A little over a year ago, Young Thug’s YSL label had just unveiled their second compilation, Slime Language 2. Upon its release on April 16th, 2022, the record skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard charts with first-week sales of upwards of 113,000 units. In October of that year, Young Thug’s sophomore studio album, Punk, repeated the feat before Gunna’s DS4 would equal it at the outset of 2022.
Boasting a stellar roster of burgeoning talents and in-house producers, the Atlantan icon– who was crowned the most influential rapper of the previous decade by the BBC– and his Atlantic-backed imprint were, quite frankly, firing on all cylinders and were becoming a real force within hip-hop culture in a way that has now surpassed his singular fame.
But now, the entire organization has been taken from the pinnacle of the industry to the depths of despair after being hit with a mammoth federal indictment. Comprising 56 counts and 28 people, the authorities claim that they conspired "to associate together and with others for the common purposes of illegally obtaining money and property through a pattern of racketeering activity and conducting and participating in the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity."
YSL members: Dolly White, Unfoonk, HiDoraah, Strick, BSlime, Young Thug, Yak Gotti, YTB Trench, T-Shyne, Lil Keed, Lil Duke, and FN DaDealer - Paras Griffin/Getty ImagesAlleged to be a Blood-affiliated gang, the charges are being brought to the court as a RICO case. A legal precedent that was originally introduced to aid law enforcement in going after the mob, they function in such a way that defendants can truly become guilty by association because, with a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) case, all it takes is to be knowingly contributing to a criminal enterprise in any way for you to be implicated. As such, everything from music videos to flashing perceived gang signs can be enlisted as evidence.
Launched as a partnership between the Atlanta police department and the district attorney’s office in an effort to crackdown on gang activity at large, Fani T Willis, Fulton County's District Attorney, described the platinum-selling Thugger as one of their "top offenders."
At the time of his arrest, Thugger was said to be in possession of "20 Bottles of YSL Slime Drink (containing THC), 1,299 grams of marijuana, 31 bottles of promethazine codeine syrup -- a schedule V controlled substance, a Glock 30S .45 caliber firearm, a Glock 357 firearm, a FN Five Seven firearm, a Glock 19 9mm firearm, a Smith & Wesson M&P firearm, and a fully automatic Glock 45 9mm handgun with an extended magazine with a converter switch."
Alongside Jeffrey Williams himself, Yak Gotti, Peewee Roscoe, Duke, and Thug’s brother Unfoonk have also been indicted. In the case of the latter– who had previously escaped a life sentence for murder after 11 years behind bars– the indictment claimed that Unfoonk, real name Quantavious Grier, had made arrangements for enemies of YSL to be assassinated in jail as well as reportedly flying a drone to a jail window in order to deliver contraband cellphones.
In one of the more startling revelations, Gunna, real name Sergio Kitchens, has also found himself accused of the lesser charge of conspiracy to violate RICO, as well as various other drug-selling charges (including meth, marijuana, and hydrocodone).
Aside from the more high-profile figures, the other men who’ve been implicated by the indictment are as follows:
- Kahlieff Adams aka "Bobby Hunt"
- Derontae Bebee aka "Bee" or "B"
- Damone Blalock aka "Bail"
- Javaris Bradford aka " Tuda"
- Justin Cobb aka "Duwap"
- Cordarius Dorsey aka "Polo" or "Juicy"
- Miles Farley aka "Slato" or "Lil Miles"
- Jevon Fleetwood aka "4tray" or "Psycho"
- Damekion Garlington aka "Dee" or "Sxarfaxe"
- Marquavius Huey aka "Qua"
- Wunnie Lee aka "Slimelife Shawty"
- Demise McMullen aka "Nard"
- Tenquarius Mender aka "Stunna"
- Walter Murphy aka "DK"
- Jayden Myrick aka "SetTrip" or "JayMan"
- Quamarvious Nichols aka "Qua"
- Rodalius Ryan aka "Lil Rod"
- Antonio Sledge aka "Mounk Tounk"
- Trontavious Stephens aka "Tick" or "Slug"
- Shannon Stillwell aka "Shannon Jackson" or "SB"
- Antonio Sumlin aka "Obama"
Prince Williams/FilmMagic/Getty ImagesWhen you delve into the actual substance of what Thug and co are facing, the charges are varied in terms of both activity and severity.
Among the most headline-grabbing of them all, Thug is alleged to have personally rented a car– a 2014 Infiniti Q50 to be precise– that was "used in the commission of the murder of Donovan “Peanut” Thomas Jr, a rival gang member in a drive-by shooting that took place around Castleberry Hill."
In the wake of the killing, it was reported that Thug spoke to the incarcerated Kyle Oree of the Sex Money Murda crew– who have apparently also been referenced in his music– on a monitored cellphone. Allegedly, the killing was greenlit by Oree and carried out by YSL after it was revealed that Thomas was preparing to give testimony in court.
The following day, Thug posted a video on Instagram which is being interpreted by prosecutors as an admission of his and his label’s involvement, with the rapper declaring that:
"So n***a lie to they momma, lie to they kids, lie to they brothers and sisters then get right into the courtroom and tell the God’s honest truth, don’t get it, y’all n****s need to get fucking killed bro, from me and YSL."
Rather than being an isolated incident, the Fulton County DA has claimed that Thomas' murder was the catalyst for "violence on the streets of Atlanta like we’ve never seen before."
In addition to this drive-by, authorities have also stated that YSL was behind the March stabbing of YFN Lucci with a homemade shank in Fulton County Jail. According to them, two associates (Christian “Big Bhris” Eppinger and Antonio “Mounk Tounk” Sumlin) had been caught discussing how to obtain permission from "Slime," AKA Jeffrey Williams, to make a second attempt to murder YFN Lucci while he remained incarcerated.
Lyrics As Evidence
Prince Williams/Wireimage/Getty ImagesAway from alleged deeds and the litany of contraband found in his rented Buckhead mansion, the lyrics of Thug and other artists’ tracks have been touted as "an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy."
Among the bars in question, prosecutors intend to cite a lengthy passage from the full version of "Eww," which states,
"Red just like Elmo but never fuckin giggle YSL won’t fold, pick his ass off from the balcony, YSL, wipe n***a nose, I’ma fuck for the cash then she getting robbed by Tick, In Bentley on West Lee getting trailed by sniper, All ever wanted was the money, put your hands in the air if you dare, any motherfucker to step over here, F&N put em in wheel chair."
According to their findings, Tick refers to alleged YSL co-founder Trontavious Stephens with the inference being that "wiping a nose" is slang for committing murder.
On top of tracks from the aforementioned Slime Language 2 coming under the microscope, other instances include collaboration with Nicki Minaj “Anybody” (“I never killed anybody but I got something to do with that body”); 2018’s “Just How It Is” (“Gave the lawyer close to two mil, he handles all the killings”); and 2020’s “Take It to Trial” (“For slimes you know I kill, trial, I done beat it twice, state, I’m undefeated like feds came and snatched me”).
Given that enlisting lyrics as evidence is a controversial practice that seems to circumvent the rights to artistic license or creativity in general, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis defended the decision, stating at a press conference that "this issue’s been ruled on by the courts — I knew that that question was coming. I believe in the first amendment, it’s one of our most precious rights. However, the first amendment does not protect people from prosecutors using it as evidence if it is such. In this case, we put it as overt and predicate acts within the RICO count, because we believe that’s exactly what it is."
At the moment New York has placed a bill in motion which seeks to eradicate this hip-hop-oriented precedent. In recent months, it has acquired the wholehearted support of some of the game’s biggest stars including JAY-Z, Meek Mill, Big Sean and Killer Mike of Run The Jewels.
Court Hearings & Bond
Young Thug, Gunna and frequent producer Turbo - Prince Williams/FilmMagic/Getty ImagesDespite the evidence mounting up, Brian Steel, a lawyer for Thug, informed Rolling Stone that, "Mr. Williams has committed no violation of law, whatsoever. We will fight this case ethically, legally and zealously. Mr. Williams will be clear."
Likewise, Gunna’s legal team has said that Mr. Sergio Kitchens, known as Gunna, is innocent, stating that "the indictment falsely portrays his music as part of a criminal conspiracy."
At his first court hearing, Don Samuel doubled down stating that "[Gunna] has no felony convictions of any kind and we are sitting here in jail at this point on a RICO allegation involving two motor vehicle offenses plus lyrics."
As for the likelihood of Thug and his associates escaping unscathed, RICO expert Jeff Grell delivered a grim prognosis.
"If these defendants did what they’re accused of doing, it’s kind of a slam dunk," he told Vice. "Not that any RICO case is easy to prove. But when you’re dealing with blatant criminal activity, like what they’re accused of—murder, aggravated assault, drug dealing, attempted murder—all these things are, clearly, acts of racketeering. So if they did those things, you’re a long way home as a prosecutor."
Alongside concluding that he'd "rather be on the prosecutor’s side," he shed light on some of the assets at their disposal, claiming that "it appears as though they’ve got recordings; maybe they had phones tapped and listening devices. And, obviously, he posted a lot of stuff on social media. If the evidence is strong, as a defense attorney looking at the writing on the wall, you would want to advise your client to take a plea deal and try to get as much of a reduced sentence as possible."
Although Grell suggested it may take upwards of a year for the trial to commence, Thug’s hearing saw him hit with new charges after a subsequent raid at his residence including possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance with intent to distribute; possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony; possession of a sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer; and three counts of being a person employed or associated with a criminal street gang to conduct or participate in criminal gang activity through the commission of a crime.
Despite Steel’s best efforts and Thug’s apparent willingness to wear an ankle monitor and surrender his passport, Williams was denied bond. Regardless of these stipulations, the judge ultimately sided with the prosecution and ruled that not only was Williams a flight risk, but that he could "hinder the administrations of justice given that they had not apprehended everyone on the indictment."
By way of retort, the defense lawyer used Thug’s resume as evidence of his status as an upstanding citizen claiming that he has "built himself up from rubble" and "has performed on every continent except Antarctica." On top of that, he reaffirmed that Thug, who ostensibly stands accused of being a criminal mastermind, had never been found guilty of a felony prior to the RICO case being brought.
At the moment, the DA has said that it may take around two weeks for everyone on the indictment to be brought into custody. As for now, it looks like both Thugger and Gunna will be spending the foreseeable future behind bars unless they are granted bond.