Artist News Legal

Young Thug and Gunna comment on their arrest on RICO charges

By | Published on Wednesday 15 June 2022

Young Thug

Rapper Gunna has issued a statement about his arrest last month – and current incarceration – in relation to charges made under the US Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organisations Act. He insists that he is innocent of all the charges, adding that the way he is being portrayed by prosecutors is “ugly and untrue”.

Gunna and fellow rapper Young Thug were among 28 people arrested in the US state of Georgia last month accused of involvement in a gang that allegedly committed murders, shootings and carjackings.

The arrests have put the spotlight on the so called ‘Rap On Trial’ campaign. Prosecutors in this case plan to use music and videos released by Gunna and Young Thug as evidence against them. Critics argue that this is a common practice when rappers are accused of crimes in the US, but such evidence is often very misleading, and its use in criminal actions usually breaches the free speech rights of the accused.

In New York State new legislation is being considered that would restrict the use of a defendant’s music as evidence in criminal actions. And last week the bosses of 300 Entertainment and Atlantic Records US – both of which work with Gunna, Young Thug and the latter’s Young Stoner Life label – called on the music community to support similar legal reforms across the US, initially by signing a Protect Black Art petition they have set up online.

300 Entertainment CEO Kevin Liles and Atlantic Records US COO Julie Greenwald wrote in an open letter: “Currently in Georgia, multiple artists belonging to Young Stoner Life Records – including celebrated artists like Young Thug and Gunna – are facing more than 50 allegations, including RICO charges which claim the record label is a criminal gang. The allegations heavily rely on the artists’ lyrics that prosecutors claim are ‘overt evidence of conspiracy’”.

“Weaponising creative expression against artists is obviously wrong”, they added. “This practice isn’t just a violation of First Amendment protections for speech and creative expression, it punishes already marginalised communities and silences their stories of family, struggle, survival and triumph. It is a racially targeted attack, and this shameful and un-American practice must end”.

In his new statement commenting on the charges he faces, Gunna writes: “Growing up from where I come from in a marginalised neighbourhood, I never dreamt my art would change my life and the lives of my loved ones. My entire life, I’ve seen black men, black women and black children consistently attacked, hated, murdered, berated, belittled, silenced, judged, used and held captive”.

“I used my art form, my gift from God, to change my circumstance”, he adds. “I worked, I honed my craft, I worked, I empowered black women in my industry, I worked, I lived in the recording studio, I worked, I lived on the road, I worked. I worked every day to show God how grateful I am for my gift, for my art, for my life and to be able to provide for my loved ones”.

“For now, I don’t have my freedom”, he goes on. “But I am innocent. I am being falsely accused and will never stop fighting to clear my name! The picture that is being painted of me is ugly and untrue. My fans know I love to celebrate life, I love my family, I love travel, I love music, I love my fans. I have all faith that God will grant me justice for the purity in my heart and the innocence of my actions”.

He then says: “As a black man in America, it seems as though my art is only acceptable when I’m a source of entertainment for the masses. My art is not allowed to stand alone as entertainment, I’m not allowed that freedom as a black man in America. It is a sad reality that slavery is still alive in America today and still affecting my people. In twelve states more than half of the prison population is black, one of those states is Georgia”.

“Nothing will stop me from chasing my dreams”, he concludes. “I won’t stop being a good person, even if some unnamed and unknown accusers want the world to see me as a bad person. When I was free, I tried to be good and kind to the community around me and, when I am released, I will do the same thing all over again”.

Both Gunna and Young Thug have been in jail since their arrests last month and have so far been denied bail. That meant they couldn’t perform their planned set at the Summer Jam event staged by New York radio station Hot 97 last weekend. However, a short video was screened instead, with the likes of DJ Khaled, Polo G and G Herbo expressing their support for the two rappers, before a recorded statement from Young Thug himself was played.

He told the Summer Jam audience: “I just want to say thank you to all of my friends and my family for coming out and supporting us … your support during this time means a lot to us. You know, this isn’t just about me or YSL. I always use my music as a form of artistic expression, and now I see that black artists and rappers don’t have that, you know, freedom. Everybody please sign the ‘Protect Black Art’ petition and keep praying for us. I love you all”.