Ice-T and Honey Nut Cheerios

Can rap lyrics be admitted in court as evidence?

Ice-T Honey Nut CheeriosRecently, I bought a box of Honey Nut Cheerios; don’t judge. On the back is Coach Ice-T with the animated Coach Buzz Bee. “In honor of American Heart Month, Cheerios is making it easier and more fun to have a change of heart this February.”

From Business Wire: “‘This stuff doesn’t have to be hard,’ said Ice-T. ‘It can be as simple as a bowl of Cheerios and a walk around the block. That’s why I wanted to join Buzz to share some different ways to start to get your heart pumping regularly, and help make diet and exercise a happy part of your day.'”

It AMUSED me. I’m taken by the way that the rapper has been able to reinvent himself. I’ll admit my knowledge of his music is limited to some songs on the Just Say Yes compilation albums: Somebody Gotta Do It (Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy!), Hunted Child, Girl Tried to Kill Me, and with the band Body Count, the song Body Count.

Also, some verses of the title song of Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block album from 1989. It starts:
Ice-T, let me kick my credentials
A young player, bred in South Central
L.A., home of the body bag
You wanna die, wear the wrong color rag
I used to walk in stores and yell: “Lay down!”
You flinch an inch – AK spray down
But I was lucky cause I never caught the hard time
I was blessed with the skill to bust a dope rhyme

Big-time Sidebar

In December 2020 the highest court in Maryland “ruled that rap lyrics may be admitted in court as evidence of a defendant’s guilt. This blatantly racist decision is a travesty that sets a dangerous precedent.”

This is a position quite opposite of the appeal in New Jersey v. Skinner (2014). Per here: “Skinner’s rap lyrics were admitted at his trial for attempted murder and related charges. The defendant wrote the lyrics years before the shooting occurred. After hearing the lyrics, along with the other evidence against the defendant, the jury convicted him.

“An appellate court ruled that the lyrics were highly prejudicial and should not have been admitted; the State of New Jersey then appealed, but the state supreme court agreed that the verses never should have come into evidence…

“It seems that rap is being viewed as an especially telling form of expression, unlike the murder ballads of everyone from Dolly Parton to the Grateful Dead. For example, imagine the decidedly non-rapper Paul McCartney on trial for mayhem, being forced to listen to ‘Helter Skelter’ with the jury. Not likely—is that because he’s merely a singer, not a rapper?

“This distinction resonated with the New Jersey high court in the Skinner case, as the judge authoring the opinion quipped, ‘One would not presume that Bob Marley, who wrote the well-known song ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ actually shot a sheriff….'”

Meanwhile, in 2021, New York lawmakers introduced a bill to limit rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials.


Ice-T became an actor, appearing as a cop for the last 22 seasons of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He’s a pitchman for everything from CarShield, which gets mixed reviews online, to Tide detergent.

So I think this is fine. The great American reinvention. It’s like Lady Gaga going from wearing meat dresses to dueting with Tony Bennett.

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