Judge rules lyrics can be used as evidence in Young Thug’s trial

Though lawmakers in New York and California have taken strides to limit–or restrict entirely–the use of song lyrics as evidence in criminal trials, an Atlanta judge has ruled that he would allow Young Thug‘s lyrics to be used as evidence against him and other YSL members in their upcoming trial, in which prosecutors allege that YSL is a “criminal street gang” that has committed murders, carjackings, drug deals, and other crimes for the past 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.”

But after an hours-long hearing that ran until nearly 9 pm on Wednesday evening, [Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville] largely rejected those arguments. “They’re not prosecuting your clients because of the songs they wrote,” Glanville said from the bench. “They’re using the songs to prove other things your clients may have been involved in. I don’t think it’s an attack on free speech.”

[…] Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutor Symone Hylton highlighted specific lyrics that the state plans to play for jurors during the trial and explained why they were relevant enough to be admitted. They included lines from Thug’s 2016 song “Slime Shit,” in which he raps about “killin’ 12 shit” and “hundred rounds in a Tahoe.”

Hylton argued that “12” is a well-known euphemism for police officers, and that the lyric referred to a specific incident in which an officer was shot by a YSL member. And she said that the “Tahoe” lyric was a boast about the 2015 murder of Donovan Thomas – a key allegation in the indictment.

“Not only did Donovan Thomas drive a Tahoe, there were multiple rounds of shell casings laid out on the ground where he was killed in front of his barber shop,” Hylton said. “While [the lyric] may on the surface seem irrelevant, when you put it to the facts that are going to come out in this case, that particular verse becomes very relevant.”

Among other songs, she also referenced the 2018 track “Anybody,” in which Thug raps “I never killed anybody/ But I got somethin’ to do with that body”; and the song “Really Be Slime,” a 2021 compilation track released by Young Stoner Life Records that features the line “You wanna be slime? Go catch you a body.”