BSC Race Matters Network seminar series – 30 May 2024

Spitting Truth(s) to Power: Rap Music as Evidence of Racial Injustice

30 May 2024, 12:30 – 1:30pm

Rap music is frequently admitted into court as incriminating ‘evidence’ that stereotypically portrays defendants as ‘criminally minded’, ‘gang-affiliated’ desperadoes, whose creative output becomes proof of their ‘bad character’. Writing against such racist mythologies that (re)produce stereotypical associations between Black music genres and ‘criminality’, rap is approached instead as an eloquent testimony of racial injustice that puts the legal-penal system on the stand. Drawing on UK drill music as the latest rap subgenre to be targeted as criminogenic, this talk outlines the carceral logics and tactics turn Black artistic expression into a criminal offence—arguing that the performative violence in drill exposes the actual violence with which it is suppressed, in ways that urge us to rethink our relationship with ‘the law’ and ‘justice’ as critical scholars and citizens alike.


Lambros Fatsis is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at City, University of London specialising on the history of police racism and the criminalisation of Black/Afro-diasporic music(s) from the era of colonial slavery to the present day. His writing on the policing of UK drill music won the first-ever Blogger of the Year Award from the British Society of Criminology and an Outstanding Research & Enterprise Impact Award from the University of Brighton. Lambros is a core member of the Art Not Evidence campaign against the criminalisation of UK drill and Prosecuting Rap; a network made up of scholars and experts in rap and Black youth culture who act as defence experts in court cases that involve the use of rap as evidence. He is currently writing Beats Behind Bars: Black Music, Racism and Criminal Injustice and is the co-author of Policing the Pandemic: How Public Health Becomes Public Order (with Melayna Lamb) and The Public and Their Platforms (with Mark Carrigan).

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