Written by A.D. Carson, University of Virginia

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The day after the May 24, 2022, mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson promptly blamed the violence on rap music and video games.

“Kids are exposed to all kinds of horrible stuff nowadays,” the Texas Republican told Fox News on May 25, 2022. “I think about the horrible stuff that they hear when they listen to rap music, the video games that they watch … with all of this horrible violence.”

For Jackson and other critics, rap seems to explain criminal behavior and signal moral decline. In the eyes of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, rap might be something else as well – evidence.

Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Gunna were among 28 defendants charged under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in May 2022 with conspiracy and street gang activity.

They are now in jail in Atlanta awaiting trial.

In the indictment, prosecutors cite lyrics from Young Thug’s songs as “overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

Several tracks are quoted, including “Slatty,” on which Young Thug raps: “I killed his man in front of his mama /
Like f–k lil bruh, his sister, and cousin.”

Free speech has its limits.

“The First Amendment,” Willis explained, “does not protect people from prosecutors using [lyrics] as evidence if it is such.”