After spending six months in Orleans Parish Prison facing an attempted first-degree murder charge, last fall, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, a 17-year-old rapper signed to Atlantic Records, pled guilty to aggravated assault with a firearm, a lesser charge, and was released on $50,000 bail pending sentencing.
This past month, a Baton Rouge judge delivered a 10-year suspended sentence with three years of probation, which basically means YoungBoy needs to be on his very best behavior for the next three years, minimally, to avoid being sent to prison for his full, 10-year sentence.
In a newly-published, outstanding cover interview with The FADER, YoungBoy detailed his interaction with the judge during the sentencing hearing, including an exchange that can't possibly be described as shocking but is nonetheless disturbing and extremely upsetting.
“She tried to make it seem like my music’s making people die,” he says while the water runs. “That’s exactly what she said to me in court.”
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Hip-hop has long been taken to task by politicians, talking heads on television and newspaper columnists, many of whom love to place blame for gun violence, sexist and misogynistic behavior and drug abuse on the culture and art form, but the notion that a judge—in this case, Judge Bonnie Jackson of the 19th Judicial District Courthouse—strongly considered (to the point she articulated these thoughts aloud) the lyrical impact made by a 17-year-old rapper in handing down a sentence that could have forever changed this young man's life is sickening.
“I got fuckin’ children, I got a family that depend on me, I got a momma who don’t like to work, I got a baby momma that got three kids, two of ‘em from me,” YoungBoy told writer Ben Dandridge-Lemco. “Everybody depend on me. I can’t fuck up. I ain’t the only person that I’m hurting. If I was given a billion dollars to do life in jail, I’d do it and give that shit to my fam.....I gotta make this shit happen. I can see, I can hear, I can smell, I can speak, I can touch — ain’t no excuses. Shouldn’t shit hold me back but death.”
Given the details surrounding his arrest and the charges against him, YoungBoy, born Kentrell Gaulden, is lucky to be a free man. That he'd be willing to give up his freedom for the rest of his life—along with a promising rap career—in order to provide for his family proves that despite not being old enough to legally drink a beer or buy a lottery ticket in his native Louisiana, he has already begun to mature. Thankfully, in this instance, personal growth didn't come at the expense of a life.
Music can have both a conscious and subconscious effect on its intended audience—this isn't an opinion, either; it's science—but no artist should ever be held fully responsible for the actions of others based solely on or inspired by recorded lyrics.
Editor's Note: This article was updated to provide additional information about YoungBoy's case.