Is rapper ‘Young Thug’ really in a street gang?


(NewsNation) — Although “Young Thug” has claimed gang ties in his lyrics, defense attorney Manny Arora is arguing there is no evidence that rapper, who was arrested by authorities on RICO charges in Atlanta, has any gang affiliation.

In an 88-page indictment, the Fulton County prosecutors allege Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Lamar Williams, co-founded the violent Atlanta street gang “YSL” which stands for Young Slime Life, and has ties to the national Bloods gang.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said gang violence was the No. 1 threat to public safety in Fulton County, saying they commit, “conservatively,” 75-80% of violent crime.

Arora, a guest Tuesday on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour,” said prosecutors like Willis like to throw the “gang” title at everything to scare jurors and stir up media attention.

“Recently, the state prosecuting attorney’s council has made calling everything a gang crime basically the most important thing in our state,” Arora said. “And so now, if there is just three people loitering together, essentially they can be a gang and there’s very loose definitions of what a gang is and so you can pigeonhole it into just about anything.”

Authorities say Young Thug did in fact found the street gang YSL, however, using lyrics from some of his songs as evidence of this.

Young Thug’s song “Gang Up,” for example, opens with the lines “I’m with the gang, gang, gang, and we ’bout to go up.”

But Arora says prosecutors tag people like Young Thug with the gang label to make things sound more severe than they really are.

“In 30 years of trying cases in my career, anytime you mention the word ‘gang’ when you have suburbanites and folks that maybe don’t live inside the city or are familiar with certain demographics, the prejudice goes through the roof,” Arora said. “Also, when you charge them with a gang and then RICO, you can bring in all kinds of evidence that typically wouldn’t be admissible and it gets a lot more salacious.”

The definition of a gang can vary by police department and correctional facility, Arora says, clouding the true meaning of what it means to be in a gang. He says just because you have a certain tattoo or write certain song lyrics, you’re not “inherently” in a gang.

“In this case, this ‘YSL,’ that is also the name of his record label, so I am not sure how it all portrays it together but it sure makes it a lot more sexy and news coverage comes when you say gang and you bring up these massive indictments alleging all these extraneous crimes, which by themselves really wouldn’t be all that serious,” Arora said.

Prosecutors allege YSL has committed multiple murders, carjackings and shooting since its founding in 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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