A new ABC News Studios documentary airing on Hulu will explore the use of rap lyrics in criminal cases against hip-hop artists, including Young Thug (Jeffery Williams) and Gunna (Sergio Kitchens).
The one-hour film titled Rap Trap: Hip-Hop on Trial follows the rise of the two rappers, and “mischaracterizations” of rap music, Hulu announced Thursday.
The use of rap lyrics in criminal cases received renewed attention in 2022, following the arrest and indictment of Young Thug and Gunna in Atlanta on RICO charges.
In 2022, the arrest and indictment of Gunna and Young Thug stunned the hip-hop world.
To some, their lyrics were evidence of potential wrongdoing, but others believe the case spotlights a decades-long trend of criminalizing Black art.
#RapTrap premieres Feb. 23 on @Hulu. pic.twitter.com/kg7D8jniX2
— ABC News Studios (@abcnewsstudios) February 16, 2023
Fulton County District Attorney Fani WIllis said at the time that Young Thug was one of three founding members of “Young Slime Life” (YSL), a rap collective associated with the Blood street gang. The DA’s office indicted Young Thug and 27 other members of YSL, in the case. All of them were charged with racketeering.
Young Thug’s lawyer Brian Steel released a statement saying his client “vehemently denies the allegations lodged against him in the Fulton County (Georgia) Indictment of May 9, 2022.”
Gunna, who prosecutors said was also a YSL gang member, was taken into custody days later and charged in the case. Prosecutors cited lyrics from the two performers’ music as evidence of gang ties and alleged criminal activity.
Gunna pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in December 2022 “to end my personal ordeal,” but maintained his innocence.
“While I have agreed to always be truthful, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have NOT made any statements, have NOT been interviewed, have NOT cooperated, have NOT agreed to testify or be a witness for or against any party in the case and have absolutely NO intention of being involved in the trial process in any way,” Gunna said in a statement.
The Hulu documentary will delve into the case against YSL.
It will also revisit the case of former No Limit Records rapper and activist McKinley ‘Mac’ Phipps Jr., who was convicted in a manslaughter case in Louisiana where prosecutors used rap lyrics.
Phipps served 21 years in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. The film will include interviews with Phipps and his family about the lasting impact of incarceration and the healing power of art.
Also interviewed for the doc were hip-hop artists will.i.am, Jerrika Karlae, Fat Joe and Killer Mike about protecting and standing up for artists’ rights. Adding input as well are Kevin Liles, co-founder and CEO of 300 Elektra Entertainment; scholar Michael Eric Dyson; and Erik Nielson, co-author of “Rap on Trial.”
Rap Trap: Hip-Hop on Trial is produced for Hulu by ABC News Studios. The documentary begins streaming Thursday, Feb. 23, on Hulu.
Watch the trailer above.