300 Entertainment Posts A Petition To End The Use Of Rap Lyrics In Criminal Trials Like The YSL RICO Case

Last month, Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Gunna were arrested in a racketeering case blaming them and their label, YSL, for gang activity in the Atlanta area. In total, 28 members of YSL were charged with crimes including attempted murder and possession of illegal firearms. However, a point of contention has arisen among those in the rap community: the State’s use of Thug and Gunna’s lyrics as the principal evidence against them.

Prosecutors say that their lyrics mentioning YSL prove their membership in a gang, and under the terms of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, they can be charged as part of a criminal organization, rather than for any specific crime. However, the rappers’ contemporaries have spoken out against the use of lyrics against them, citing the creativity in hip-hop and the artist’s right to free speech. Even rivals such as The Game and YFN Lucci have criticized the prosecution’s strategy, and now, YSL’s parent label, 300 Entertainment is getting involved as well.

300, which was founded in 2012 by Kevin Liles, Lyor Cohen, Roger Gold, and Todd Moscowitz, launched a petition on Change.org calling for the protection of Black art and laws to codify rappers’ freedom of expression. The petition is inspired in part by the success of New York State Bill S7527, nicknamed the “Rap On Trial” law, which would limit the use of lyrics in criminal trials unless prosecutors can prove that they are based in fact and relevant to the case. The state’s Senate passed the bill in May; it must pass the Assembly and be signed by the Governor to be ratified into law.

While the petition doesn’t say exactly what changes its author Liles is seeking, a good start would be the nationalization of a law like S7527, which would ensure that artists nationwide are protected, not just in New York. As noted in the petition, YSL aren’t the only ones who’ve been scooped up by such broad interpretations of the law and their lyrics. And while the RICO law is intended to keep America’s streets safer, it should take more than a hit on the radio to prove someone guilty of a crime.

You can view the petition here.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.