Andrea L. Dennis - Rap on Trial

Andrea L. Dennis - Rap on Trial

Monday, Mar 02, 2020 7:00 PM

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
441 John Lewis Freedom Parkway NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Co-authors Andrea L. Dennis and Erik Nielson deliver a groundbreaking exposé about the alarming use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence to convict and incarcerate young men of color.

University of Georgia law professor Andrea L. Dennis will present and sign copies of “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America” at the Carter Library on Monday, March 2, 2020 at 7 p.m.

This event is free and open to the public. Reserve your seat by pre-ordering a copy of "Rap on Trial" from A Cappella.

If you are unable to attend the event, you may pre-order a signed copy of the book for in-store pickup or delivery below:

About the Book

“If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.” —Rapper Ice-T, on the persona he adopted in the song “Cop Killer”

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 liberally from his album, “Shell Shocked.” Mac was sentenced to thirty years in prison, where he remains. And his case is just one of many nationwide.

Over the last three decades, as rap became increasingly popular, prosecutors saw an opportunity: they could present the sometimes violent, crime-laden lyrics of amateur rappers as confessions to crimes, threats of violence, evidence of gang affiliation, or revelations of criminal motive—and judges and juries would go along with it. Detectives have reopened cold cases on account of rap lyrics and videos alone, and prosecutors have secured convictions by presenting such lyrics and videos of rappers as autobiography. Now, an alarming number of aspiring rappers are imprisoned. No other form of creative expression is treated this way in the courts.

“Rap on Trial” places this disturbing practice in the context of hip-hop history and exposes what’s at stake. It’s a gripping, timely exploration at the crossroads of contemporary hip hop and mass incarceration.

About the Authors

Andrea L. Dennis holds the John Byrd Martin Chair of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law and was formerly an assistant federal public defender. A co-author of “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” she lives in Athens, Georgia.

Erik Nielson is an associate professor of liberal arts at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses on African American literature and hip-hop culture. A co-author of “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” he lives in Richmond, Virginia, and Brooklyn, New York.