Rap Lyrics on Trial

SHOULD rap lyrics be used in court as evidence of a crime?

By ERIK NIELSON and CHARIS E. KUBRINJAN. 13, 2014

The New York Times

Next week, the Supreme Court of New Jersey will hear a case 14declanoped-master495that could help decide just that. At issue is a prosecutor’s extensive use of rap lyrics, composed by a man named Vonte Skinner, as evidence of his involvement in a 2005 shooting.

During Mr. Skinner’s trial in 2008, the prosecutor read the jury 13 pages of violent lyrics written by Mr. Skinner, even though all of the lyrics were composed before the shooting (in some cases, years before) and none of them mentioned the victim or specific details about the crime.

In keeping with rap’s “gangsta” subgenre, the lyrics read like an ode to violent street life, with lines like “In the hood, I am a threat / It’s written on my arm and signed in blood on my Tech” — a reference to a Tec-9 handgun. “I’m in love with you, death.”

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