A judge ruled Wednesday that lyrics written and recorded by Jeffrey Williams, aka Young Thug, can be used against the Atlanta rapper at his upcoming RICO trial. According to Vulture, Williams’ defense team has argued that the use of any of his rap lyrics in court could violate free speech, but Judge Ural Glanville disagreed and ruled the use of lyrics can be allowed because prosecutors are “not prosecuting your clients because of the songs they wrote.”
There also appear to be limits in place for which of Thug’s lyrics can be brought into evidence and when.
Prosecutors will still have to make a case for using specific lyrics, and Steel can still object during the trial. “These are party admissions,” said Michael Carson, a prosecutor, during the hearing. “They just happen come in the form of lyrics.”
Thug’s lyrics were already cited extensively in the 2022 indictment against him and other members of YSL — the rap collective Young Stoner Life, which prosecutors claim is a front for a gang called Young Slime Life. Prosecution has claimed that Thug and other YSL members alluded to crimes, including killings, in lyrics. But advocates and rappers have long maintained that hip-hop lyrics are creative expression and don’t belong in court trials.
It’s been a hot-button issue within the Hip Hop community for years, especially since C-Murder was convicted by his own words in 2009. Since then, rap artists and fans have argued vehemently that rap lyrics shouldn’t be admissible in court since they’re artistic expressions, not autobiographies or words that were meant to be on-record testimony at the time they were written. It’s always been looked at as a way to railroad rappers because they’re just more Black people the justice system deems as disposable.
In fact, just last year, an open letter was signed by dozens of rappers and other recording artists—including Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, John Legend, Post Malone, 21 Savage, Quavo, and Takeoff—in protest of rap lyrics being used in court, and, specifically, in the YSL trial.
The trial is tentatively set to begin on November 27.
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