As music industry leaders rally against the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court, will.i.am is speaking out about Young Thug‘s controversial trial.
The Black Eyed Peas frontman discussed freedom of expression in music in an interview with Rap Trap: Hip-Hop on Trial, an ABC Studios documentary airing February 23 on Hulu.
“We’re really in a trap,” will.i.am said. “I’m here supporting people’s freedom to create fantasies, no matter how dark they are or how sunrise they are. In the hood, these fantasy compositions, this entertainment … our art is our art.”
Although the scope of Young Thug’s indictment goes far beyond the lyrics, the use of lyrics in his RICO case spotlighted the controversial practice.
Asked what he thought when he learned that lyrics were used in Young Thug’s indictment, will.i.am said, “I thought of Queen. I thought of a bunch of country songs that also talk about killing people. I thought of movies and films. I thought of a lot of Italian mob stories … I just thought of the hypocrisy and the contradictions to use art against someone.”
Pointing to Queen’s 1975 classic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in which a man tells his mother he killed another man, will.i.am said, “For some reason, hip-hop doesn’t have that creative freedom of expression because now if they say things on the record, they could use it against them.”
He added that protecting Black art is about “protecting a path out of poverty, [out] of crime, [out] of injustice,” and said he hopes that efforts to protect Black art will have a lasting impact.
Thug is among 14 defendants awaiting trial in connection to a sweeping RICO indictment in Fulton County, Georgia. He has pleaded not guilty.
Jury selection began in January and is expected to last for months.
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