T.I. and Bun B are the latest to share their thoughts on the YSL RICO case, and the use of rap lyrics in court. The southern rap legends believe that this is an attack on the genre, and shows that Hip-Hop is not valued as art in the same way other mediums are.
In a ComplexCon panel titled “The War On Rap,” TIP and the UGK member joined journalist and lawyer Ari Melber this past Saturday (Nov. 19) to address the inequities rappers face at the intersection of music and law. They drew parallels to Johnny Depp’s current case involving Amber Heard, and the fact that lawyers aren’t citing any of the actor’s movie roles as evidence of him being violent in real life.
“So Johnny Depp was on trial for allegations of violence,” Melber said. “How do you prove whether he was violent or not? Do you go to the evidence, the facts about his life, or do you go to the fact that he played a violent pirate?”
“He played a violent drug dealer in Blow too,” the Port Arthur, Texas rapper added while sporting a “Free Gunna” shirt. “We want to show you the contrast because whatever came up in that trial they never brought in his lines from a film, the way they’re bringing lines from other art against Black artists,” Melber continued.
The panelists addressed one line in particular that is being used against Young Thug, coming from his April 2018 track “Anybody” featuring Nicki Minaj where he raps that he is “ready for war like Russia.” Melber found the inclusion of that line in litigation to be absurd.
“As a lawyer, I think it’s wild they’re using this in the case,” he asserted. “I don’t think that Thug is saying he actually has access to nuclear weapons… or satellites… I don’t think this is literal, I think it’s an allegorical bravado. This is in the case, right, I don’t have to say the case is dumb I just have to show you how dumb this is.”
Bun B offered a passionate assessment of this practice, furthering the reality that Black art is appreciated but not legitimized. “Hip-hop is always looked at as cool like the culture is cool. It’s fun, it’s hip, it’s edgy, it’s all that, but it’s never described as art,” the “Get Throwed” rapper said.
“It’s never put in that box. It’s never labeled as such. Which allows them to denigrate the culture… It allows it to label it outside everything they deem classy or worthy or of value. It’s very easy to devalue hip-hop culture by using lyrics like they put up on there to literally box everyone in under that one thing.” He punctuated his message with the resounding statement that “When YSL is on trial, hip-hop is on trial.”
Though Thugger has had access to his Twitter account, fans have not audibly heard much from him since his arrest in May—aside from a message played at Hot 97’s Summer Jam in June. “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,” the Punk artist said at the time. “Everybody please sign the Protect Black Art petition and keep praying for us. I love you all.”
“In courtrooms across America, Black creativity and artistry is being criminalized,” Liles and Greenwald said in a statement. “With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions.”