ATLANTA (AP) — Rapper Young Thug co-founded a violent street gang and promoted it in his songs and on social media, prosecutors allege in a sprawling indictment that accuses him and 27 others of racketeering and a laundry list of other crimes meant to further the gang’s interests.
The Atlanta-based rapper, whose given name is Jeffrey Lamar Williams, co-wrote the hit “This is America” with Childish Gambino, making history when it became the first hip-hop track to win the song of the year Grammy in 2019. Fulton County prosecutors say that in late 2012, he and two others founded Young Slime Life, a violent criminal street gang that’s commonly known as YSL and is affiliated with the national Bloods gang.
He was arrested Monday at his home in Buckhead, an upscale neighborhood north of downtown Atlanta. He was being held at the Fulton County Jail on charges of conspiracy to violate Georgia’s RICO Act and participation in a criminal street gang.
Young Thug’s lawyer, Brian Steel, told local news outlets that “Mr. Williams committed no crime whatsoever” and he would “fight till his last drop of blood to clear him.”
He was scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday.
Also charged in the indictment were Atlanta rapper Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens, and aspiring rapper Christian Eppinger, who was already in jail and is accused of shooting an Atlanta police officer six times in February. It was not immediately known if Gunna, who is accused of conspiracy to violate the state’s RICO Act, has been arrested.
Gunna, who is signed to Thug’s Young Stoner Life record label, scored his second No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart with “DS4Ever” this year. The Grammy-nominated artist is known for boosting the viral catchphrase “Pushin P,” a term that has been regularly used on social media by popular athletes such as LeBron James and Dez Bryant, along with professional sports teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors. The rapper said the term is based on “keeping it real.”
In April 2021, Young Thug and Gunna posted bail for 30 low-level inmates who were unable to afford the costs themselves. Gunna opened a no-cost grocery and apparel store at his former middle school to students and their families in Atlanta. The store offers items including shoes, clothing, food and toiletries.
In addition to specific charges, the indictment includes a wide-ranging list of 181 acts that prosecutors say were committed as part of a conspiracy to further the gang’s interests. They include appearing in videos with inflammatory song lyrics, appearing in photos on social media with gang symbols, possessing drugs with intent to distribute, aggravated assault and murder.
The indictment accuses members of the gang of trying to kill rival gang member and rapper YFN Lucci, whose given name is Rayshawn Bennett, by “stabbing and stabbing at” him with a shank in the Fulton County Jail. YFN Lucci was among a dozen people charged in another gang-related RICO indictment in Fulton County a year ago.
YSL is mainly active in southeast Atlanta and the Cleveland Avenue area but is expanding its activity into the surrounding metro area, prosecutors say. Its members are identifiable by their green or red bandanas — red for Bloods and green for Slime — and clothes with the letters “YSL” or the word “Slime,” the indictment says.
With his squeaky high-pitched rap vocals, Young Thug became best known for his hits including “Stoner” and “Best Friend.” In a hyper-masculine hip-hop scene, Thug refused to play by traditional gender rules. He wore a dress on the cover of his 2016 mixtape “Jeffery” and said there’s no such thing as gender as part of a Calvin Klein campaign.
Young Thug’s record label refers to its artists as part of the “Slime Family,” and a compilation album called “Slime Language 2” hit No. 1 on the charts in April 2021.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Los Angeles contributed to this report.