Prosecuting Rap

By Eithne Quinn, Andrea Dennis, Charis Kubrin, Khalid Missouri and Erik Nielson.

Law courts crest

Violent rap lyrics are increasingly used as evidence in criminal cases in the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK. Prosecutors are eager to use rap verses penned by defendants because the violent lyrics tend to bolster their cases, helping them secure convictions. However, many defence lawyers, civil liberties groups and scholars are alarmed by the proliferation of the legal use of rap as evidence, which is often prejudicial.

Supported by the University of Manchester’s Humanities Strategic Investment Fund, this project staged an international workshop "Prosecuting Rap," on 16 October 2015. The project brings together UK and US scholars from the fields of Law, Cultural Studies, Criminology, and American Studies with lawyers and civil liberties representatives to interrogate the rise of the use of rap in legal cases. Project themes:

  • Rap lyrics presented by prosecutors as evidence of autobiography and confession of a crime.
  • Violent rap lyrics presented as evidence of threat or intent to commit crime.
  • Trends in policing and gang laws that criminalize rap culture.

Working outwards from specific cases, this project hopes to generate broad comparative, interdisciplinary and cross-sector conversations: between the US and UK, between academics from different disciplines, and between scholars, lawyers and civil liberties representatives.

  • Eithne Quinn, University of Manchester.
  • Andrea Dennis, University of Georgia.
  • Charis Kubrin, University of California at Irvine.
  • Khalid Missouri, LLM Criminal Defence Solicitors, London.
  • Erik Nielson, University of Richmond.


Watch Prosecuting Rap workshop presentations