ATLANTA, GA — Court documents say that Atlanta rapper Young Thug co-founded a violent street gang that was responsible for multiple murders, shootings, and carjackings over the course of about a decade and promoted its activities in songs and on social media. He, rapper Gunna, and 26 others are charged with racketeering in a long indictment that lists a lot of different crimes.
The 88-page indictment, which was filed Monday in Georgia’s Fulton County, uses lyrics from multiple music videos as evidence and accuses alleged gang members of committing violent crimes to get money for the gang, improve its reputation, and increase its power and territory.
“It doesn’t matter how famous or well-known you are, if you come to Fulton County, Georgia, and you commit crimes,… you will become a target and a focus of this district attorney’s office, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Tuesday at a news conference to announce the charges.
Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, wrote the hit song “This is America” with Childish Gambino. In 2019, “This Is America” became the first hip-hop song to win the song of the year Grammy. Fulton County prosecutors say that in late 2012, he and two other people started Young Slime Life, a violent criminal street gang that is part of the national Bloods gang.
He was arrested on Monday at his home in Buckhead, an upscale area north of downtown Atlanta. He was being held at the Fulton County Jail on charges of conspiracy to break Georgia’s RICO Act and membership in a criminal street gang.
Brian Steel, Young Thug’s lawyer, told news outlets that Mr. Williams didn’t do anything wrong and that he would “fight until his last drop of blood to clear him.”
Rapper Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, and aspiring rapper Christian Eppinger, who was already in jail and is accused of shooting a police officer in Atlanta six times in February, were also named in the indictment. Gunna is accused of plotting to break the state’s RICO Act, but as of Tuesday afternoon, he was not in custody, according to Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat.
In addition to specific charges, the indictment includes a long list of 181 things that prosecutors say were done starting in 2013 as part of the alleged RICO conspiracy to help the gang’s interests.
The indictment says that Williams rented an Infiniti sedan in 2015 that five alleged gang members used to shoot and kill a rival gang member.
The indictment says that Williams and Kitchens planned to sell methamphetamine, hydrocodone, and marijuana in 2017. The next year, they were involved in a traffic stop where one of the cars had many weapons with high capacity magazines, including an AK-47.
It uses lyrics from Williams’s music videos, including one from 2018 in which he says, “I never killed anyone, but I got something to do with that body” and “I told them to shoot a hundred rounds.”
Willis said she respects the First Amendment right to free speech, but she thinks the song lyrics listed in the indictment are “overt and predicate acts” that support the RICO charge.
“If it’s true, the First Amendment doesn’t stop prosecutors from using it as evidence,” she said.
The indictment also says that members of the gang tried to kill rapper YFN Lucci, whose real name is Rayshawn Bennett, by “stabbing and stabbing” at him with a shank in the Fulton County Jail. A year ago, YFN Lucci was one of a dozen people charged with RICO crimes related to gangs in Fulton County.
In the indictment, it is also said that a member of the gang shot at a bus carrying rapper Lil Wayne in 2015.
Willis said she was going to try to get the most severe punishments for the people on the indictment. At least some of them could be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.
Young Thug is best known for hits like “Stoner” and “Best Friend,” which he sang in a high-pitched, squeaky voice. Thug refused to play by the usual rules for men and women in a very masculine hip-hop scene. As part of a Calvin Klein campaign, he wore a dress on the cover of his 2016 mixtape “Jeffery” and said that there is no such thing as gender.
“DS4Ever” is Gunna’s second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. He is signed to Thug’s Young Stoner Life record label. The Grammy-nominated artist is known for making the phrase “Pushin P” go viral. Athletes like LeBron James and Dez Bryant, as well as professional sports teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Nuggets, and Toronto Raptors, use the phrase often on social media. The rapper said that the phrase comes from the phrase “keeping it real.”
In April 2021, Young Thug and Gunna paid bail for 30 low-level prisoners who couldn’t pay it on their own. Gunna opened a free grocery store and clothing store at his old middle school for students and their families in the area where he grew up.
The artists on Young Thug’s record label are called “Slime Family,” and in April 2021, a compilation album called “Slime Language 2” went to No. 1 on the charts.