ARCHANG — In a decision that served as both a historical ode to hip-hop and a finding that prohibits the inclusion of the defendant's rap lyrics in his trial, a Brooklyn court ruled Tuesday. The judge also praised hip-hop, calling it "a platform for expression to many who had largely been voiceless."
The decision was made in reaction to federal prosecutors' efforts to use Karl Jordan Jr.'s song lyrics as proof of his involvement in the murder of Jay, a groundbreaking musician whose real name was Jason Mizell. Murdering him in 2002 was one of the most notorious crimes in rap history.
Brooklyn Federal Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall found the lyrics inadmissible after tracing the growth of hip-hop over five decades and quoting records from over a dozen artists in her 14-page judgment.
"From the genre's nascence as an oral tradition, rap artists have played the part of storytellers, providing a lens into their lives and those in their communities," noted Hall.
The prosecution had hoped to use a number of sentences that Jordan had written about drug selling and violence in the first person, such as: "We aim for the head, no body shots, and we stick around just to see the body drop."
Hall stated that instead of describing the particular event, the lyrics "merely contain generic references to violence that can be found in many rap songs."
She referenced verses by Vince Staples, Nas, and Ice Cube, as well as interviews with musicians like Fat Joe and Future who have openly spoken about the gap between their personal and professional lives.
Hall went into additional detail about the history of the genre, mentioning how influential singers like A Tribe Called Quest and Queen Latifah were politically, and how "gangsta rap" served "as a portal for others to see into America's urban centers."
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