Posted on January 13, 2023

Should Rap Lyrics Be Used in Criminal Trials? Formerly Incarcerated Rapper Speaks About “Egregious” Conviction

Skyler Henry and David Morgan, CBS News, January 9, 2023

If you meet McKinley Phipps now, he’s a far cry from the 20-year-old, chart-climbing rapper known as Mac, signed to music mogul Master P’s No Limit Records, whose 1998 album “Shell Shocked” reached No. 11 on the Billboard Top 200. {snip}

But in an instant, Phipps’ rise came crashing down in February of 2000, when a 19-year-old man was shot and killed during an altercation at Phipps’ show at a nightclub in Slidell, Louisiana. The man later died. Detectives eventually took Phipps into custody after witnesses said he had a gun.

“I pulled my gun out when I ran toward the door,” Phipps told CBS News. “And that was probably the biggest mistake I ever made. I would later learn that because people saw me with this gun, that’s kind of why people were, like, under the belief that maybe he did it.


A member of Phipps’ entourage admitted to the shooting, but he says that confession fell on deaf ears.

During the trial, prosecutors zeroed in on the same lyrics that made Phipps a star.

According to Phipps, prosecutors took out of context the lyrics from two different songs and spliced them together to make a statement. “One song was ‘Murda, Murda, Kill, Kill,’ which was, like, a straight battle rap. The other one was a song called ‘Shell Shocked,’ and the line that they referred to was actually a line about my father. They said, ‘This young man said, Murder, murder, kill, kill, if you f*** with me, I’ll put a bullet in your brain.'”

A jury convicted Phipps of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.


Former Georgia prosecutor Chris Timmons, who had no connection to Phipps’ trial, has tried more than 100 cases and has used rappers’ music videos to link them to criminal street gangs. {snip}

Timmons views using lyrics as a legal strategy.

“If you’ve got a confession, whether that confession rhymes, whether it’s set to music, you’re going to want to use it, if you’re a prosecutor,” he said. “Same thing with defense. You’re gonna want to keep it out.”

Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia referenced several songs in their indictment of Grammy-winning rapper Jeffery Williams, a.k.a. Young Thug, whose trial on charges of racketeering and gang activity allegedly linked to murders and theft begins this week. {snip}


Phipps served 21 years of his 30-year sentence and was released from prison in 2021 after being granted clemency.