UCI News

UCI Center for Psychology & Law forum will address use of rap lyrics in criminal trials

January 16, 2014

EVENT: UC Irvine’s Center for Psychology & Law and the Newkirk Center for Science & Society are hosting “Rap on Trial,” a discussion panel addressing the recent practice of using rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases. Prosecutors have argued before judges and juries that rap lyrics are either autobiographical confessions of illegal behavior or proof of a defendant’s knowledge, motive or identity with respect to the alleged crime. Speakers Erwin Chemerinsky, Charis Kubrin and Sohail Daulatzai will discuss how this movement to, in effect, criminalize rap music has significant implications for creative expression and free speech.

WHEN/WHERE: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway, Room 1517 (grid F10, bldg. 214 on campus map)

INFORMATION: The event is free and open to the public. Media planning to attend should contact Laura Rico at 949-824-9055 or lrico@uci.edu. Members of the public should RSVP to psychlaw@uci.edu.

HIGHLIGHTS: Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, will explain why rap music, no matter how offensive, is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.

Charis Kubrin, UC Irvine associate professor of criminology, law & society, will offer examples of recent trials in which rap music was used as evidence against amateur rappers and address the artistic, racial and legal ramifications of using this particular genre of music to put people in jail. She recently co-authored an Op-ed in The New York Times about the criminalization of rap music.

Sohail Daulatzai, UC Irvine associate professor of film & media studies, will explore the links between hip-hop culture, mass incarceration and post-Jim Crow racism. He’ll also examine hip-hop as a political form of expression and as a challenge to power structures.

BACKGROUND: UC Irvine’s Center for Psychology & Law fosters collaboration and communication among academics, legal professionals, policymakers and the public and addresses areas of inquiry where social sciences and legal systems intersect. It tackles real-world problems such as the role of juveniles in the justice system; mental illness and criminal behavior; errors in DNA testing; drug policy and racial discrimination; and the implantation of false memories.

The Newkirk Center for Science & Society develops and shares research knowledge with the public and policymakers so they can make informed decisions on vital issues related to law, education, the environment, healthcare, crime and infrastructure. The center carries out its mission through conferences, workshops, colloquia, lectures and the funding of research.

Chemerinsky has been dean of the UC Irvine School of Law since 2008 and is an internationally renowned expert on First Amendment issues. Kubrin joined UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology in 2011 and is the author of “Gangstas, Thugs and Hustlas: Identity and the Code of the Street in Rap Music,” among the top five most frequently downloaded papers published in the journal Social Problems. Daulatzai is co-editor of Born to Use Mics, a literary remix of Nas’ landmark 1994 album “Illmatic,” and wrote liner notes for the 20th anniversary deluxe box set of Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album.