Young Thug Denied Bond In Atlanta RICO Case Over Fears of Witness Intimidation

An Atlanta judge on Thursday (June 2) refused to release Young Thug from jail while he awaits trial in a sweeping RICO case because of fears of witness intimidation, despite impassioned testimony from music executive Kevin Liles and promises to keep the rapper under strict house arrest.

At a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Ural Glanville denied bond to Young Thug (real name Jeffery Williams), a week after doing the same with Gunna. Like in Gunna‘s case, the judge was seemingly swayed by warnings that Young Thug might intimidate witnesses if released.

“I realize that Mr. Williams is presumed innocent,” Judge Glanville said. “However, in this particular circumstance there have been significant [claims] about Mr. Williams being a danger to the community.”

Young Thug’s attorney, Brian Steel, assured Judge Glanville that the rapper would personally pay for an “incredibly expensive” house arrest plan to allay those fears, including bugging all of his communications and providing around-the-clock monitoring by dozens of off-duty police officers.

But prosecutor Don Geary told Judge Glanville that Young Thug should not be allowed to “buy” his way out of jail, and that state’s witnesses were already being “threatened with serious violence and death.” Geary said other alleged gang members had admitted to prosecutors that they feared Young Thug and retaliation.

“They have stated uniformly that Mr. Williams is dangerous, they are afraid of him, that if they cross him he will kill them and their family,” Geary told Judge Glanville. “And they were very clear about that.”

The order means that Young Thug will be in jail until trial, which is currently scheduled for January 9, 2023.

Thursday’s hearing came three weeks after prosecutors unveiled an 88-page indictment against Young Thug, Gunna and 26 others, claiming that the rapper’s “YSL” was not a record label called “Young Stoner Life” but really a violent street gang called “Young Slime Life” that had wrought “havoc” on Atlanta for the past decade. The charges included allegations of murder, carjacking, armed robbery, drug dealing and illegal firearm possession.

The case is built around Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law based on the more famous federal RICO statute that’s been used to target the mafia, drug cartels and other forms of organized crime. Such laws make it easier for prosecutors to sweep up many members of an alleged criminal conspiracy based on many smaller acts that aren’t directly related.

In a trial-like proceeding that lasted for hours, Steel called multiple witnesses to testify as to why Young Thug deserved release ahead of trial. That included a private security professional who designed the house-arrest plan, as well as several residents of Young Thug’s Cleveland Avenue neighborhood in Atlanta, who spoke at length about the rapper’s good acts in the community.

Most notably, Steel took testimony from Liles, the founder and CEO of 300 Entertainment, the Warner Music Group unit that signed Young Thug and owns the rapper’s YSL Records imprint. At times holding back tears, Liles vowed to support the rapper “personally and professionally” because he was certain of his innocence.

“I truly believe, this whole thing, it’s not him,” Liles said. “That’s not the Jeffery I know. The Jeffery I know would give me the clothes off his back.” When warned by Steel that Liles could be subjected to financial penalties if Young Thug violated his bond and asked if he still wanted to back him, Liles was unequivocal: “He’s like a son to me. Yes, without hesitation.”

Liles also sharply criticized the DA’s use of Young Thug’s rap lyrics as evidence in the case – a controversial practice that’s become widespread in criminal cases against hip-hop artists. “We don’t argue about movies or other genres of music. We don’t bring those things to court. But our music, we’ve been on trial and we’re constantly on trial over what we are and who we are.”

In a surprise twist, pre-taped video testimony in favor of Young Thug was also submitted to the court from superstar Machine Gun Kelly, as well as from Lyor Cohen, another music exec and the co-founder of 300 Entertainment along with Liles.

But when prosecutors took over, they argued that good deeds were not enough to secure release on extremely serious charges – especially when relayed by people like Liles who were “financially dependent” on Young Thug. Geary recounted, at length, the various allegations against Young Thug, and called him the “leader, the top dog, the most dangerous guy” of the 28 indicted.

“I implore you not to grant him a bond. He is dangerous,” Geary said. “I normally don’t do this, but I don’t hesitate in this case. Respectfully judge, I believe if you give him a bond, we’re going to have more witnesses in danger or missing. I believe he’s that dangerous, judge.”

Like with Gunna, those warnings were seemingly enough to sway Judge Glanville. In denying bond, he said was particularly persuaded by the alleged statements from other gang members that they feared for their families, as well as a 2015 text message, offered by prosecutors, in which Thug allegedly told YSL members: “Anybody goes into a courtroom and tells the god honest truth they’ll be f—ing killed.”

“This threat is still being talked about, so that is of concern to the court as regards to the threats to persons in the community,” the judge wrote.

With the decision against Young Thug, all of the prominent musical artists involved in the RICO case have now been refused pre-trial release. Earlier at the same hearing on Thursday, Judge Glanville also denied bond to Yak Gotti, another YSL rapper named in the indictment, on similar grounds. Just as in the hearings against Gunna and Young Thug, prosecutors quoted from his music to help convince the judge to deny bond.

Like Liles, Yak Gotti’s attorney Jay Abt decried the practice, saying it was “sending a message to the music industry in Atlanta that’s going to have a massive chilling effect.”

“The message that the DA’s office is sending to our community and our country is that you better not come to Atlanta and make rap videos, because we’re going to use them against you in court,” Abt added.

The Weeknd’s World Tour Will Be ‘Crypto-Powered’ Thanks to Binance Sponsorship

Cryptocurrency exchange company Binance has signed on as the official sponsor of The Weeknd‘s upcoming After Hours Til Dawn tour, it was announced Thursday (June 2). In a press release, the company calls the “crypto-powered” venture the “first global concert tour to integrate Web 3.0 technology for an enhanced fan experience.” Binance is the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume.

A pillar of the collaboration will be a tour-centric NFT collection created in partnership with HXOUSE, the Toronto-based youth talent incubator founded by The Weeknd’s creative director, La Mar C. Taylor. Virtual ticket stubs from the shows will also unlock access to commemorative NFTs providing a variety of experiences. The partnership will also feature co-branded (non-NFT) tour merchandise.

Another key component of the partnership is Binance’s $2 million donation to the XO Humanitarian Fund, launched by The Weeknd in early 2022 to support the World Food Programme’s lifesaving emergency operations in global regions with acute levels of hunger. Five percent of sales from the NFT collaboration will benefit the fund, which is administered by World Food Program USA.

“Excited to partner with Binance and BinanceUS for my After Hours Til Dawn tour !!!” The Weeknd tweeted Thursday. “We’ll use innovative Web 3 tech to connect with you in NEW creative ways and collaborate on charitable efforts to provide food to those in need.”

More details on the partnership will be revealed at a later date.

The After Hours Til Dawn stadium tour launches July 8 in Toronto, Canada and extends across North America in July and August, closing with a pair of shows at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium on September 2-3 before moving on to Europe, South America, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Africa. (Dates for these global legs of the tour have not yet been announced.) The Weeknd’s first international tour since 2017, After Hours Til Dawn will showcase material from the singer’s most recent LP, 2022’s Dawn FM, and 2020’s After Hours, the tour for which was previously rescheduled three separate times due to the pandemic.

Mariah Carey Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Her ‘MTV Unplugged’ Performance: ‘I Truly Feel Blessed’

30 years ago on June 2, history was made. Mariah Carey‘s MTV Unplugged aired, which she filmed in a rumored attempt to silence naysayers who doubted her vocals on her 1990 self titled album and 1991’s Emotions, and questioned her ability to replicate it in the live setting.

Carey got the last laugh, though: The EP for the singer’s Unplugged appearance sold 2.7 million records and was a catalyst for her superstardom. Now, Carey is reflecting on appearing on the show 30 years later.

“Happy anniversary to my ‘MTV Unplugged’ show! Happy anniversary to that girl on stage who was so nervous and scared to even sing in front of a crowd. Also she had no idea this last minute ‘unplugged’ show would become a ‘thing!'” she wrote in a Friday (June 2) Instagram post, which featured clips from her now-iconic appearance on the program. “During that performance, I remember having a breakthrough moment…the realization that all I needed to do was SING and actually CONNECT with the people in the audience and be in the moment with THEM!!! And then we were in it together.”

She continued, “When I watch this now, it’s revelatory how many insanely talented musicians and singers I had the privilege of sharing that small stage with and I truly feel blessed. I am thankful to that majestic group of people who made that stage come to life and to the audience in the room for sharing what became a life changing experience for me and as always…Thank you my fans for sharing this journey with me. You save my life each day. #MC30.”

The pop singer’s MTV Unplugged EP went on to peak at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for a total of 57 weeks. Carey sang a total of seven songs during her set, all of which charted within the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. Her Unplugged cover of  The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” feat. Trey Lorenz, earned Carey her sixth No. 1 in June 1992.

See Carey’s anniversary post for MTV Unplugged below.

 

How Ugly Primo Brought Bad Bunny’s ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’ Album Cover to Life

Bad Bunny dropped his most versatile album yet, Un Verano Sin Ti, on May 6, and though it was released in 2022, he assures that “the vibe for the album” was born while he was working on his 2020 set, YHLQMDLG.

Unlike his previous LPs, including El Ultimo Tour del Mundo, his new studio album came with a promo plan that began in January on Instagram. Talks for the album’s cover art began as early as summer 2021.

“He reached out to me with the idea of the cover and how he wanted it to look,” creative director and designer Adrian Hernandez, artistically known as “Ugly Primo,” tells Billboard. “He pretty much had it laid out for me and I helped execute that idea and turn it into an art piece. That’s kinda how the cover came about—he left it open to interpretation.” 

Hernandez explains that he made about seven versions, in different styles and aesthetics, based on a drawing that Bad Bunny gave him, and that after a little over six months, the cover art of Un Verano Sin Ti was finally done. On May 4, just two days before launching his album, the official cover was revealed, showing a sad heart in front of a vibrant beach setting with the light blue ocean, beaming sunset, breezy palm trees, happy dolphins, and pink flowers.

It was the drawing that best encompassed the album’s concept: a summer without you.

We were going back and forth on a few ideas and we ended up going to one of the first ones we made and that he connected with the most,” he adds. 

Bad Bunny

But the Bad Bunny and Ugly Primo friendship traces back to 2018 when Hernandez first launched “Ugly Primo” on social media, a connection that he describes as “focused on representing Latino culture and bridging the gap between our communities around the world through art, music and humor.”

“We actually met online after I did a drawing of him,” he says. “From there, his team would throw more projects my way. [I remember] the first actual design that I worked on for him was a Bunny with pinky fingers. It just worked out, we have a creative connection and he trusts in my talent.” 

Hernandez, whose social media alter ego is a bald-headed puppet with thick eyebrows and a mustache, is a self-taught Mexican-American artist based in Los Angeles. His passion for both music and art first joined forces when he was a quinceañera DJ in high school, and he later created flyers for the parties he would host.

In 2018, the “Ugly Primo” project was born, designing vibrant pop art featuring Latin’s biggest artists such as Vicente Fernandez, Juan Gabriel, Cuco and many more.  Under his graphic design company, Need Pastel, Hernandez has created merch for other artists and tour posters for renowned music festivals. “I felt that something was missing in the Latino community,” he notes. “This is a creative outlet for me.”

Now, with Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti making the rounds, Hernandez’s surprised to see how many people have connected with one of his designs—most fans even going as far as getting it tattooed. “It’s surreal to be able to have a piece of art have that type of impact on people’s lives. I think it’s beautiful,” he reacts. 

Flume’s ‘Palaces’ Moves In at No. 1 on Top Dance/Electronic Albums Chart

Flume debuts at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart (dated June 4) with Palaces. The set opens with 7,600 equivalent album units earned in the May 20-26 tracking week, according to Luminate.

It’s the second leader for the Australian DJ/producer, following Skin (June 2016), as well as his fourth top 10, after Hi This Is Flume: Mixtape (No. 2, April 2019) and Skin Companion EP I (No. 3, December 2016).

On Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, the new set’s “Highest Building,” featuring Oklou, bows at No. 12 with 1.6 million U.S. streams. It’s one of nine debuts from the LP, which also spurs three re-entries, led by “Say Nothing,” featuring MAY-A, at No. 18 (1.1 million streams, up 239%). Flume pads his count to 31 career appearances on the chart, a sum that includes two top 10s: “The Difference,” featuring Toro Y Moi (No. 10, March 2020) and “Never Be Like You,” featuring Kai (No. 3, July 2016).

Farruko’s Fourth Top 10

Farruko adds his fourth Hot Dance/Electronic Songs top 10 as “Nazareno” debuts at No. 9. The song starts with 1.6 million domestic streams and sales of 500 downloads, also good for a No. 15 bow on Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales. Plus, the Latin-EDM crossover enters Hot Latin Songs (No. 47).

Farruko’s other Hot Dance/Electronic Songs top 10s are “El Incomprendidio,” with Victor Cardenas and DJ Adoni (No. 4, October 2021), “Pepas” (nine weeks at No. 1, beginning in August 2021) and “On My Way,” with Alan Walker and Sabrina Carpenter (No. 8, April 2019).

‘Time’ Flies

On the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart, Lizzo leaps to her third top 10 with “About Damn Time” (21-9). The song follows her 2019 No. 1s “Good as Hell” (two weeks on top) and “Truth Hurts” (nine).

With radio-ready remixes from Purple Disco Machine and Kue, among others, “Time” is drawing core-dance attention on Channel Q, iHeartRadio’s Pride Radio and SiriusXM’s Diplo’s Revolution, along with a smattering of mix show plays. (The Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart measures radio airplay on a select group of full-time dance stations, along with plays during mix shows on around 70 top 40-formatted reporters.)

A Few More ‘Words’

Additionally on Dance/Mix Show Airplay, Alesso scores his 12th top 10 and Zara Larsson zips to her fourth with “Words” (11-10). The track concurrently holds at its No. 10 high on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, first attained a week ago.