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Rap lyrics, are they evidence or free speech? It depends on who you ask

Should rap lyrics be used as evidence in a court of law?
Should rap lyrics be used as evidence in a court of law? 02:35

SALEM — Should music, specifically rap lyrics, be considered evidence in a court of law? This is a question jurors nationally and in the Salem Superior Court are grappling with. 

Unique evidence in the form of rap lyrics were presented in a Salem Superior courtroom in the trial against two North Shore men accused of killing a man in a 2020 drive-by shooting in Lynn. 

"In this case, it looks like the defense attorneys are trying to use it against the prosecution's star witness to try to discredit him," criminal defense attorney Ben Urbelis told WBZ-TV. 

Detectives found lyrics written by the witness, who is the alleged driver in the shooting.

Urbelis, who is not involved in the Lynn shooting case, called the tactic impeachment. 

"The defense attorney said 'Wait a minute. Here are some lyrics you wrote in a rap song that suggests you were a part of planning this murder,'" Urbelis explained. 

But should the lyrics count as evidence or should they be considered free speech? 

Currently, prosecutors are using lyrics against Grammy-winning rapper "Young Thug" in his RICO case. 

But for Lynn rapper "Celly Bucks," music is an art form that should be protected.

"People look at rappers like everybody's bad and when they look at the music and people don't understand the lyrics is really not what you think it is," he said. "It's entertainment." 

He believes people shouldn't take the lyrics too seriously, especially in a genre where wordplay is encouraged.

"It's called a double entendre," Celly Bucks explained. "You can say something and mean something else." 

Urbelis doesn't believe rap lyrics should hold up in court, but that debate is still ongoing. 

"It's like seeing an actor," he said. "These rappers are artists. If you see actors in the movies shooting up somebody, well at the end of the day he's Tom Cruise. He's Arnold Schwarzenegger." 

A proposed bill called The Rap Act would ban the use of music lyrics in federal criminal court proceedings. The Lynn murder case is still ongoing. 

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