Conklin on The Admissibility of Rap Lyrics in Court: A Review of As We Speak

Michael Conklin, Angelo State University; Texas A&M School of Law, is publishing The Admissibility of Rap Lyrics in Court: A Review of As We Speak in the Journal of Law & Social Deviance. Here is the abstract.

The use of rap lyrics at trial is a timely issue given the current confluence of events, including the Young Thug trial, the Black Lives Matter movement, a growing “tough on crime” sentiment due to rising violent crime, the introduction of the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act in Congress, and societal debate about separating the artist from the art. This review provides a critical analysis of the 2024 documentary As We Speak: Rap Music on Trial, a film that advocates against the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials. The cinematography is beautiful, creating an aesthetically pleasing experience. And it is engagingly structured as a road movie with the guide, rapper Kemba, taking the viewer to Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, and London to interview rappers and legal experts. This results in a powerful documentary that has received glowing reviews from both film critics and audiences. Unfortunately, while the film’s subject is certainly a legitimate topic of discussion, the film suffers from significant shortcomings. This review will analyze how the leading study regarding rap on trial is deceptively presented, misrepresentations of the topic as a free-speech issue whereby rap lyrics are “criminalized,” ineffective attempts to analogize rappers to Shakespearian actors, and claims regarding race that are contrary to the evidence.

Download the review from SSRN at the link.