This Rapper Almost Gets LIFE in Jail Over His Lyrics...Is Rapping While Black a New CRIME? - R.City Unlimited

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This Rapper Almost Gets LIFE in Jail Over His Lyrics...Is Rapping While Black a New CRIME?

Last week, a San Diego judge threw out felony conspiracy charges against Brandon Duncan, a 33-year-old rapper who goes by the stage name Tiny Doo. He had been accused of contributing to gang activity. Prosecutors offered the lyrics of Duncan's self-produced mixtape, released in 2014, as proof. Duncan had faced the possibility of life in prison under a 2000 California law that has been used to crack down on gang activity and those who promote or benefit from it. In some cases, however, critics claim the law is also used to criminalize black culture.

Duncan claimed he was not a gang member, and that he hadn't even profited from his mixtape. One fact was never in doubt throughout the legal proceedings: Prosecutors did not believe Duncan was directly involved in any of the gang crimes. But they maintained they had enough evidence to link Duncan's rap lyrics -- which he says reflected his experience growing up in a rough San Diego neighborhood -- to crimes allegedly committed by other gang members.

“What is so frightening and disturbing about his case is that they were going to essentially pin the whole charge on this outrageous theory that because he was a rapper, his street credibility and therefore his popularity and records sales would have increased as a result,” Nielson said.

Duncan spent seven months behind bars after his arrest. Earlier this year, he posted bail after successfully petitioning to have it reduced from $500,000 to $50,000. While Duncan’s charges were ultimately dropped, his case highlights a disturbing trend of rap lyrics being used in courtrooms across the country, often in the absence of more traditional forms of hard evidence to link suspects to a crime.

Even if a guilty defendant is prosecuted and convicted with the help of rap lyrics, should those words be allowed to serve as a replacement for more traditional forms of evidence?

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