The arrests of Jeffrey “Young Thug” Williams, Sergio “Gunna” Kitchens, and 26 others affiliated with the Young Stoner Life imprint (YSL) imprint have drawn some concerns from rap fans and first amendment advocates. The YSL collective was charged with a 56-count indictment which included conspiring together to obtain money and property illegally through a pattern of racketeering. The 88-page grand-jury indictment characterizes YSL as a “criminal street gang.”
One thing that alarms many people about this case is the use of Young Thugs’ song lyrics are being used as evidence against him. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has defended quoting lyrics in the RICO indictment. However, in an interview with Yahoo News, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams voiced her concerns about hip-hop lyrics being used in a court of law, The Hill reports.
“I believe in the First Amendment. I cannot speak to the particulars of this case, but I do think it is a very dangerous precedent to use someone’s written word … as a proof point,” Abrams told Yahoo News, adding that she understands people using “provocative language” in their art.
Abrams declined to speak about the RICO charges in particular because she’s not familiar with the cases. However, she reiterated her concern about using song lyrics in criminal cases without additional justification for doing so.
“I do not know enough about these particular cases, having not been in the courtroom and having not read the pleadings,” Abrams added. “But I will say that … as someone who believes very staunchly in the First Amendment, I am deeply concerned about any movement towards using a person’s word and their music or their writing as an indictment of who they are and as a proof point without additional supports.”
From a legislative standpoint, there has been a movement Congress introduced the RAP Act, which would ban lyrics used in a court of law. The New York Senate also approved the formerly known “Rap Music On Trial” bill to limit the usage of verses on a state level. Co-founder and CEO of 300 Entertainment Kevin Liles and Atlantic Records’ COO Julie Greenwald launched a petition named “Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art” to stop prosecutors from using lyrics as evidence of criminal activity.