Explore reports and scholarship on the criminalisation of rap and of young Black people, mainly focused on the UK. Learn more about Prosecuting Rap project events.


  • Bramwell, R. (2015), UK Hip-Hop, Grime and the City: The Aesthetics and Ethics of London’s Rap Scenes. Routledge
  • Bramwell, R. and Butterworth, J. (2020), ‘Beyond the Street: The Institutional Life of Rap’, Popular Music 40.3
  • Clarke, R. and Williams, P. (2020), ‘(Re)producing Guilt in Suspect Communities: The Centrality of Racialisation in Joint Enterprise Prosecutions’, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 9
  • Dennis, A. (2007), ‘Poetic (In)Justice? Rap Music Lyrics as Art, Life, and Criminal Evidence’, Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts 31.1
  • Elliott-Cooper, A. (2021), Black Resistance to British Policing. Manchester University Press
  • Fatsis, L. (2021), ‘Sounds Dangerous: Black Music Subcultures as Victims of State Regulation and Social Control’ In: Peršak, N. and Di Ronco, A. (eds). Harm and Disorder in the Urban Space: Social Control, Sense and Sensibility. Routledge
  • Fatsis, L. (2019), ‘Grime: Criminal Subculture or Public Counterculture? A Critical Investigation into the Criminalisation of Black Musical Subcultures in the UK’, Crime, Media, Culture 15
  • Fatsis, L. (2019), ‘Policing the beats: the criminalisation of UK drill and grime music by the London Metropolitan Police’, Sociological Review 67.6
  • Hallsworth, S. and Young, T. (2008), ‘Gang Talk and Gang Talkers: A Critique’, Crime, Media, Culture 4.2
  • Owusu-Bempah, A. (2022), ‘The Irrelevance of Rap’, Criminal Law Review 2
  • Gunter, A. (2017), Race, Gangs and Youth Violence: Policy, Prevention and Policing. Policy Press
  • Gunter, A. (2015) ‘Keeping It Real’: The experiences of Black youth beyond Criminal (In)Justice statistics, Criminal Justice Matters 101.1
  • Ilan, J. (2020), ‘Digital Street Culture Decoded: Why Criminalising Drill Music is Street Illiterate and Counterproductive’, British Journal of Criminology 60
  • Ilan, J. (2015), Understanding Street Culture: Poverty, Crime, Youth and Cool. Palgrave
  • M. Keenan and S. Paul, ‘The criminalisation of drill music: Should beats and bars be used as evidence in court?’ (2021), Entertainment Law Review 32.7
  • Kubrin, C. and Nielson, E. (2014), ‘Rap on Trial’, Race and Justice 4
  • Lerner, J. and Kubrin, C. et al. (2021), Rap on Trial Legal Guide, Version 1, University of California, Irvine
  • Lynes, A., Kelly, C. and Kelly, E. (2020), ‘Thug Life: Drill Music as a Periscope into Urban Violence in the Consumer Age’, British Journal of Criminology 60
  • MacLeod, N. (2021), ‘Art vs Craft’: Expert Evidence in the England and Wales Justice System’, Language and Law 8.1
  • Nielson, E. and Dennis, A. (2019), Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America. New Press
  • Quinn, E. (2005), Nuthin’ but a G Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap. Columbia University Press
  • Quinn, E., Street, J., and White, J., eds (2022, forthcoming), ‘Prosecuting & Policing Rap’ special issue, Popular Music 41.4
  • Scott, C. D. (2020), ‘Policing Black Sound: Performing UK Grime and Rap music under routinised surveillance’, Soundings 75
  • Street, J. (2012), ‘From Gigs to Giggs: Politics, law and live music’, Social Semiotics 22.5
  • Thapar, C. (2021), Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City. Penguin
  • Ward, T. and Fouladvand, S. (2021), ‘Bodies of Knowledge and Robes of Expertise: Expert Evidence about Drugs, Gangs and Human Trafficking’, Criminal Law Review 6
  • Williams, P. (2015), ‘Criminalising the Other: Challenging the race-gang nexus’, Race & Class 56.3
  • White, J. (2016), Urban Music and Entrepreneurship: Beats, Rhymes and Young People’s Enterprise, Routledge
  • White J. (2017), ‘Controlling the Flow: How Urban Music Videos Allow Creative Scope and Permit Social Restriction’, Young 25.4
  • White, J. (2020), Terraformed: Young Black Lives in the Inner City, Repeater




Tackling Racial Injustice cover

Tackling Racial Injustice: Children and the Youth Justice System

A Report by JUSTICE, 2021.

52% of those in custody aged 10-17 are from a minority ethnic background, compared to 18% of the general population. This report identifies misunderstanding and misuse of Drill music as a factor that feeds the over-representation of Black children in the criminal justice system and makes recommendations to regulate its use as evidence.

Dangerous associations coverDangerous Associations: Joint enterprise, gangs and racism

Patrick Williams and Becky Clarke, 2016

This groundbreaking report on the use of gang discourses in the creation of joint enterprise prosecutions includes case-study material on rap evidence. Rap evidence is used by prosecutors, in the place of facts, to produce a sense of racialized ‘dangerous network’ that opens pathways to conviction of alleged secondary offenders.

Trapped in the Matrix cover

Trapped in the Gangs Matrix

Amnesty International (2018)

“In reality the Matrix overwhelmingly targets young Black men. They are often labelled as suspected gang members based on weak indicators – sometimes simply because they’ve been victims of gang violence themselves. Or for reasons as trivial as the music they listen to and the videos they watch online.”