At first he was too spooked to write anything. But then, a few months after San Diego rapper Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan was released from jail, the lyrics started flowing.
“What I do to deserve this?” he asks in one of the first songs he released after his arrest. “The truth is, I was rhyming about the place I was born. … I got a right to that.”
In 2014, Duncan was arrested along with 14 other San Diego men and charged with conspiracy, a felony. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis charged the men using an obscure law that hadn’t been tested anywhere in the state. The men were promoting the Lincoln Park gang and benefited from crimes committed by others, the DA argued, even if the men themselves didn’t have anything to do with the underlying crimes.
In Duncan’s case, prosecutors said his song lyrics tied him to a series of shootings. A judge ended up dismissing the charges and, after vigorously defending her use of the statute, Dumanis did an about-face and said she wasn’t going to use it anymore.
The obvious First Amendment implications from Duncan’s case generated a lot of media attention.
“At first when I came home, you know, being that I sat in jail for seven months going through something like that because of my music, I started thinking, Man, should I even make music again? And if I do make music, what do I talk about?” he said.