Is Young Thug a Political Prisoner?

Young Thug didn't drop his single, but Young Thug's single was dropped.
By    July 17, 2015


Paul Thompson knows Haitians that’ll take over the city.

Neither Young Thug nor Bryan “Baby” Williams have been charged in connection to the April shooting of Lil Wayne’s tour bus, but both are named in an indictment handed down yesterday. He wasn’t charged, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? But we rightfully suspect it will be. PeeWee Roscoe, who was at the time acting as Thug’s tour manager, is accused of firing into Wayne’s bus from a white Camaro. Thug is implicated because of the video for Barter 6’s “Halftime”, the smoking gun the words “pull up and pop at his noggin”.

The indictment presupposes that “lil whodi” is a reference to Wayne, who has referred to himself as such on exactly one song. (It’s specific to Louisiana, but it’s a stretch.) Keep in mind, this is the same song where Thug raps, “Got a hundred million flat, like my motherfucking idol/ I might eat it, I might lick it, but I swear I’ll never bite him“.

Remember on “Somebody’s Gotta Die,” when Biggie says he’s “Sitting in the crib dreaming about Learjets and coupes/ The way Salt shoops and how to sell records like Snoop (oops)”? I’m not one to speak ill of Puffy, but Big was smarter, shrewder than his label boss, and if he was getting nudged into a coastal beef, he was going to do it with a wink at the camera. Thug has PeeWee point a gun instead, but he’s still cackling.

Instead of laughed taunts, he spent Wednesday in the penitentiary when U.S. Marshals arrested him an entire week after an incident with a mall cop. Apparently, Thug was riding one of those pseudo hover-boards through the mall when he was asked to leave, and eventually escorted out. The rapper left before the actual police showed up at the scene; the mall cop told them that Thug threatened to “shoot him in the face.”

Maybe Thug really did say that. Maybe the mall cop felt threatened. Maybe the mall cop has a family. Maybe the mall cop had PTSD. Maybe he does now. In any event, the U.S. Marshals twirled their thumbs for a week, waiting for the search warrants to come through, then turned a spat with mall security into a full raid on Thug’s Sandy Springs, Ga. home, where they allegedly discovered guns, marijuana, and cocaine, and the felony charges that go with them.

The David Brooks’ of the world would self-righteously cluck, ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.’ But how many other residents of Atlanta’s wealthy suburbs have guns in their homes? Are you telling me a full scale home raid is justified by talking shit to Paul Blart or even Seth Rogen? Don’t try telling me that being implicated in an ongoing case about a murder plot doesn’t have anything to do with such a Gestapo response.

From the beginning of Reagan’s first term to the present day, the U.S. prison population exploded from about 300,000 people to roughly 2.26 million. That’s a staggering increase, even when adjusting for population growth.  While black people make up 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 28% of the country’s arrests and 40% of its prison population. If you’re keeping score, that’s 40 million people, 1 million of whom are imprisoned.

The increase in total prison population can be explained largely by the increase in convictions on non-violent drug charges. Common sense tells you that drugs laws are enforced differently in neighborhoods where more people of color live, in traffic stops where the driver isn’t white, and on and on. The numbers tell you this, too: By the end of the 20th century, Black people accounted for a majority (53%) of those in state prison on drug offenses, against 21% for Hispanics and 20% for whites.* By 2003, a majority of youths admitted to state prisons as adult offenders were black.

Incarceration Rate by Gender and Race

Thug’s first arrest (at least since becoming a public figure) was for Possession of a Controlled Substance. Now, he’s been charged with Possession of a Firearm During a Felony, Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, Purchase, Possession, Manufacture, Distribution or Sale of Marijuana and Possession of Cocaine. Because he yelled at a mall cop.

Rappers are stalked by authorities at every turn: from Boosie’s acapellas rattling through Baton Rouge courtrooms, to Bobby Shmurda’s studio being raided. (After the latter arrest, the NYPD trotted out each and every gun they found at a series of press conferences. The raid took place the same week protesters marched through the city in memory of Eric Garner. Boosie initially drew a 2-year sentence for having an eighth) Yesterday, while the cops were looking for Thug, they found Rico Richie (of “Poppin” fame) in a studio where each rapper often works. Richie was arrested with marijuana and two guns. He has prior felonies.

Setting aside for a second the Sisyphean legal troubles facing Young Thug, the man is on one of the most breathtaking runs in recent memory. 1017 Thug to Tha Tour to Barter 6, to the songs of last summer and this summer in “Lifestyle” and “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).”

For reasons that probably don’t need explanation, Lyor Cohen and 300 Entertainment piggybacked on the ignominious Twitter trending by releasing “Pacifier,” a song that may or may not be the single from Thug’s upcoming debut album. Mike WiLL Made It, who produced the song, had tweeted about it in May of 2014, so who knows when it was recorded. But really, who cares? Thug is still operating in spheres that most of today’s best rappers can’t crack on their best days. The first sixty seconds of “Pacifier” are a never-ending cascade of syllables, where Thug’s delivery threatens to unspool at every turn. The “bleed” breakdown around :55 seconds is second only to the scatting in its hypnotic quality.

It sounds like nothing on radio. It sounds like nothing on the blogs. It feels foreign and vital and unmovable, which makes sense, because Young Thug lives on another planet. At least when he’s home.


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