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Young Thug: Everything You Need To Know About YSL’s RICO Case

On June 12, Young Thug made a plea from jail. “You know, this isn’t about just me or YSL,” he said in a prerecorded address screened at Hot 97’s Summer Jam. “I always use my music as a form of artistic expression, and I see now that Black artists and rappers don’t have that freedom. Everybody please sign the Protect Black Art petition and keep praying for us. I love you all” he concluded.

The Petition to Protect Black Art is a document co-written by 300 Entertainment co-founder and CEO Kevin Liles — who first signed Thug and helped get his label YSL off the ground as a subsidiary company — and Atlanta Records COO Julie Greenwald. The document asks both federal and state legislators to adopt bills that limit the use of rap lyrics as evidence in a court of law. The rapper’s plea arrived on the heels of a sprawling, 56-count RICO case against Thug, Gunna, and 26 members of his Young Stoner Life collective.

The 88-page grand-jury indictment characterizes YSL, “Young Slime Life,” as a “criminal street gang” and alleges 182 instances of the collective’s participating in gang activity and criminal conspiracies, citing lyrics, social-media posts, and clothing or accessories with SLIME emblazoned on them as evidence. Atlanta’s Fulton County grand jury also charged some individuals with violent crimes that include attempted armed robbery and murder. Both Young Thug and Gunna have been denied bond multiple times. Not only has the case arrived under the specter of a 60 percent rise in violent crime in Atlanta, which Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has promised to fight, but it has reverberated throughout the hip-hop community, where many have argued that this trial is but the latest instance of the criminal-justice system unfairly tying rappers to violent crime through their art.

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