Ought to rap lyrics be utilized in prison trials? Previously incarcerated rapper speaks about

In case you meet McKinley Phipps now, he is a far cry from the 20-year-old, chart-climbing rapper generally known as Mac, signed to music mogul Grasp P’s No Restrict Information, whose 1998 album “Shell Shocked” reached No. 11 on the Billboard Prime 200. “It felt good to be part of one thing that was huge,” stated Phipps. “It felt good to be part of one thing that was acknowledged all all over the world.”

However straight away, Phipps’ rise got here crashing down in February of 2000, when a 19-year-old man was shot and killed throughout an altercation at Phipps’ present at a nightclub in Slidell, Louisiana. The person later died. Detectives finally took Phipps into custody after witnesses stated he had a gun.

Rapper Mac Phipps is again with a brand new album, “Son of the Metropolis,” his first after being launched from jail. 

CBS Information

“I pulled my gun out once I ran towards the door,” Phipps instructed CBS Information. “And that was most likely the most important mistake I ever made. I might later be taught that as a result of folks noticed me with this gun, that is type of why folks had been, like, beneath the idea that perhaps he did it.

Phipps was charged with first-degree homicide. 

“It was all on MTV Information,” he stated. “I by no means was on MTV till I caught a cost.” 

A member of Phipps’ entourage admitted to the taking pictures, however he says that confession fell on deaf ears.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors zeroed in on the identical lyrics that made Phipps a star.

In line with Phipps, prosecutors took out of context the lyrics from two totally different songs and spliced them collectively to make an announcement. “One track was ‘Murda, Murda, Kill, Kill,’ which was, like, a straight battle rap. The opposite one was a track known as ‘Shell Shocked,’ and the road that they referred to was truly a line about my father. They stated, ‘This younger man stated, Homicide, homicide, kill, kill, in the event you f*** with me, I am going to put a bullet in your mind.'”

A jury convicted Phipps of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Erik Nielson, co-author of “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” and a professor on the College of Richmond, stated rap lyrics have been used as proof in additional than 500 circumstances towards artists since 1991: “Not solely do prosecutors cherry-pick lyrics and decontextualize them to serve their very own functions, however they usually do it do it with none information or understanding of rap music in any respect.”

The New Press

He stated that, in contrast to different genres, “rap music is the one fictional kind, musical or in any other case, that’s focused like this within the courts.”

Nielson known as Phipps’ case one of the crucial egregious he has ever seen. 

“I am not right here to inform you that someone is responsible or harmless. I am solely right here arguing for an individual’s proper to a good trial,” Nielson stated. “However I’ve all the time had one exception, and that exception is Mac Phipps.”

Former Georgia prosecutor Chris Timmons, who had no connection to Phipps’ trial, has tried greater than 100 circumstances and has used rappers’ music movies to hyperlink them to prison avenue gangs. “I did not use any of their lyrics,” he instructed “CBS Mornings.” “I did not really feel like all of their lyrics had been related to [a specific] theft. However what I did use was the lyrics and the video to point out that these folks have a relationship.”

Timmons views utilizing lyrics as a authorized technique. 

“In case you’ve bought a confession, whether or not that confession rhymes, whether or not it is set to music, you are going to need to use it, in the event you’re a prosecutor,” he stated. “Similar factor with protection. You are gonna need to preserve it out.”

Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia referenced a number of songs in their indictment of Grammy-winning rapper Jeffery Williams, a.okay.a. Younger Thug, whose trial on expenses of racketeering and gang exercise allegedly linked to murders and theft begins this week. Williams has pleaded not responsible to all expenses.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom just lately signed the Decriminalizing Creative Expression Act, which restricts the methods through which an artist’s lyrics could also be used towards them as proof in courtroom. Related laws, the Restoring Artists Safety Act, or RAP Act, is being proposed on the federal degree.


Miko Media/Rapbay/Urbanlife

Phipps served 21 years of his 30-year sentence and was launched from jail in 2021 after being granted clemency.

His album “Son of the Metropolis,” his first challenge since coming house from jail, debuted final October. 

“I haven’t got too many songs, if I’ve any, about jail life,” he stated, “as a result of the entire time I used to be in jail I used to be imagining myself free.”

Although launched from jail, Phipps wants permission from a parole officer to depart Louisiana, and even keep out previous 9 p.m., to be able to carry out or to journey throughout the nation championing authorized reform. 

“I can undoubtedly say I am extra aware of the messages that I need to convey to the viewers,” Phipps stated. “I might by no means censor myself, however I do worth my phrases extra.” 

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