Young Thug’s recent RICO arrest means he was unable to make his scheduled appearance at Hot 97’s Summer Jam 2022 on Sunday (June 12), but the Atlanta rapper’s presence could still be felt inside MetLife Stadium.
Before the night’s main act, Fivio Foreign, hit the stage, Hot 97 broadcast a video inside the stadium featuring the likes of DJ Khaled, Polo G and G Herbo showing their support for Thugga and Gunna (who is also currently in jail on a RICO charge), as well as artistic expression in rap music.
The clip ended with a pre-recorded voice message from Young Thug addressing his fans from behind bars. “I just want to say thank you to all of my friends and my family for coming out and supporting us,” he said. “You know, your support during this time means a lot to us, ya know.”
Thug then encouraged his fans to support Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art, a petition launched by music executives Kevin Liles and Julie Greenwald last week calling for lawmakers to prevent rap lyrics from being used in court to convict artists of alleged crimes.
“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,” he continued. “Everybody please sign the ‘Protect Black Art’ petition and keep praying for us. I love you all.”
The New York Senate passed the “Rap Music on Trial” bill just last month, limiting the “admissibility of evidence of a defendant’s creative or artistic expression in a criminal proceeding.” However, as Thug and Gunna’s RICO case (which was filed in Fulton County, Georgia) goes to show, the problem is still prevalent elsewhere in the U.S.
Young Thug and Gunna were arrested in May as part of a sweeping, 56-count RICO indictment against their Young Slime Life (YSL) collective, which prosecutors have accused of being a “criminal street gang” behind a series of violent crimes, including murder.
Thug faces one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and one count of participation in criminal street gang activity, in addition to seven felonies stemming from drugs and weapons seized by police at his home.
Gunna, meanwhile, faces one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act. Lyrics and social media posts from both rappers have been used against them as purported evidence of promoting YSL’s gang activities.