The Jam Master Jay trial has continued on, with a judge ruling in a memorandum of law that rap lyrics will not be admissible during the trial.
According to court documents obtained by HipHopDX, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall ruled on Tuesday (January 30) on the government’s motion to admit defendant Karl Jordan Jr.’s rap lyrics and videos, and cited lyrics by Future, Ice Cube, and Kendrick Lamar — amongst other rappers — as reasons why Jordan’s lyrics would have no probative value — meaning, they have no relationship to the crime Jordan was accused of.
“None of the lyrics the Government seeks to admit as evidence of Jordan’s guilt bear any nexus to the criminal conduct alleged in this case,” reads the ruling. “And, Jordan’s statement that he raps about his lived experience cannot alone serve as a substitute for the requisite nexus. Because the proffered lyrics do not have a sufficient nexus to the charged drug conspiracy, they are inadmissible.”
The judge continues: “Some of the themes of violence and criminality have become so prevalent within the genre that they have little, if any, probative value at trial. Music artists should be free to create without fear that their lyrics could be unfairly used against them at a trial. […] Individuals who choose to confess unmistakable details of their crimes should be held to those statements, to be sure.
“It is critical, however, that resolution of guilt and innocence emerge from evidence with a close relationship to a specific criminal act, and not be based on perceptions born from the commercial and artistic promotion of a criminal lifestyle.”
The judge noted that rappers “will exaggerate or fabricate” in their songs. As an example, she cited Future.
“Future…continues to portray himself as a drug abuser through his lyrics, even after proclaiming sobriety because, according to him, it is what his fans want to hear,” the judge wrote, citing a 2019 Vibe article as proof.
Ice Cube came up when the judge was addressing the fact that Jordan’s lyrics discuss “aim[ing] for the head,” which the government said was evidence of his guilt, since that was where Jam Master Jay was shot.
Judge Hall said Jordan’s raps merely “contain generic reference to violence that can be found in many rap songs,” and cited Cube’s “Dead Homiez” as an example, along with tracks by ScHoolboy Q and Vince Staples.
Ultimately, the judge denied the government’s request to admit the lyrics and videos as evidence. Check out parts of the memorandum of law below.
In 2020, Karl Jordan Jr. (39) and Ronald Washington (59) were indicted for the New York City shooting that left the 37-year-old legend dead inside a Queens recording studio. The upcoming trial will be centered on their defense.
Last year, Jay Bryant (49) became the third person to be charged in the case, though his trial will most likely take place in 2025.
Jordan and Washington have also pleaded not guilty.
The trio are alleged to have entered JMJ’s studio and fled after the fatal shooting, with Jordan firing two shots at the victim at close range, including one to the head that killed him. Prosecutors claim that Bryant was seen entering the building immediately before the shooting and left behind an article of clothing at the crime scene, which contained his DNA.
An investigation revealed that the slaying was over a drug deal gone wrong, with Jam Master Jay allegedly acquiring roughly 10 kilograms of cocaine (worth an estimated $1.7 million) from a Midwest narcotics supplier months before his death.
When the Hip Hop pioneer sought to exclude Jordan and Washington from the large, multi-state drug deal, they “murdered him in cold blood,” prosecutors said in their 2020 indictment against the two men.
The trial of Jordan and Washington began on Monday (January 29) and is expected to last for the next few months.