Forgive Me, Your Honour, For I Have Sinned

An Exploration into the Use of Rap Lyrics in Gang-Related Criminal Court Trials


  • Jordan Mangelsen University of Alberta



gangsta rap, drill, gangs, the street code, rap lyrics


This paper explores the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials across the United States and Great Britain. Rap is a multibillion-dollar industry and has soared in popularity since its inception. In recent years, rap lyrics have been used to ascertain guilt or innocence through the perceived meaning of the specific lyrics. However, there have been no advancements toward appreciating the cultural significance of rap or its status as a legitimate art form. The criminal justice system has favoured treating lyrics as confessions and fails to consider the nuance of the socio-historical context of the rap industry or the implications of the street code. This paper does not argue that all rap lyrics are either exclusively true or false; it instead argues that the uncritical approach to examining rap lyrics in the context of the criminal justice system has replicated systems of harm that have disproportionately affected young Black men.