Free Lecture at Montana State University to Analyze the Credibility of Referencing Rap Lyrics in Criminal Trials

Charis Kubrin, professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California, Irvine will present "Rap on Trial" analysis.

Do hip-hop artists get spoon-fed to prisons and jails over violations of their constitutional rights?

Later this week, Montana State University will be sponsoring a lecture, which is free and open to the public at its Procrastinator Theater in the college's Strand Union Building.

According to a recent report from the Montana State University News Service, Charis Kubrin, a professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California, Irvine, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the lecture, which is titled Rap on Trial. Kubrin believes that rap lyrics have increasingly been entered in as evidence by prosecutors who use them to prove the guilt of hip-hop artists during criminal trials that occur in jurisdictions across the nation.

During her lecture, Kubrin will be discussing this practice that is utilized by America's prosecuting attorneys and analyzing the cons of its legitimacy. In an October 2014 TEDx Talk called The Threatening Nature of ... Rap Music?, Kubrin talked about a real-life case where she was contacted by the defense attorney of a local rap artist. The attorney asked if Kubrin would testify in the rapper's trial as an expert witness to help his case. The artist was on trial for allegedly making terroristic threats.

"A few years back, I was contacted by a defense attorney who asked if I’d be an expert witness in a case involving an aspiring rapper who’d been charged with making a terrorist threat. This would be my first official expert witness case so I jumped at the chance," Kubrin said during her TEDx presentation. "I was ready to jump at the chance. So as soon as I received the evidence, I immediately got to work," Kubrin went on to say during her TEDx Talk.

The self-proclaimed rap music scholar also talked about the judicial inequalities that face white musicians who produce music inspired by violence in other genres, such as heavy metal. "And then it dawned on me. While I had presented the cold hard facts, the prosecuting attorney, he dialed up the courtroom emotion and played to the jury's fears -- It was the moment I realized the prosecution swayed the jury. [I then thought], 'Would the case be the same if the defendant was white?'" Kubrin said.

There is a lot of truth to the claims that Kubrin has made as it pertains to the issue of locking up hip-hop artists based on the lyrical content in their songs. Lauren Schwartzberg, a columnist for Vice Magazine authored a report published in May of 2014, which was titled Rap Lyrics Are Being Used to Incriminate Young People. The ubiquitous assault against the First Amendment Rights of hip-hop artists is something that has been going on for a while. It has even affected big-time rap acts with notable careers.

"It is impossible to know just how many trials have permitted rap lyrics as evidence because lyrics are often admitted and read in court without objection or questioning, so the stenographer does not take further note. But lyrics have been used in high-profile cases against rappers like Lil Boosie, C-Murder, and Tupac affiliate C-Bo. And academics who have been called as expert witnesses in cases that question the admittance of lyrics, estimate that the problem is pervasive across the country," Schwartzberg wrote.

Kubrin's lecture will be held on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. In addition to being a criminal law professor, Kubrin is a published author who has co-written several books including Introduction to Criminal Justice: A Sociological Perspective. Kubrin's lecture is also sponsored by Montana State University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

The College of Letters and Science's Distinguished Speakers Series is the entity that is presenting Kubrin's lecture. 

Victor Trammell
Victor Trammell

I'm a freelance writer and author. In July of 2012, my career as a published writer and journalist began. At that time, I was hired on as a staff writer and editor for YourBlackWorld.net and its affiliated sites. The rest is history.

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Free Lecture at Montana State University to Analyze the Credibility of Referencing Rap Lyrics in Criminal Trials