YSL Trial Has Reignited The Debate About Rap Lyrics In Trial
Young Stoner Life Records is home to some hip-hop megastars, including Young Thug and Gunna. Both of them have rapped open and honest about their lives before the spotlight, before turning their lives around. However, several members of YSL were taken into custody a few weeks ago on RICO charges. In total, 28 members were apprehended. Young Thug has the heaviest charges, with prosecutors accusing him of being the ring leader and brains behind it all.
Gunna is also behind bars with him and was just denied bond. His trial date is set for January 9th, 2023. The prosecutors believe that YSL is a gang and not just a record label. According to a correspondence from Billboard, who was present during the hearing, judges believe that Gunna and Young Thug have been acting as commanders ordering around others to commit crimes. Amongst the many things used against them in court, their songs have been cited as confessions. Songs being used in their hearing include Young Thug’s “Anybody,” “Take it to Trial,” “Ski,” and “Slatty.” The judge states that the songs and lyrics are being used in “preserving, protecting and enhancing the reputation, power and territory of the enterprise [YSL].”
Rap Lyrics Now Admissible as Court Evidence
Many artists and people in the art communities have been arguing against using people’s content in court against them. Some argue that you would not accuse a director of being a mobster if they shot a mob film and that these artist should not be punished for their songs. Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis argues that “the First Amendment does not protect people from prosecutors using [music] as evidence if it is such.” They also confirmed that they are pursuing maximum penalties of life in some of these cases.
The highest court in the state of Maryland ruled that rap lyrics may be used as evidence in criminal cases earlier this year in connection with the January 2017 passing of George Forrester. His life was taken by a dealer who later decided to record a rap verse over the phone while in locked up, confessing his guilt. The recording was used against him, and he ended up being sentenced to 50 years.
Jay-Z and Meek Mill Team Up to Block Rap Lyrics From Being Used in Court
Rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill have come together to fight against using rap lyrics in court cases. Both artists have been guilty of doing much of the same, with Jay-Z being blamed by many for the outrageous amount of rappers bragging about criminal activity, a trend he popularized in the late ’90s. Jay and his team argue that using rap lyrics to hand over more strict sentencing is racist and unfair because no other art form is being criminalized in such a way. Jay and Meek have been heavily in favor of the Racial Justice Act enacted in 2020, which discourages courts from “convicting or sentencing someone based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin.” They hope this act will discourage courts from using rap lyrics, but it has yet to really be tested.
New York Senate Approved The ‘Rap Music On Trial
In New York, the state senate has approved laws restricting the use of rap lyrics in court proceedings. It is called the “Rap Music on Trial” bill. It “requires lyrics to be proven as ‘literal, rather than figurative or fictional’ when using them as evidence in the state.” This has been considered a win for those in the fight against using rap lyrics to convict men of color.
Kevin Liles Has Created The “Rap Music on Trial Protect Black Art” Petition
Arguably one of the most significant voices in Hip-Hop has joined the discussion about rap lyrics being used in cases. Russell Simmons is the founder of Def Jam Records and one of the pioneers in hip-hop music, helping lead the careers of LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and of course, his brother’s group Run DMC. He spoke in a lengthy IG post explaining how strange it is to use rap lyrics in court cases but to never use actors’ film roles to convict them of crimes.
Another huge name in Hip-Hop, Kevin Liles, is also chiming in and has offered to put his money where his mouth is to get these men out of jail. Lilies founded 300 Entertainment and have partnered with Julie Greenwald (Atlantic Records COO) to start a petition to ban the use of rap lyrics in court cases. According to a report, The “Rap Music on Trial Protect Black Art” petition hopes to “pass Federal and State laws that limit prosecutors from using “creative and artistic expression as evidence against defendants in trials.” They are currently nearing 5,000 signatures. They argue that “Weaponizing creative expression against artists is wrong,” but in the case of Young Thug and Gunna, it is more troubling because of how high profile they are.
Do you think lyrics should be left out of these court cases? Moreover, what about the other evidence being used in these cases? Are the lyrics crucial or help to aid in what they already have? Creates Petiton To Stop Use of Rap Lyrics In Trial