Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, Coldplay, and more are among the stars who have signed the "Art on Trial, Protect Black Art" open letter. Musicians, industry executives, legal experts, and record labels supported a letter defending creative expression while also protesting the way rap lyrics are used to criminalize Black artists.
In the letter, they refer to rapper Young Thug, currently incarcerated at Georgia's Fulton County jail on RICO charges - the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act - with his lyrics cited as evidence of "an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy."
Warner Music Group has drafted and published the letter, which reads, "In courtrooms across America, the trend of prosecutors using artists' creative expression against them is happening with troubling frequency."
"Regardless of the medium - music, the visual arts, writing, television, film - fans implicitly understand that creative expression is rooted in what artists see and hear; it's a reflection of the times we live in. The final work is a product of the artist's vision and imagination."
As well as Drake and Megan Thee Stallion, other prominent hip-hop artists have signed the letter, including Quavo, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Jack Harlow, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Big Sean, and more.
Also putting their name on the statement are Normani, John Legend, Post Malone, Willow, and Alicia Keys, plus companies like Universal Music Group, Live Nation Entertainment, Spotify, TikTok, and YouTube Music, among others.
The letter continues, "Rappers are storytellers, creating entire worlds populated with complex characters who can play both hero and villain. But more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry."
The letter describes the use of lyrics "against artists in this way" as "un-American and simply wrong," claiming an "obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment" and describing it as a "racially targeted practice."
California governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill requiring judges to push prosecutors to explain the purpose behind lyrics being used as evidence.
The letter continues, "We urge prosecutors to voluntarily end this practice in their jurisdictions."
"In the meantime, we encourage legislators at the state and federal level to explicitly limit how creative expression can be used against defendants on trial."