A ‘Bad Rap’: R. v. Skeete and the Admissibility of Rap Lyric Evidence

19 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2019

See all articles by Ngozi Okidegbe

Ngozi Okidegbe

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: 2018


This paper explores the evidentiary treatment of violent and prejudicial defendant-authored rap lyrics in Canadian criminal trials. It argues that the current evidentiary threshold jeopardizes trial fairness by allowing the Crown to adduce highly prejudicial rap lyric evidence at trial. It also problematizes the judicial reliance on corroborative evidence, which does not establish the truthfulness of the lyrics tendered, to admit these violent rap lyrics at trial. It argues that the reliance on such corroborative evidence results in a misapprehension of the lyrics’ evidentiary value and ultimately in the admission of defendant-authored rap lyric evidence of low probative value at trial. This result is particularly concerning in the case of young black male defendants, since the introduction of their lyrics at trial can prime a jury’s unconscious anti-black bias and therefore serve to increase the distortive effect of this type of evidence on the fairness and integrity of criminal proceedings. It concludes by advocating for a rap specific approach to the admissibility of this evidence.

Keywords: Race, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Campbell, Music, Trial, Art, Hip Hop, Culture, Hearsay, lyrics

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Okidegbe, Ngozi, A ‘Bad Rap’: R. v. Skeete and the Admissibility of Rap Lyric Evidence (2018). 66 Crim. L.Q. 294 (2018), Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 586, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3370335 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3370335

Ngozi Okidegbe (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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