This is The Legal Beat, a weekly newsletter about music law from Billboard Pro, offering you a one-stop cheat sheet of big new cases, important rulings and all the fun stuff in between. This week: A preview of the massive YSL RICO trial in Atlanta in which rapper Young Thug is accused of being the boss of a violent street gang; a flood of sexual abuse cases against music industry bigwigs just before a Thanksgiving deadline; and a lawsuit pitting Hall against Oates over efforts to sell to Primary Wave.
THE BIG STORY: Young Thug Heads to Trial In Atlanta
At the end of 2021, Young Thug was one of hip-hop’s biggest rising stars: a critically-adored rapper with three chart-topping hits, three-chart topping albums, a Grammy for song of the year and his own record label (YSL, short for Young Stoner Life) under Warner Music’s 300 Entertainment.
Two years later, Thug (real name Jeffery Williams) is set to face a grueling trial starting today over allegations he ran a violent Atlanta street gang that committed murders, carjackings and many other crimes over the course of a decade — charges that, if proven, could send him to prison for decades.
Reporter Jewel Wicker will be in the Fulton County courthouse today reporting on opening statements for Billboard, so stay tuned for a full breakdown of the start of the trial.
But before then: To get you up to speed on one of the music industry’s most closely-watched criminal trials in years, I dove deep and broke down every aspect of the case, including the complex RICO charges at the heart of the case; the controversial use of lyrics as evidence; the strange connections to former President Trump; and what exactly to watch for at this week’s trial.
Go read the full story here.
THE OTHER BIG STORY: A Final Flood of Abuse Cases
With New York’s Adult Survivors Act expiring on Thanksgiving, last week saw a flurry of high-profile abuse cases filed just before the deadline – including many against top names in the music industry.
The ASA created a limited window for alleged abuse victims to take legal action over years-old accusations that would typically be barred under the statute of limitations. Over the past year, it was cited in cases against former Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow, label exec Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the estate of late Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and, earlier this month, an explosive (and quickly settled) rape lawsuit against Sean “Diddy” Combs.
But as the deadline approached, a wave of cases hit the courts. Many targeted defendants outside the industry, including former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and actor Russell Brand. But many of the biggest names came from the music business. They included:
–Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose, who was accused of sexually assaulting a Penthouse model named Sheila Kennedy in a New York City hotel room in early 1989.
–Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who was sued by an unnamed woman for sexual abuse, forcible touching, sexual harassment and retaliation over an incident that allegedly occurred in New York in 2007.
–Actor/singer Jamie Foxx, who was accused of sexual assault and battery by a young woman who claims the singer and actor groped her at a New York restaurant in 2015 after she asked if he would take a photo with her.
–Sean “Diddy” Combs, who was sued again by two more women over allegations of sexual assault, beatings and forced drugging allegedly committed in the early 1990s.
SAY IT AIN’T SO: Hall v. Oates
News broke last week that Daryl Hall was suing John Oates for breach of contract, arguing that his longtime music partner’s plan to sell off his share of their joint venture to Primary Wave would violate the terms of a business agreement the duo had forged.
The lawsuit, which was initially shrouded in mystery because it was filed under seal, is aimed at preventing the sale from closing while the two sides battle in ongoing private arbitration proceedings over the terms of agreement.