BOOK “RAP ON TRIAL: RACE, LYRICS, AND GUILT IN AMERICA” EXAMINES DOUBLE STANDARD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

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[Hip-Hop News\Criminal Justice]
In Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America, scholars Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis examine dozens of cases across the country —among the hundreds they have found— in which prosecutors have used the rap lyrics of defendants against them in the courtroom. Whether interpreted as admissions of guilt, evidence of bad character, or threats of future violence, rap has been used in court in ways that would be unthinkable for any other musical genre.
Photo: Facebook\Book cover

New book examines racist nature in which rap lyrics (unlike other musical genres) are used in American courts as evidence to convict hip-hop artists--like New Orleans rapper McKinley Phipps, Jr. known by the stage name Mac.

When Johnny Cash sang about shooting a man in Reno “just to watch him die,” nobody interpreted it as an actual confession. But when hip-hop artists adopt fictional personas to rap about selling drugs or killing rivals, America’s criminal justice system too often takes them literally.

In Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America, scholars Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis examine dozens of cases across the country —among the hundreds they have found— in which prosecutors have used the rap lyrics of defendants against them in the courtroom. Whether interpreted as admissions of guilt, evidence of bad character, or threats of future violence, rap has been used in court in ways that would be unthinkable for any other musical genre.

Nielson and Dennis link this disparate treatment to the history of hip-hop, which emerged in the South Bronx in the 1970s as a distinctly African-American art form. Long after achieving mainstream success, hip-hop continues to be perceived negatively by large swaths of American society. In this path-breaking book, which features a foreword by Grammy-award winning rapper Killer Mike, the authors examine the scope of the problem and lay out an array of solutions, from the use of expert defense witnesses knowledgeable about hip-hop culture to potential state legislation banning the use of rap lyrics in the courtroom – because, in America’s current legal system the authors argue, “rap lyrics aren’t just prejudicial. They are toxic.”

“Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America” by ERIK NIELSON AND ANDREA L. DENNIS with a foreword by Killer Mike is now available at Barnes & Noble and other select bookstores.

ABOUT ERIK NIELSON:

Erik Nielson is an associate professor of liberal arts at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses on African American literature and hip-hop culture. He lives in Richmond, Virginia and Brooklyn, New York. Follow Erik on Twitter: @ErikNielson

ABOUT ANDREA L. DENNIS:

Andrea L. Dennis holds the John Byrd Martin Chair of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law and was formerly an assistant federal public defender. She lives in Athens, Georgia. Follow Andrea on Twitter: @ProfALDennis

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