Prosecutors accuse rapper Young Thug of co-founding a criminal street gang responsible for violent crimes and promoting it through his songs and social media. His trial is set to begin on Monday.
The Atlanta-based artist, whose given name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, was charged in May along with more than two dozen other people in a sprawling indictment, with more charges added in an August indictment. Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, was also arrested.
The trial of Young Thug is expected to last several months, with his involvement in Young Slime Life (YSL) at the heart of alleged criminal activity.
What you need to know about Young Thug’s trial.
Young Thug and 27 other people have been charged with conspiracy to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law.
14 of the 28 people are scheduled to stand trial, which begins on Monday and is expected to last several months.
Young Thug is accused of founding YSL, a street gang that is accused of carrying out multiple murders, shootings, and carjackings over the course of a decade.
Gunna, another rapper, entered an Alford plea last month to one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, which means he maintains his innocence but recognises that accepting punishment is in his best interests.
Who exactly is Young Thug?
Young Thug, 31, began rapping as a teenager and has gone on to become a huge success, performing all over the world and launching his own record label, Young Stoner Life, or YSL, of which he is the CEO. Artists on his record label are referred to as the “Slime Family,” and a compilation album titled “Slime Language 2” debuted at number one on the charts in April 2021.
He collaborated with Childish Gambino on the hit “This Is America,” which became the first hip-hop song to win song of the year at the Grammy Awards in 2019. “Stoner” and “Best Friend” are two of his other hits.
Young Thug, one of 11 siblings with six children of his own, has deep roots in his hometown of Atlanta and several legitimate, lawful business ventures, according to his lawyers in a May court filing that unsuccessfully sought his release on bond.
What exactly is YSL?
According to prosecutors, YSL also has a darker connotation: a violent street gang called Young Slime Life, which was founded in 2012 by Young Thug and two others and is affiliated with the national Bloods gang. The alleged gang members named in the indictment are accused of committing violent crimes, such as murders, shootings, and carjackings, in order to raise funds for the gang, improve its reputation, and expand its power and territory.
Prosecutors allege that rap lyrics in the indictment are overt acts “in furtherance of the conspiracy,” including a line from a song Young Thug allegedly released on YouTube: “I’m in the VIP and I got that pistol on my hip, you prayin that you live, I’m prayin that I hit.” “I never killed anybody, but I got something to do with that body,” another of his lyrics quoted in the indictment says.
Why is Young Thug incarcerated?
Young Thug was charged in August with racketeering conspiracy, participation in criminal street gang activity, as well as drug and gun charges.
Letters from over a dozen music industry executives who have worked with Young Thug were attached to that filing. He is described as one of the world’s most successful hip-hop artists, a loving father and friend, a generous contributor to his community, and a nurturing mentor to other artists.
In addition to specific charges, the August indictment includes a broad list of 191 acts that prosecutors claim were committed as part of the alleged RICO conspiracy to further the gang’s interests between 2013 and 2022.
On that list is an allegation that Young Thug threatened to shoot a security guard who was attempting to get him to leave an Atlanta-area mall in July 2015. He and others are accused of possessing illegal drugs with the intent to distribute them on numerous occasions.
In addition, the indictment accuses alleged gang associates of attempting to kill rapper YFN Lucci in the Fulton County Jail last February and alleges that an alleged gang associate shot at a bus carrying rapper Lil Wayne in 2015.
Who else is involved in the investigation?
Eight others, including Gunna, have already accepted plea bargains in the case, and six others – four of whom do not have lawyers and two who have not been arrested – will be tried later, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Gunna entered an Alford plea last month to one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, which means he maintains his innocence but acknowledges that going to trial would almost certainly result in a guilty verdict.