Friday marked a big win for artists in California.
The state Governor Gavin Newsom signed The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, a new law that will restrict California courts from using rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases.
The landmark lesiglastion comes after the Calif. Senate and Assembly unanimously approved the bill AB 2799 in August.
“Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” Newsom said of the move. “California’s culture and entertainment industry set trends around the world and it’s fitting that our state is taking a nation-leading role to protect creative expression and ensure that artists are not criminalized under biased policies.”
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The Democratic lawmaker signed the bill during a virtual ceremony on Zoom. Online participants included members of the Black Music Action Coalition and Songwriters of North America, plus industry leaders such as the Recording Academy’s CEO Harvey Mason Jr., REFORM Alliance’s Jessica Jackson and former president of Def Jam Records, Kevin Liles.
A number of rappers also joined the signing ceremony like Meek Mill, Tyga, Killer Mike, YG, Ty Dolla Sign, Too Short, and E-40. Prior to Newsom signing the bill, a handful of the rappers discussed its importance.
Too Short reportedly expressed gratitude over the fact that California’s next generation of artists won’t have to fear their art being used against them- something that his generation didn’t have, a source told Complex.
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E-40 praised Too Short’s remarks adding that he’s thrilled to see his home state pave the path for other states to follow.
Speaking to TMZ, veteran rapper X-Raided said he always had faith that Newsom would make a difference. The former convict, who spent 26 years in prison for his involvement in a 1992 murder, believes that had prosecutors been prohibited from referencing his lyrics, he would have been acquitted.
Holding an artist accountable for something based on their art has been an issue for quite some time. Gunna, Young Thug and several other rappers’ lyrics were used to support some of their charges when they were recently indicted in a Georgia RICO case.
Ice Cube also reacted to the new law, telling TMZ that he’d like to see the other 49 states follow California’s lead.
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Mason Jr., called the move “an important victory for music creators in the state of California.”
“Silencing any genre or form of artistic expression is a violation against all music people. The history that’s been made in California today will help pave the way forward in the fight to protect creative freedom nationwide,” he said, praising Newsom for “recognizing the importance of protecting artistry.”
AB 2799, which goes into effect in January 2023, also applies to other forms of creative expression including visual and performance art, literature, poetry and films.