“My art is not allowed to stand alone as entertainment,” Gunna writes in his letter. “I’m not allowed that freedom as a Black Man in America.”
On May 11, the rapper surrendered to police and was booked into Georgia’s Fulton County jail after being arrested and charged alongside Young Thug, with more than 20 other defendants affiliated with the music collective Young Slime Life. In total Gunna and other defendants face 56 counts related to gang activity and racketeering.
The RICO indictment against both Gunna and Thug references music videos and lyrics from their songs as evidence of a criminal enterprise.
Gunna also declares his innocence writing, “I am being falsely accused and will never stop fighting to clear my name…The picture that is being painted of me is ugly and untrue… I have all faith that God will grant me justice for the purity in my heart and the innocence of my actions.” Read the letter in full below.
Gunna shares his first public statement since being arrested 📝 pic.twitter.com/HAxdoDZzSd
— Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) June 14, 2022
Gunna’s sentiment is shared by Thug who relayed a pre-recorded voice message on June 13 during what was supposed to be his scheduled performance time at Hot 97’s Summer Jam festival.
Thug’s message urged fans to support the “Petition to Protect Black Art” launched by music executives Kevin Liles and Julie Greenwald, which asks legislators to forbid courts from utilizing lyrics to build cases against artists.
Still incarcerated, Thug said, “You know, this isn’t just about me or YSL. I always use my music as a form of artistic expression, and now I see that Black artists and rappers don’t have that, you know, freedom. Everybody please sign the ‘Protect Black Art’ petition and keep praying for us. I love you all.” A video of the message was uploaded to Hot 97’s Instagram, see below.
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Gunna is currently being charged with a single count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The indictment also alleges that he committed felonies, amongst them receiving stolen property and drug possession with intent to distribute.
Gunna and Thug were both denied bond after their arrests with an expected trial date set for January 2023. Meanwhile, Thug’s attorney has been working to procure an emergency bond due to the “inhumane” conditions the rapper is allegedly experiencing in jail.