There’s good news for the music industry in Washington DC: House Democrats appear to have found their next caucus chair in Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a champion of music creators who, since 2013, has served as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 8th Congressional District. Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, co-sponsored the Music Modernization Act, the most significant copyright law passed in decades, as well as the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020, aka the CASE Act. He is also known as a huge hip-hop fan, once shouting out to The Notorious BIG from the house floor on the 20th anniversary of his death.
A formal vote has not yet taken place. But the party appears to be coalescing around Jeffries, who has been endorsed as the successor by the incumbent Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California). If chosen, Jeffries would become the first black congressional caucus leader, as well as the presumptive chairman if Democrats were to win back a majority in the House. And while it’s hard to say whether serious copyright legislation will be introduced in Congress, having an advocate for creators and copyright in such an important role could only help rights holders.
“Mr. Jeffries has been a staunch supporter of songwriters, and as the original co-sponsor of the Songwriter Equity Act and the Music Modernization Act, he has fought for equity for creators throughout his career. said the NMPA President and CEO. Israelite David. “His leadership in this powerful role will bode well for the future of songwriters.”
Jeffries was honored by the RIAA in September, alongside hip-hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash and MC Lyte. (Billboard sponsored this event.)
“It’s hard to think of two potential leaders with more experience in the trenches of music policy and building bipartisan consensus for the age of digital streaming than Kevin McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries,” said Mitch Vitrier, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA. “A House led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries would feature a dynamic duo for the music community.”
Before entering politics in 2007, Jeffries worked as an attorney, first in New York for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison – where he worked in the NMPA’s general counsel hall. Danielle Aguire – then for Viacom. At Paul Weiss, he worked on copyright cases and represented Lauryn Hill in a case brought by some of her associates. “He has a deep understanding of copyright law,” Israelite said. “He may know the subject better than anyone in Congress.”
Jeffries is also perhaps one of Congress’s biggest music fans. In addition to shouting out to Biggie, he wrote about his favorite female rappers and hosted an annual “Hip-Hop on the Hill” political fundraiser. “Watching hip-hop grow — with Grandmaster Flash, then Run-DMC, then 80s and 90s artists — has been a fantastic journey,” he said. Billboard in a 2018 interview about his history as a fan of the genre. “What convinced me the most was how hip-hop has been a way to tell the story of urban America and black America in such an artistic, poetic and authentic way. .”
Jeffries is involved in a number of issues, of course. He advocates for police reform and he co-sponsored the Safely Transformed Former Prison Reintegration Society Transition Act, aka the Stage One Act, which reformed prison laws and the penalties. He voted to impeach Close. donald trumpbut he is also known for his good work with Republicans, including former Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.), with whom he co-sponsored the Music Modernization Act, as well as the First Step Act. (The two also put together a summer reading list.) Jeffries was also a top Democratic fundraiser.
Some of this put Jeffries at odds with some of his more radical colleagues, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.). Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but his politics are more centrist and pragmatic. His ability to compromise could be important, since he will have to work with both the Republican majority in the House and the progressive members of his own party. He recently told CNN that “while we can sometimes have loud conversations about how we can make progress for the American people, what we’ve seen is that under the leadership of President Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, we were constantly able to come together.”