Rap lyrics can be introduced as evidence by prosecutors in this case on a conditional basis, according to a ruling made on Thursday by the court overseeing the trial of rapper Young Thug, who is accused of being involved in a gang in Atlanta, Georgia.
Chief Judge Ural Glanville of Fulton County Superior Court stated on Thursday that prosecutors may utilize the 17 sets of lyrics they have found, if they can demonstrate how the lyrics connect to the crimes the rapper is alleged to have committed.
“The state’s request to apply the evidence statute as written will be admitted by the court for the limited purpose at this time,” Glanville declared. “If the foundation is properly laid by the, then I will conditionally admit those pending lyrics.”
In December of last year, Young Thug’s attorney filed a motion objecting to the use of lyrics in the sweeping RICO indictment. Judge Ural Glanville denied the motion, ruling that 17 sets of lyrics mentioned in the indictment—lines that are performed by Young Thug and other co-defendants in this case—can be admitted pretrial.
Jeffery Lamar Williams, better known as Young Thug, was one of over twenty people charged with crimes last year. Nov. 27 is when the trial of Young Thug and five other defendants is scheduled to commence after some of them reached plea agreements and others were split up to be tried later.
Young Thug is accused by the prosecution of being a co-founder of Young Slime Life, or YSL, a violent criminal street gang that was allegedly inspired by the nationwide Bloods group in 2012. The rapper is accused by the prosecution of using his music and social media posts to support the gang, which they claim was responsible for several violent crimes, including as carjackings, shootings, and killings.
Rap lyrics are not the topic at hand. Prosecutor Mike Carlson stated to the judge during a hearing on Wednesday, “The matter at hand is gang lyrics.” Parties make these confessions. It so happens that they take the shape of lyrics.”
Because the defendants are not being charged for their songs, Carlson contended, First Amendment speech protections do not apply. Rather, he asserted, the lyrics allude to the offence or the criminal intent associated with the accusations.
The lyrics were divided into three categories by prosecutor Simone Hylton: those that demonstrated YSL’s existence as a business, those that depicted the gang’s conduct, and those that demonstrated Young Thug’s leadership role.
Rap is the only artistic or musical genre that has been introduced into court as proof of criminal activity, according to defence attorney Doug Weinstein, who is representing defendant Deamonte Kendrick, a rapper who goes by the alias Yak Gotti.
He claimed that rather than being confessions of his real-life transgressions, his client’s lyrics are a character performance. Weinstein contended that the jury will be unjustly prejudiced by the lyrics due to the violent and strong language found in rap music.
“They’re going to look at these lyrics and instantly say they are guilty,” he stated. “They are not going to look at the evidence that’s actually probative of their guilt once these lyrics get in front of them.”
This year, AllHipHop.com creator and co-CEO Chuck Creekmur said that the trial’s use of lyrics is troubling. Additionally, Creekmur stated that rap music is associated with a stereotype.
Hip hop is also arguably the only form of art on the planet that experiences this kind of persecution. Hip-hop lyrics are more overt than those of country or rock music, yet they may still contain explicit content. That is, at least, how it is perceived.
The prosecuting attorney in this case, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, has defended the use of lyrics in court several times.
“I think I’m going to use it if you decide to admit your crimes over a beat,” Willis stated to reporters on August 29, 2022, in a press conference. “I’m not trying to harm anyone. It is not your right to commit crimes in my county and then choose to take pride in it.”
In 2018, while celebrating his birthday and releasing a new album, Young Thug got detained at a Dave & Busters. On suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm, he was arrested. A few hours later, he secured $35,000 bond and was set free.
At the time, reporters were informed by individuals close to Los Angeles police that the rapper and a collaborator were the subject of an ongoing firearms investigation.