NBA Youngboy, citing a passage from Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” argued in federal court this week that prosecutors went too far when they said they would use lyrics from “Gunsmoke,” “Life Support” and “Lonely Child” as evidence at the rapper’s gun possession trial.
According to Rolling Stone, a California federal judge said Youngboy was right: lyrics that mention a type of gun, a Philadelphia jewelry store and a woman linked to a gun found in the rapper’s car are not relevant to the case. Tuesday’s decision had not been posted on a federal court records site by midday Wednesday.
Lawyers for Youngboy, a convicted felon whose real name is Kentrell Gaulden, successfully argued that a jury might hold the rapper in a negative light because people react more negatively to violent lyrics if they believe they are from rap songs rather than from other music genres, like country. They cited a 2017 dissertation by Adam Dunham at the University of California-Irvine that included a look at Johnny Cash’s 1969 hit.
“Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes, And he went down, but to my surprise, He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear,” Cash wrote. “But I busted a chair right across his teeth, And we crashed through the wall and into the street, Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.”
Study participants not familiar with the song previously perceived it more negatively when told it was from the rap genre. Those told it was a country song were less offended, Baton Rouge attorneys James P. Manasseh and André Bélanger wrote in a court filing argued before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner on Tuesday.
In Los Angeles, Gaulden faces the first of two jury trials over accusations that he was in possession of guns: in Baton Rouge in September 2020 and in Los Angeles last March. The charges could land the Grammy-nominated artist in prison for years, if convicted.
Gaulden’s federal weapons charges in Baton Rouge stem from his Sept. 28, 2020, arrest on Chippewa Street, where he and 15 other people were arrested during a video shoot at a vacant lot.
Gaulden was indicted in March 2021 on charges that he possessed a firearm recovered from his cameraman, who fled when police officers arrived at the Chippewa scene but was captured, according to federal court documents. Gaulden also is charged with possessing a firearm found in an Acura sport utility vehicle at the scene.
Gaulden was arrested in Los Angeles weeks after being indicted on the federal firearm warrant out of Baton Rouge to be returned to Louisiana. A federal magistrate in Baton Rouge said a .45-caliber pistol and 12 rounds of ammunition were allegedly found in Gaulden’s possession when he was stopped in Los Angeles.
A federal grand jury indicted Gaulden in California in August 2021.
According to the prosecutors, the lyrics “FN, Glock, MAC-10s” from “Gunsmoke” show Gaulden’s “familiarity and knowledge of FN,” the manufacturer of the gun found in Gaulden’s car that he denies possessing, prosecutors wrote ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
“Life Support” mentions a Philadelphia jewelry store whose products were found in Gaulden’s car, next to the gun that Gaulden denies possessing, and a “Monique” mentioned in “Lonely Child” is a woman whose partner’s brother bought the gun found in the car, the government says.
The trial in Louisiana will follow the Los Angeles trial, and the cases center around essentially the same charge that Gaulden was illegally in possession of a firearm because of his 2017 felony conviction for aggravated assault with a firearm. Gaulden has pleaded not guilty in both cases.
Gaulden’s lawyers argued that his rap lyrics should be excluded from the trial because they could prejudice the jury against him.
The Los Angeles trial will now proceed to jury selection, followed by opening statements.
Gaulden scored a similar victory to suppress evidence from his Baton Rouge trial in February.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, the chief federal judge in Baton Rouge, blocked Louisiana-based prosecutors from using footage seized from his cameraman’s video camera that appeared to show Gaulden possessing firearms because law enforcement didn’t have probable cause to search the camera.
Gaulden, 21, has been awaiting trial under house arrest in Utah, near the family of a childhood tutor who took him under her wing. Dick previously ordered the house arrest as a condition of his pretrial release from jail.
Despite his legal troubles, Gaulden saw his latest album land at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in October, when it was streamed about 186 million times and sold about 10,000 copies.
Gaulden was nominated for Best Melodic Rap Performance at the Grammy Awards in April for a feature in Tyler, The Creators song “Wusyaname.” Kanye West’s “Hurricane” won the Grammy for the category.
NBA in NBA YoungBoy stands for Never Broke Again.