A convenient scapegoat

New York City's Mayor Eric Adams recently recently alluded to the sub genre of DRILL RAP as responsible for the increase of crime in the city and derided the music's display of guns and violence.

But Nielson and others who spoke to USA TODAY in support of the proposed legislation, said Adams drew an improper comparison, falling into a common stereotype.

"Rap and hip hop are a convenient scapegoat with politicians who are not able to address the rising crime across the country," Nielson said. "They can point to rap music as one of the causes. That's a really easy argument for them to make, and doesn't force them to do the hard work of addressing the systemic issues that lead to violence."

Fabien Levy, Adams' press secretary, said the mayor's office is reviewing the proposed legislation and he declined to provide further comment.

Spiro noted that the New York Police Department has a "hip hop unit" where detectives watch YouTube videos rather than using that time to engage with them on the streets.

"I'm not aware of a punk or rock unit," Spiro said.

When asked whether the department had a death metal, punk, rock or country music unit, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner John Miller did not respond to the question.

Instead, he noted that "currently, we have teenagers posting original rap songs on the internet boasting about shootings and murders and we are having more shootings and murders in retaliation. That's the reality of 'drill rap' related violence."

Miller added: "It's not clear that this legislation, no matter how thoughtful, really addresses the problem or the solution."

But Jared Trujillo, policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the singling out of lyrics for use against rap artists "deeply racist."

"We know everywhere within the criminal legal system, things are weaponized more against Black and brown people than they are others," Trujillo said. He noted that although procedural rules that govern what evidence can be submitted during a case, "it's so much more art than science" and ultimately a somewhat subjective decision of the court.

New York state Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, who is sponsoring the bill in the state Assembly, said the bill's passage is a priority given efforts by prosecutors to target creative expression as if "it was some kind of blueprint" of the crime an artist committed, and the Supreme Court's narrowing interpretations of peoples' rights. 

As for Phipps, he is adamant that he does not let the past or his fear dictate the lyrics he writes today. If anything, he believes maturity has been the driving force in the evolution of his music.

"My music is my music," Phipps said, adding that he believes is music now is better than anything he's recorded prior. He said he's had conversations with Louisiana lawmakers about similar legislation to prevent what happened to him from happening to anyone else.

"There's a rock band called 'The Killers,' and I'm pretty sure these guys aren't walking around killing people," Phipps said. "Not everybody who plays a violent video game wants to commit violence. It's entertainment."

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