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Run-DMC Portrait Session

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On Tuesday, a Brooklyn judge ruled that the man accused of killing Jam Master Jay can’t have his rap lyrics used against him during his trial.

According to AP, after federal prosecutors tried to introduce rap lyrics written by Karl Jordan Jr. into evidence, Brooklyn Federal Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall ruled his lyrics couldn’t be used in court, calling hip-hop “a platform for expression to many who had largely been voiceless.”

In the 14-page order, Judge Hall discussed the evolution of hip-hop, calling rappers community storytellers. 

“From the genre’s nascence as an oral tradition, rap artists have played the part of storytellers, providing a lens into their lives and those in their communities,” Hall wrote.

Prosecutors tried to introduce first-person accounts of violence and references to drug dealing that were found in Jordan’s rap lyrics.

“We aim for the head, no body shots, and we stick around just to see the body drop,” Jordan wrote in one of his songs.

But Judge Hall said the lyrics didn’t detail the specific murder of Jam Master Jay, instead “merely contain generic references to violence that can be found in many rap songs.”

She continued, “The Court cannot help but note that odious themes – including racism, misogyny, and homophobia – can be found in a wide swath of genres other than rap music,” referencing lyrics from the Rolling Stones and country music star Jason Aldean.

Rap lyrics being used in criminal prosecutions became a popular topic of debate after a judge ruled in favor of lyrics being used as evidence against rapper Young Thug in his RICO trial. 

Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville allowed prosecutors to introduce 17 sets of rap lyrics to the jury, but they must show how the lyrics are related to crimes the rapper and his co-defendants are accused of committing. 

On May 17, New York’s State Senate passed a bill that would place limitations on how rap lyrics can be used as evidence in criminal cases. Now, Senate Bill S7527, or the “Rap Music on Trial” must pass the state assembly before it can be enacted into law.

Run-D.M.C. Portrait Session

The trial for the two men accused of killing Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay is set to begin Monday.  Jay, whose real name is Jason Mizell, was shot and killed in New York City more than 20 years ago.

According to AP, the murder trial of Karl Jordan Jr. and Ronald Washington will begin Monday. Prosecutors will try to prove that Jordan Jr. and Washington killed the 37-year-old Jay over a drug deal in 2002.

When Jam Master Jay was killed in 2002, his death shocked the Hip-Hop world. Shortly after, the group Run-DMC broke up and his case went unsolved for almost 10 years. In 2020, Jordan Jr. and Washington were for his murder. Another man was charged in 2023 and will be tried separately. 

According to reports, prosecutors believe that in the mid-1990s, Jam Master Jay became involved in trafficking cocaine. Before he was killed, Jay allegedly acquired 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine, which Washington, Jordan, and others were going to distribute in Maryland.

Washington then got into a fight with one of the persons involved in the drug plot, which Jay got wind of and cut Washington out of the deal. 

On the evening of Oct. 30, 2002, Washington and Jordan showed up at Jay’s studio armed and ready to confront him over the drug deal, prosecutors allege. 

Washing is accused of waving a gun and ordering someone in the studio to lie on the floor and Jordan is accused of shooting Jam Master Jay in the head. 

After Jay’s death, $60,000 in rewards were offered for information, but witnesses reluctantly came forward, which forced the case to go cold.  Prosecutors say witnesses have finally come forward and have identified both Washington and Jordan as the men who killed Jam Master Jay. 

In 2007, while on trial for a string of armed robberies, Washington was first named as a possible suspect in the murder of Jay. Washington was also quoted several years later saying he was on his way to the studio the night of the murder when he heard gunshots and saw Jordan fleeing.

Jordan’s lawyers claim he was at his pregnant girlfriend’s home at the time of the murder and witnesses can place him there. Jordan also faces gun and cocaine charges.

Both men pleaded not guilty and could face at least 20 years in prison.


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