nonsense”.

Jagger sang "I'll stick my knife right down your throat, baby" but it doesn't mean he was involved in gangs
January 13, 2021

The history of UK trials for drill lyrics

BBC has looked into details of dozens of prosecutions in the UK for drill and rap music lyrics from the last decade. Police often blame drill for fuelling violence, and when it comes to court, it is also increasingly being used as evidence. Defense lawyers say it stops defendants from getting a fair trial, while also limiting rappers' freedom of speech.

Digga D

There have been at least 30 cases where rap music or videos have been used as evidence in England and Wales, exclusively against Black men, according to research by London School of Economics and Political Science - Huck magazine is warning about the dangerous practice in the UK. Prosecutors are allowed to present lyrics as evidence of someone’s character, the logic being that because you rap about violence or criminality you are a criminal. There also seems to be racial bias to this - no other fictional form is targeted in this way in court. On the other side, the harassment and targeting of Black people is done with little or no accountability.

"The State of Maryland’s highest court ruled that rap lyrics may be admitted in court as evidence of a defendant’s guilt. This blatantly racist decision is a travesty that sets a dangerous precedent" - veteran attorney Dina LaPolt writes for Variety about a recent case of conviction of one Lawrence Montague partly based on his rap lyrics. LaPolt continues - "great music is more often than not rooted in storytelling, and by imposing criminal consequences for a story told through an artistic medium, the court here threatens to stifle creativity and limit the scope of artistic expression". She also sees racial bias here: "I would invite anyone suggesting that this ruling is not limited to rap music to find an example of a court admitting lyrical evidence of a country singer driving drunk or shooting a cheating spouse".

Snoop Dogg, who had an album named 'Doggystyle' which began with a sketch about bathtub coitus, thinks that Cardi B's 'WAP' is too sexy, as he said in an interview on the newsmag program Central Ave. Snoop, who also once rapped, “she will get G’d if she don’t suck dick,” added of their vaginas, “that’s like your pride and possession. That’s your jewel of your crown". Where did the change come from? -  "I’ma older man”.

Johnny Cash didn't really shoot that man in Reno
December 11, 2020

Prosecuting Rap collective - fighting the use of rap lyrics in court

HeadieOne

Rap videos and lyrics are increasingly being used as evidence in criminal trials in the UK - over 60 cases where “rap evidence” has been used in this way have been identified - presented by prosecutors as autobiographical confessions to crimes, threats of violence or proof of gang affiliation, rather than fictional or greatly exaggerated stories. Enter Prosecuting Rap: Criminal Justice and UK Black Youth Expressive Culture, a research project headed by Eithne Quinn, Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester, networked with other academics and legal professionals, serving as rap expert for the defense in trials, trying to differentiate the menacing musical persona in the song with the young person sitting in the dock. DJ Mag reports on the worthy collective.

London drill rapper Digga D is one of the first musicians in British history to be given a criminal behaviour order that controls his creative output, which means he says to tell the police before releasing any music or videos. If the police conclude it is "inciting or encouraging violence" they can arrest him. The new docu 'Defending Digga D' by the BBC starts on the day he is released from prison after 15 months of being incarcerated, and it follows him through trying to restart his career.

Whatever new music comes out, it’s viewed as the devil’s music. I remember when Elvis came out everybody said he was Satan. And then in the ‘60s and ‘70s he became America’s national treasure. It happens with every new wave of music. Like metal, obviously. The Christians were going mental when Sabbath came about. And then when rap came about, people were up in arms about that and certain words that rappers were using" - Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler says in a Kerrang interview. The thing is he doesn't really like 'WAP', but he, it seems so, defends Cardi B's right to write such a song: "I have to say, though, that Cardi B pisses me off with that WAP song. It’s disgusting! But there you go... Then again, I’m 71. A bloody old goat!”.

Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian says he was arrested two weeks ago and is facing trial for working with female singers and dancers, BBC reports. His new album, which is not yet complete, is due to include female vocalists - who are effectively banned in Iran. Rajabian says a judge told him his latest project "encouraged prostitution". The 30-year-old has already been imprisoned twice on charges relating to his music.

Salt-n-Pepa

Okay Player wrote a short history of sex talk by black women in hip-hop, starting with Salt-N-Pepa, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliott, and Trina, going to contemporaries like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. "Their ministry is for those who want to hear their words, which often incites a camaraderie between free-loving ride-or-dies shaking their asses on one another while rapping along in electrifying praise".

Iranian band Arsames have fled their home country to avoid having to serve a 15-year prison sentence for playing metal music. Arsames insist they don't play satanic music, rather they sing about Persian history - "is it a crime that we love music and our country?!”. Metal is viewed as a Satanic form of music in Iran, which violates the country’s strict blasphemy laws and could result in execution, Loudwire reports.

“When you make a woman feel like she’s the baddest bitch in the room, to me, that’s female empowerment” - Cardi B says in Elle interview about the backlash she got after her latest video 'WAP'. One of the colleagues who didn't appreciate her song was CeeLo Green who first accused her of "salacious gesturing", but afterward apologized saying - "I'm an advocate of artistic freedom and expression as well as a fan of Nicki, Cardi and Megan... I would never disrespect them by any means. I acknowledge them all as powerful, beautiful and influential women… and professionals".

"Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck" - Nick Cave writes in the latest edition of his Red Hand Files blog, answering to what his idea of mercy is, and what he thinks of cancel culture. "Cancel culture’s refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society... We are a culture in transition, and it may be that we are heading toward a more equal society — I don’t know — but what essential values will we forfeit in the process?".

"Although free speech remains the fundamental bedrock of a free society, for everyone to enjoy the benefits of freedom, liberty needs to be tempered by two further dimensions: equality and accountability. Without equality, those in power will use their freedom of expression to abuse and marginalise others. Without accountability, liberty can mutate into the most dangerous of all freedoms – impunity... When reason, respect and responsibility are all under threat, accountability offers us a better foundation on which to build a cohesive society, one where everyone feels that their voice is heard" - musician and activist Billy Bragg wrote in Guardian on the issue of "cancel culture", after an open letter that is decrying cancel culture, signed by 150 academics and writers, has been published. Actor Ricky Gervais joined the discussion saying there are “outrage mobs that take everything out of context” and that "some people have lost their sense of irony". Gervais pressed that free speech was not the same as criticism-free speech - “some people think freedom of speech means, I should be able to say anything without consequences and it doesn’t mean that”.

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