300 Entertainment’s Kevin Liles and Atlantic Records’ COO Julie Greenwald are leading a petition against using rap lyrics as evidence in court amid the recent arrest of prominent Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Gunna and their Young Stoner Life associate currently facing RICO charges.
Dubbed “Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art,” the application aims at passing federal and state legislation limiting prosecutors’ abilities to utilize “creative and artistic expression as evidence against defendants in criminal trials.”
The petition highlights how prosecutors have attempted this, citing the “Ski” rappers’ case. “In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like ‘ready for war like I’m Russia’ are a confession of criminal intent,” the request, which calls to protect Black art and the First Amendment, read.
“Weaponizing creative expression against artists is obviously wrong. But what gets us so upset is what’s happening to Young Thug, Gunna, and YSL is just the most high-profile case,” Liles and Greenwald said in a joint statement. “In courtrooms across America, Black creativity and artistry is being criminalized. With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions, just like they’re doing in this case.”
“We need to step up, support these efforts, and get this bill across the finish line,” the statement continued. “We need to urge the prompt adoption of legislation at the Federal and State level that would limit how prosecutors can use creative and artistic expression as evidence against defendants in criminal trials.”
Earlier this month, Liles testified in court on behalf of Thug at a bond hearing and spoke about his relationship with the rapper. “I’m a 54-year-old father of four. I’m kind of emotional because of how good this guy is,” a tearful Liles said in his testimony. He shared elsewhere, “I’m willing to back him personally and professionally.”
“This whole thing that people are talking about, it’s not him. The Jeffery I know, he’ll give me the clothes off his back. The Jeffery I know, I can give him my kids, and he’ll give me his kids,” the record exec added.
The petition comes on the heels of a newly passed New York state Senate bill titled “Rap Music on Trial” that limits using rap songs in trials. It received support from Sens. Jamaal Bailey and Brad Hoylman, several prominent figures in hip-hop, including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Fat Joe, and rapper-turned-social justice advocate Killer Mike.