Snoop Dogg‘s Super Bowl performance has been used as key evidence in Young Thug‘s RICO trial.
Young Thug is currently on trial for allegedly conspiring to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act, along with seven further drug- and gang- related felonies.
His case has been significantly notable for the use of his rap lyrics to accuse him of his YSL gang affiliation in trial. Using lyrics in criminal trials has been broadly criticised “as a convenient way to inject racial bias and confusion into the criminal justice process.”
In the latest developments of Thugger’s trial, witness and YSL co-founder Trontavious “Tick” Stephens has been testifying on behalf of the prosecution and was cross-examined by Young Thug’s attorney, Brian Steel.
Steel used Snoop Dogg’s Super Bowl performance to demonstrate that Young Thug is solely an entertainer, not a gang member. According to HotNewHipHop, he showed Snoop Dogg’s crip walk dance (associated with the Crips) to prove that gang culture is embedded into rap culture and did not necessarily imply gang affiliation.
Previously, videos of tennis superstar Serena Williams doing the crip walk at the Wimbledon Championships have been shown to prove the same point.
Stephens also claimed that Young Thug’s name was an acronym for ‘Truly Humble Under God’. He cited the song ‘Dropping Jewels’ as an example of Thug talking about God, but did not recall any specific lines when pressed.
He was also questioned on whether Thugger’s song ‘Pushin P’ referenced Percocet; Stephens said he could not give a clear answer without hearing the song.
Rap lyrics on trial:
How many Young Thug songs say he’s truly humble under God?
Trontavious “Tick” Stephens identified Thugger’s song “Droppin Jewels” today. DA Adriane Love emphasizes the song doesn’t actually say God. pic.twitter.com/b6cl9DDd1s
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) January 22, 2024
Rappers have previously come to Young Thug’s defense, with Fat Joe claiming he has lied in “95 per cent” of his songs. He also called the RICO case a “travesty”: “If you really wanna put these gentlemen in jail and they’re really criminals, use real evidence, use real facts.”
He compared the trial to Arnold Schwarzenegger, claiming that the actor should “be in jail for 20,000 years” for killing “10,000 people in movies”.
For a primer on why using rap lyrics as evidence is unjust, read NME‘s report on UK-based movement Art Not Evidence, who are campaigning for the restriction of rap lyrics as evidence. We heard from one of Young Thug’s key witness experts, Dr Erik Nielsen, along with other industry experts to understand how rap lyrics have been used to create hundreds of years of injustice against young Black men.