Following GRAMMYs on the Hill: Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., industry advocates and Recording Academy discussed the future protection of artists against their own lyrics.
The Recording Academy leaders, executives, and members joined Congressmen Hank Johnson and Jamaal Bowman at a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the reintroduction of the Restoring Artistic Protection Act – also referred to as the RAP Act. Artists and industry advocates including Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. and Academy Black Music Collective Chair Rico Love, shared their perspectives on the value of passing this legislation and reassuring all artists can create freely without fear of criminalizing their work.
“This legislation is long overdue,” said Congressman Johnson. “For too long, artists – particularly young Black artists – have been unfairly targeted by prosecutors who use their lyrics as evidence of guilt, even though there is no evidence that the lyrics are anything more than creative expression.”
With the implementation of this act, Johnson hopes to open doors for other realms of free speech. He calls on the government to stop trying to silence artists because of their music on controversial or unorthodox subjects.
On April 27, the Recording Academy hosted its annual GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards in Washington, D.C., where figures such as Pharrell Williams, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senator Bill Cassidy are honored for their philanthropy, advocacy, and dedication to creators’ rights.
“Music is such a unifying force,” said Emmy award-winning singer-songwriter and this year’s GRAMMYs on the Hill host Maggie Rose. “What we’re asking these legislators to do on different sides of the aisle is to come together and find a compromise that will benefit musicians and anyone involved in music and unite their constituents.”
Almost 300 Recording Academy members, leaders, and congressional figures gathered around to celebrate the honorees and prepare for reintroducing the RAP Act.
“Rap, hip-hop, and every lyrical, musical piece is a beautiful form of art and expression that must be protected,” said Congressman Bowman said in a statement. “I am proud to introduce the RAP Act alongside Rep. Hank Johnson. Our judicial system disparately criminalizes Black and Brown people, including Black and Brown creativity.”
The Restoring Artistic Protection Act is a bill that limits the adequacy of evidence of a defendant’s creative or artistic expression against the defendant in a federal criminal case. The term is creative or artistic expression means the expression or application of creativity or imagination in the production or arrangement of forms, sounds, words, movements, or symbols, including music, dance, performance art, visual art, poetry, literature, film, and other such objects or media.
The conversation surrounding the RAP Act became prevalent after rappers Young Thug and Gunna were involved in a RICO case for their rap collective Young Slime Life (YSL). “When I became affiliated with YSL in 2016, I did not consider it a “gang”; more like a group of people from metro Atlanta who had common interests and artistic aspirations,” Gunna said in a statement. “My focus of YSL was entertainment — rap artists who wrote and performed music that exaggerated and “glorified” urban life in the Black community.”
With Congress introducing the RAP Act, this could help put an end to society attempting to censor artist expression and could protect artists like Young Thug and Gunna from facing racial discrimination because of their art.
The Hill Advocacy Day is recognized as Capitol Hill’s largest and most prestigious legislative event for music. This year, music creators will meet with Members of Congress to advance several issues the Academy and its members continue to advocate for.
GRAMMY-nominated Singer, songwriter and producer Dixson emphasized the importance of artists continuing to show up for impactful events like GRAMMYs on the Hill. “It first starts with changing the stigma behind what creatives actually do,” he exclusively told Boardroom at GRAMMYs on the Hill’s red carpet. “There are so many people that deserve an opportunity to be heard, compensated fairly and to be honored in the proper way.”
Congressmen Hank Johnson, Jamaal Bowman, and Recording Academy leaders and industry advocates will reintroduce the RAP Act to protect artists from the wrongful use of their lyrics against them in criminal and civil proceedings. There are over 500 documented cases since the 2000s where prosecutors have used lyrics as criminal evidence in court against an artist defendant.
To fight for more progression, the Recording Academy has spearheaded efforts to protect the First Amendment rights of artists nationwide by working to limit the use of an artist’s lyrics — among other forms of creative expression — as evidence in criminal proceedings. “Some crucial bills need to be passed, and I’m taking a leadership position in making it a priority to get them passed and gain as much traction as possible,” SAG-AFTRA president and The Nanny star Fran Drescher told Boardroom.
“It’s really important that the country doesn’t slip into a place of conservative where you’re not free to be creative. It’s the same thing with freedom of speech. I don’t agree with everything being said, but I will fight for your right to say it, and any artist has the right to say whatever they want.”
Through the work of the Recording Academy, the main focus for reintroducing the RAP Act is to emphasize the importance of advocacy in artists and producers with a worldwide guide to continue spotlighting the intersectionality between politics and entertainment.
“GRAMMYs on the Hill has been bringing music creators to Capitol Hill for more than 20 years to elevate policy issues that impact our community,” Mason Jr. and Love said in a statement.
“Today, we’re proud to see our Academy members’ commitment to advocacy come to life with the reintroduction of the Restoring Artistic Protection Act. We must safeguard artists’ freedom to create at all costs and work to eradicate the biases that come with the unconstitutional practice of using lyrics as evidence. We are grateful to Congressmen Johnson and Bowman for their unwavering commitment to music people and look forward to working alongside them to advance this issue.”
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