300 Entertainment’s Kevin Lile is the latest music executive to push for prosecutors to stop using rap lyrics in criminal cases.
Just about a week after he first stepped up to testify in favor of Young Thug to offer surety for his bond, Kevin Lile announced that he, along with Atlantic Records’ COO Julie Greenwald, have launched a petition to stop the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials.
Last week Liles became emotional as he spoke in favor of Young Thug.
“I’m kind of emotional because of how good this guy is,” Liles as he wiped tears from his eyes. “I’m willing to back him personally and professionally. … This whole thing that people are talking about, it’s not him. The Jeffery I know, he’ll give me the clothes off his back. The Jeffery I know, I can give him my kids and he’ll give me his kids.”
The judge later used his discretion not to grant the rapper bail and set a trial date for early 2023.
The petition, which is titled “Rap Music on Trial: Protect Black Art,” introduces the intention to stop prosecutors from using lyrics as confessions of criminal activity. It specifically uses Young Thug, Gunna, and their Young Stoner Life (YSL) colleagues, who are now facing a 56-count RICO indictment.
“In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like ‘ready for war like I’m Russia’ are a confession of criminal intent,” the petition says.
According to the label executives, there is a need to protect freedom of speech and also to “protect Black art.”
In a statement released to the press, both executives say what’s happening to the rappers is wrong.
“Weaponizing creative expression against artists is obviously wrong. But what gets us so upset is what’s happening to Young Thug, Gunna, and YSL is just the most high-profile case,” the joint statement read.
“In courtrooms across America, Black creativity and artistry is being criminalized. With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions, just like they’re doing in this case.”
The executives are relying on the passage of a similar New York bill called the “Rap Music on Trial” bill that was pushed by a number of artists, including Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella label. That bill prevents rap lyrics from being used without more evidence to support charges.
“We need to step up, support these efforts, and get this bill across the finish line,” the pair’s statement continues. “We need to urge the prompt adoption of legislation at the Federal and State level that would limit how prosecutors can use creative and artistic expression as evidence against defendants in criminal trials.”
Prosecutors across the US are using more instances of rap lyrics in criminal cases against rappers. This triggered widespread concerns across the hip-hop community on what it would mean for creative freedom in the art form that is predominantly black. The echoes are coming from both artists and other stakeholders within the music industry, including label executives.
Meanwhile, Young Thug and Gunna will have to wait until at least January 2023 for a trial in their Rico case.
Watch Kevin Liles discuss the use of rap lyrics in criminal cases with Ebro Darden and Laura Stylez.