An Atlanta judge ruled Thursday that he would allow many of Young Thug’s rap lyrics to be used as evidence against him and other alleged gang members in their upcoming criminal trial, rejecting arguments that doing so would violate the First Amendment.
The ruling came a day after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville held a highly anticipated hearing about the use of lyrics as evidence, a controversial practice that has drawn backlash from the music industry and efforts by lawmakers to stop it.
The lyrics could play a key role in the trial, which will kick off later this month. Prosecutors allege that Thug (Jeffery Williams) and his “YSL” were not really a popular music collective called “Young Stoner Life,” but a violent Atlanta gang called “Young Slime Life” that committed murders, carjackings, drug dealing and other crimes over the course of a decade.
Representing the superstar artist, attorney Brian Steel blasted prosecutors for attempting to use creative expression to convict his client. “They are targeting the right to free speech, and that’s wrong,” Steel said. “They are saying that just because he his singing about it, he is now part of a crime.”
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.
Last year, dozens of rappers signed an open letter against using rap lyrics in court that specifically noted the YSL trial.
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