Rap on Trial

When a defendant has performed rap lyrics about crime in songs and videos, is that evidence of real criminality?

| Fall 2017

On the evening of June 12, 2012, 19-year-old Melvin Vernell III, a rapper who went by the name Lil Phat, was shot to death in a parking lot outside an Atlanta-area hospital. At the time, his girlfriend was inside giving birth to their daughter.

Investigators identified the motive as retaliation for a drug theft. They said Vernell had stolen 10 pounds of marijuana from two men, Gary Bradford and Decensae White, the latter a former college basketball star who had played for Bobby Knight at Texas Tech for a bit before landing at San Francisco State University.

Bradford, investigators concluded, was a gang leader who had ordered the murder. Prosecutors charged him with seven counts related to the crime, and he went to trial in the summer of 2014.

In the case against Bradford, Fulton County, Ga., prosecutors introduced statements from a powerful figure: Eldorado Red, Bradford’s alter ego. It’s both the name by which Bradford was known on the streets and under which he recorded rap music with dreams of making it big. Eldorado Red is brash and menacing, a remorseless career criminal. In music videos released on YouTube, he parades around in red colors associated with the Bloods, a violent street gang, flashing weapons and stacks of cash from the seats of expensive cars.

“I’m El Jefe,” Eldorado Red brags in “I Supply Your Town,” a song about selling drugs. “Meet the dealer. Bricks and pounds when I come around.”

In another song, called “I Got 100 Shooters,” Eldorado Red warns, “Go against the mob, you get your ass knocked off.”

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter

Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265