Young Thug‘s music has been called into play as jury selection for his trial began this week with the judge reciting some of his lyrics in court.
According to 11 aliveOn Wednesday (Jan. 4), prospective jurors watched a three-hour video of Judge Ural Glanville reading the sweeping indictment in which 28 Young Stoner Life (YSL) affiliates were arrested on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges.
Included in the reading were selected lyrics from Thugger’s 2016 single “Slime Shit,” which prosecutors have sought to include as evidence, calling music released by the YSL crew “obvious acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.” WSB-TV reports.
In a clip that surfaced on social media, Glanville can be seen reciting the song’s hook, which hears Young Thug rap: “Hey, this slim shit, hey/ Y SL shit, hey/ Killin’ 12 shit, hey/ Fuck a jail shit, hey/ … Boiling white brick, hey, hey/ […] I’m not new to this, hey, I’m so true to this, hey, I put a whole slime on a hunnid lick.“
Judge Glanville also read lyrics from the song’s actual verses by Lil Duke, PeeWee Roscoe and Yak Gotti, including: “Slime or get slimed/ […] In the VIP and I got that gun on my hip/ You prayin’ that you live/ I’m prayin’ that I hit/ […] Hey, this slime-shit/ Fuck, fuck the police (Fuck ’em), at high speed.“
Young Thug’s Lawyers filed a motion last November asking for the songs to be excludedlyrics, music videos and social posts from the evidence in the trial.
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“The recording and use of these texts/poetry/artwork mod [Young Thug] in his upcoming trial would be unconstitutional and an abuse of discretion, too prejudicial and unconstitutional,” the motion read. “Furthermore, using these lyrics/poetry/art/speech against [Young Thug] is racist and discriminatory because the jury will be so poisoned and prejudiced by these lyrics/poetry/art/speech.”
However, the prosecution defends their use of song lyrics in the courtroom as they believe that Thug’s words “preserve, protect and strengthen the company’s reputation, power and territory [YSL].”
The use of Young Thug’s music in this lawsuit comes at a time when the topic of rap lyrics as criminal evidence has been at the forefront of numerous conversations across the country.
In September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed it The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act (AB 2799)that effectively bans the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court and makes California the first state to pass such a law.
That The New York Senate tried to pass a similar bill in May last year, but failed to get approval from the state assembly. Weeks later, 300 Entertainment CEO Kevin Liles and Atlantic Records COO Julie Greenwald launched a petition called “Rap music on trial: Protect Black Art,” which focused on the way prosecutors have continually tried to use Hip Hop lyrics in a courtroom.
The petition explicitly describes how Young Thug, Gunnaand the YSL collective have fallen victim to this prosecutorial tactic during their ongoing RICO case.
“In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors allege that lyrics such as ‘ready for war like I’m Russia’ are an admission of criminal intent,” the petition states.
In November 2022, Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Universal Music Group wrote an open letter, published as an op-ed in New York Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution with the title Art on Trial: Protect Black Artwhich included signatures from artists such as 50 cents, J. Cole, Travis Scott, Post Malone, Alicia Keys, Megan Thee stallion and more.
The letter was also supported by other major companies, including Spotify, TikTok and YouTube Music. The content of the letter called on prosecutors to stop using rap as evidence in trials, and for lawmakers at the state and federal levels to limit how much of this work can be used against defendants.
“In courtrooms across America, the trend of prosecutors using artists’ creative expressions against them is occurring with alarming frequency,” the letter read. “Rappers are storytellers who create entire worlds populated with complex characters who can play both hero and villain. But more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially used as confessionals in an attempt to criminalize black creativity and artistry.”
The letter went on to refer to the “blatant disregard” for freedom of expression: “The use of lyrics against artists in this way is un-American and simply wrong.”
2 Chainz, John Legend, Killer Mikeand Mary J Blige also signed the letter. In January, JAY-Z, Kelly Rowland and Meek Mill did the same when they supported preventing rap lyrics from being used as evidence in criminal cases.
Jury selection in Young Thug’s trial is expected to last five to six weeks. As part of the process, potential jurors have been asked to fill out a 250-question survey to help the court determine their eligibility.
While several members of the YSL crew have accepted plea deals around the RICO case, 13 others will be prosecuted along with Thug.