In 2001, St. Tammany township prosecutors turned to rap lyrics when attempting to border McKinley “Mac” Phipps Jr. as succesful of first-degree homicide. Their rationale: Phipps writes music with violent lyrics, so it have to be not solely potential, however possible that he killed 19-year-old Barron Victor Jr. in a Slidell membership in February 2000.
At the trial, prosecutors introduced witnesses — some later stated that they had been bullied by authorities into framing Phipps’ homicide — and quoted Phipps’ writings earlier than the jury, usually taking traces out of context and even Texts in a deceptive mixture mixed vogue. They additionally centered on Phipps’ nickname, the Camouflage Assassin, as harmful and ignored the title, which was influenced by Phipps’ love of kung fu movies and the means he moved his palms on stage.
It was sufficient to persuade 10 of the 12 jurors to search out Phipps responsible on the lesser cost of manslaughter. In 2015, the Huffington Post’s jury foreman stated that the use of Phipps’ lyrics influenced their choice.
But Phipps did not reside the songs he wrote in the Nineteen Nineties. Before his arrest in 2000, he had no prison report. He was only a gifted storyteller and performer.
“Ever since I was a teenager I considered myself a battle rapper, and in the realm of hip hop, battle rap is bragging, it’s writing rhymes that try to convince the audience that you’re the toughest. You’re the best rapper,” says Phipps.
A lover of literature and vivid storytelling, the New Orleans-born rapper earned recognition for his lyrical expertise in the late ’90s when he launched his albums Shell Shocked and World War III on No Limit Records. An East Coast hip-hop influenced battle rapper, Phipps signed to a label that already had a popularity for gritty streetlife gangsta rap – he was going to take it powerful. And figuring out what audiences at the time had been demanding, many of Phipp’s songs contained violent lyrics.
On February 20, 2000, Phipps was performing at a small membership in Slidell when a combat broke out, a gun was fired and Victor was killed. Police arrested Phipps, however there have been a quantity of disagreements from the begin. There was no forensic proof linking Phipps to the crime. A quantity of witnesses described one other individual – and one other man later confessed.
Phipps was sentenced to 30 years in jail by a break up jury verdict, however has all the time maintained his innocence. Last 12 months, Governor John Bel granted Edwards clemency and Phipps returned house to New Orleans.
On Tuesday, November 1, Phipps will share his story as half of Rap on Trial, a symposium centered on whether or not prosecutors and law enforcement are utilizing rap lyrics as proof in the courtroom.
“I don’t think many people realize what it means to use song lyrics against someone in court – the negative impact it can have on a jury and the potential to deny someone a fair trial,” says Phipps.
Son of the City, Mac’s first full-length album in 22 years, is out October 31
The Rap on Trial symposium at Dillard University’s Cook Theater will characteristic 4 panels that may discover the difficulty from the perspective of protection attorneys, media, artists and musicians, and what modifications in the law may be made to raised shield artists in court docket.
Alongside Phipps, the symposium will characteristic rapper Killer Mike; author Erik Nielson, whose 2019 e book offers its title to the symposium; Nesby Phips from New Orleans; Rap Coalition founder Wendy Day; journalist Leslie D. Rose; Angelique Phipps, whose AMP PR organized the symposium; author David Dennis Jr.; VOTE Associate Director Bruce Reilly; Professor Corey Miles; BE NOLA director Adrinda Kelly; and Kevin Miller, a Baton Rouge police officer.
The symposium begins at 12:00 p.m. and participation is free of cost.
Phipps’ account options prominently in the opening of Nielson’s e book, Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics and Guilt in America. Nielson, an affiliate professor at the University of Richmond, co-wrote the e book with Andrea L. Dennis, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law.
In the course of their analysis, Nielson and Dennis discovered a whole lot of examples of rap lyrics used in each state and federal courts, most involving younger Black and Hispanic males. There have been different high-profile examples in Louisiana, together with No Limits rapper C-Murder and Baton Rouge-born rapper Boosie.
Earlier this 12 months, Young Thug, Gunna and different members of their Young Stoner Life collective had been arrested in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case, with textual content cited in the grand jury indictment. But whereas these circumstances made headlines, Nielson and Dennis famous that newbie and aspiring rappers have been hit hardest by the observe.
Despite hip-hop’s huge impression on modern tradition, rap doesn’t get pleasure from the identical protections as different types of music.
“Rather than acknowledging that these lyrics are the product of creative liberty, the criminal justice system has effectively stripped rap music of the status of art, allowing police and prosecutors to present it to juries as an autobiography rhyming over a beat — often with devastating results.” Nielson and Dennis write. “No other fictional form, musical or otherwise, is treated like this in court. That’s why we call this book Rap on Trial. It is not art on trial. It’s not rehearsal music. It’s just rap.”
Since the early 1990s, rap and its creative expression have been misrepresented and misunderstood by prosecutors, judges and juries, says Nielson. The practice further marginalizes people of color, mutes musicians who make a living from their art by putting them behind bars, and could have a chilling effect on would-be rappers.
“Rap on Trial” is very careful not to argue for the innocence or guilt of any particular person, “it is actually nearly arguing for his or her proper to a good trial,” Nielson told Gambit. “Using textual content places that at threat.”
In recent years there have been movements to enact and amend legislation to address the use of rap lyrics in court cases. In September, California — the most egregious offender in using song lyrics in court — passed a law to curb the practice by forcing prosecutors to prove the song lyrics are relevant to the case during a pretrial hearing with a judge. Nielson calls the law “disappointing” and says it is poorly drafted and will do little to change the practice.
A “rap music on trial” bill in New York has passed a chamber of its legislature and will resurface in the next legislature. The law wouldn’t ban song lyrics as evidence, but it does require prosecutors to show the work is literal, rather than figurative or fictional.
A bill introduced in New Jersey — the strongest yet, according to Nielson — bans the use of rap and artistic expression in evidence. And a federal law, The Restore Artistic Protection Act, was introduced this year that would limit the admissibility of an artistic expression in evidence.
In recent years, the issue of “rap on trial” has received more attention, but “it is an uphill battle,” says Phipps. “You have some individuals who have a very reverse perspective, however for me, this was one thing that impacted my life and value me 21 years in jail. If anybody can be at the forefront of driving this variation, it is going to be me.”
“I’m not saying I want to give people a pass,” Phipps provides. “Criminal activity is criminal activity. But if you have serious allegations, [prosecutors] It takes a lot more to tie that person to this crime than words in a song.”
Rap on Trials Symposium
Tuesday, November 1 at Dillard University’s Cook Theatre
Free, register at eventbrite.com
12 o’clock: Text Defense in the Courtroom: A Matter of Freedom of Speech and Racial Prejudice
• With Dr. Corey Miles, Erik Nielson and Bruce Reilly. Moderated by Adrinda Kelly.
14 o’clock: Unpack the prejudices and change the narrative
• With Leslie D. Rose, Bruce Reilly and Angelique Phipps. Hosted by David Dennis Jr.
3:30 p.m.: PROTECT YOUR ART: A panel for hip-hop artists and musicians
• Starring Wendy Day, Mac Phipps and Kevin Miller. Moderated by Nesby Phips.
6:30 p.m.: Hip Hop & We Don’t Stop: What’s Next?
• Starring Killer Mike, Mac Phipps and Erik Nielson. Moderated by Leslie D. Rose.