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Judge rules rap lyrics can be used as evidence in hip-hop artist Young Thug’s racketeering trial

HHP News

Nov 10, 2023

While defense attorneys argued that lyrics are forms of protected free speech and should be excluded from the upcoming trial, Atlanta prosecutors told the judge they were admissions of gang activity.

Young Thug Mugshot

In Atlanta, a judge ruled that prosecutors can use rap lyrics as evidence in the upcoming racketeering trial involving Young Thug and others. During a hearing, the prosecutors argued that the lyrics served as "admissions" of criminal activities by members allegedly connected to an Atlanta street gang called "Young Slime Life." This case has involved a claim by the prosecutors that the rap lyrics mentioned are reflective of criminal intentions and actions related to a street gang. Young Thug, known as Jeffery Williams, faces accusations of being the co-founder and leader of "YSL." However, he claims that the abbreviation refers only to his record label, "Young Stoner Life."

The 32-year-old Grammy-winning rapper has been in jail since May 2022 following his involvement, among 28 others, in a gang and racketeering indictment. Prosecutors assert that specific lyrics and scenes in music videos glorify alleged criminal deeds attributed to "YSL," including shootings of rival gang members, drug dealing, and violence against law enforcement officers.

Defense attorneys attempted to exclude the lyrics as evidence, arguing that rap verses constitute a form of creative expression and can be open to interpretation by listeners. They highlighted the fact that rap is treated differently than other music genres in terms of legal scrutiny.

Despite challenges from the defense and advocates of the First Amendment, the prosecutors defended the use of rap lyrics in the case, contending that they refer to criminal actions or intentions underlying the charges. The case is set to proceed with the trial of Young Thug and five others on November 27, after a ten-month jury selection process. Some defendants in the case have reached plea deals or have been separated to face trial later.

This case highlights the intersection between art and the law and underscores the contentious debate surrounding the use of rap lyrics as evidence in a criminal trial.

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