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Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America

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4.36  ·  Rating details ·  22 ratings  ·  12 reviews
A groundbreaking exposé about the alarming use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence to convict and incarcerate young men of color

Should Johnny Cash have been charged with murder after he sang, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”? Few would seriously subscribe to this notion of justice. Yet in 2001, a rapper named Mac whose music had gained national recognition was
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Hardcover, 1, 224 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by The New Press
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Chava
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Erik Nielson's and Andrea Dennis's book Rap on Trial exposes the bias against people of color in the justice system through the lens of the music industry. As the publisher's synopsis states, "Should Johnny Cash have been charged with murder after he sang, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”? Few would seriously subscribe to this notion of justice. Yet in 2001, a rapper named Mac whose music had gained national recognition was convicted of manslaughter after the prosecutor quoted ...more
Marin Gamboa
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent
Wonderfully insightful case study of a book. Highlighting how prosecutors get around the prohibition of offering rap lyrics as character evidence and how rap has been denigrated from a work of art to an indication of a faulty character. Artistic expression should not used in court proceedings to indicate bad character, even if offered for motive, intent, or knowledge.

My favorite part of the book are the solutions it proposes for combating the use of an art form to characterize defendants as
...more
Wes Taylor
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy. This is an illuminating analysis of the widespread use by law enforcement of rap lyrics to prosecute young black and brown men. Rap lyrics are treated as threats or confessions in ways that Johnny Cash's lyric, "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," never would be. The book should be of interest to those concerned about artistic freedom, racial justice, or mass incarceration -- or who just like rap music. It promises to be one of the most ...more
Celine
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I became obsessed with this little book. The exceptions carved out in law for rap/hip hop - so clearly an art form - are maddening. As if we needed any new evidence that courts are systematically biased against black and brown people.
Joheiv
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is very awesome.
Cristie Underwood
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
The author's painstaking research and attention to detail is obvious in the writing of this book. The author laid out the information in a manner that allowed the reader to form their own opinion.
Sarah
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC of Rap on Trial by Erik Nielson that I read and reviewed.
This is on of those books that is a slap in the face of reality that a lot of people are not going to want to read or want to believe but it is what is going on in our country and it has been for a long time. I fell in love with Gangster Rap when I was a young girl in Sunday School and the teacher told us if we listened to that music we would go to hell. I hated Sunday School so I figured I was already on my
...more
Samson
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book doesn't release for a few months, so I won't quote, but I did get an early copy, and it's unreal. I hope people will be as disturbed as I was to learn that "rap on trial" is happening everywhere and that young men (most of them black/Latino) are being thrown in prison because of their songs. After all of the recent books that have exposed the (in)justice system for what it is, maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I repeatedly found myself shocked at how blatantly unfair, and devious, ...more
Kelly Tarr
Nov 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This book tackles an important and timely question; should rap lyrics be admissible in criminal court cases. The book asserts that rap lyrics are being used in criminal proceedings at an alarming rate in order to prove guilt, provide evidence of gang affiliation, and negatively characterize defendants. Much of the book was compelling and interesting, but use of unsubstantiated blanket statements and biased language made the book seem nonobjective. While some of the case studies presented ...more
Dana
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Society trains people - potential jurors - to hold racist predispositions, conscious or unconscious, against young black men and against rap music evidence.”

“Rap On Trial” demonstrates further evidence of the vast differences in the way black people, especially young black men, are treated as opposed to white men-especially within the judicial system. Sadly, the conclusions in this book didn’t surprise me in the least. I am a bit surprised that the ACLU hasn’t taken up any of the cases cited
...more
Chelsey Keathley-Jones
I wanted to give this four stars because the content is so important. I really feel that people need to be reading this book, especially young black men. Society isn't fair and what you are posting online will be used against you. However, I felt the author repeated himself a bit much. He was trying to pound in the important stuff but it was repetitive. The book is well researched and I think the real cases with names will help people understand that this is really happening. I will be ...more
Lindsay
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway. It was quick yet eye-opening read. It gives the reader a brief history of rap and how society has used its lyrics to incarcerate people, particularly people of color. I was aware of the need for criminal justice reform, however I had no idea that rap was being used to unfairly prosecute people. This book highlights the fact that rap is art, just like any other medium and it shouldn't be used against people.
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Erik Nielson is Associate Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses on African American literature, hip hop culture, and advanced writing. He received his M.A. in English from University College London and his Ph.D., also in English, from the University of Sheffield. He lectures widely and has published articles in several peer reviewed journals, including ...more