In April, someone shot at Lil Wayne's tour bus while it was leaving the Compound, a club in Atlanta. Georgia prosecutors have implicated Jimmy Carlton Winfrey, known as PeeWee Roscoe, " in a plot to murder another MC over a business dispute," the Washington Post reports. Winfrey was reportedly once a road manager for rapper Young Thug. Prosecutors believe this was no random act of violence. In an 18-page indictment released on June 25, they allege that rapper Young Thug and rapper and Cash Money Records CEO Birdman helped orchestrate the shooting.
However, in building their case, prosecutors are using Young Thug's lyrics to suggest he masterminded this elaborate hit. It's a tactic prosecutors have used before to bias courts against rappers. It has proven flawed and has led to troubling and unjust decisions.
The alleged incident: According to the indictment, as Winfrey was heading to Compound to hit Wayne's tour bus, he placed a call to a phone belonging to Young Thug. Police saw Winfrey pull up in "a white 2015 Chevrolet Camaro" with an assault rifle in his vehicle, along with a group of Blood gang members. "Fearing gang violence," the indictment reads, the police escorted Lil Wayne and his crew away from Compound. Winfrey trailed the escort, calling Young Thug a second time.
The police escort eventually left Lil Wayne's crew as the bus entered neighboring Cobb County. "A white sports car" allegedly pulled up and shot into the bus with "a .40 caliber handgun and a 9mm handgun." While fleeing the scene, Winfrey made a call to a phone belonging to Birdman. He then hid the Camaro and fled to Miami. He tried to delete a picture he'd taken of the car after the incident from his Instagram, but nothing is ever truly gone from the Internet.
A little background on the beef. Neither Young Thug or Birdman have been indicted yet, but the connections are there, and the tensions between the two and Wayne have been simmering for months. In December, Lil Wayne started to try to sever ties with the Young Money label, criticizing them for holding back his Carter V album and withholding pay. Wayne sued the label for $51 million. That case is still ongoing.
While all those proceedings were unfolding, Young Thug announced that his latest mixtape was going to be called Tha Carter 6. "[Wayne] did I to V, I wanna do VI to X," he told MTV. Wayne was not at all pleased seeing his legacy co-opted and lashed back, threatening legal action. Young Thug changed his album's name to Barter 6 right before it released, but the damage was done.
The questionable evidence. One piece of evidence the prosecutors are relying on are shots from a Young Thug music video for "Halftime." In the song, Young Thug raps, "Fuck nigga try me / I swear to God Lil Whodi done pull up and pop at his noggin." The indictment states Lil Whodi was a name Lil Wayne used in the beginning of his career.
Winfrey also appears in the music video holding an assault rifle "similar to the one he was seen with on April 26, 2015, at the Compound in Atlanta," states the indictment.
There are serious problems with using rap lyrics as evidence in a court of law. Violent rap lyrics have been used to try to prove pre-existing violent behavior in hundreds of cases, often landing innocent men behind bars. Many courts don't distinguish between a rappers' artistic personas and real life characters. Rapper Killer Mike wrote about it in a June USA Today article: "No other fictional form — musical, literary or cinematic — is used this way in the courts, a concerning double-standard that research suggests is rooted, at least in part, in stereotypes about the people of color primarily associated with rap music, as well as the misconception that hip-hop and the artists behind it are dangerous."
Regardless of whether the prosecutors can uncover physical evidence to indict Young Thug and Birdman, fictionalized rap lyrics should never be enough to indict a rapper.