When Laz Tha Boy threatens to murder someone with an AK-47, it may seem scary. He proudly mimes shooting handguns towards the camera in his videos and promises to “leave a … face burgundy,” when he is finished killing. But he says, it’s an act.
Deandre Mitchell is from Richmond, Calif., and Laz Tha Boy is his hip-hop rap music persona. Although he says he writes many different types of rap music, he has found local success in the Northern California area as a gangsta rapper.
“It was just a way for me to express myself and be able to show the world that I [could] do something else. Try to give the people around me the motivation to say we could come from nothing,” said Mitchell to Reason TV behind a pane of glass at the Martinez Detention Facility in Martinez, California.
Three of Mitchell’s rap videos (What You Do It Fo, It’s Real and Southside Richmond) became evidence used against him in a 2012 grand jury proceeding in which he was indicted on two counts of attempted murder, stemming from two shootings in Antioch, Calif. His case is like a lot of other cases springing up around the United States featuring aspiring rappers who are having their violent rap lyrics used against them. But nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than in one of gangster rap music’s birthplace, California, where prosecutors aggressively prosecute gangs.
“It’s supposed to be freedom of speech. So when I use my freedom of speech and voice my opinion then you all turn around and try and use it against me like this is who I am as a person,” says Mitchell.
Even though the videos were made years earlier and didn’t include specific references to the the shootings at the heart of the indictment, Satish Jallepalli, a prosecutor with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, said the videos illustrate Mitchell had the mindset to commit such crimes and did so to benefit Deep C, a criminal street gang in Richmond.
“At the end of the day, yes a person has a First Amendment right to speak, but when they they commit a crime, sometimes what they say will end up being used against them,” says Jallepalli.
Since a grand jury proceeding is secret the only way we can understand what was presented is through transcripts of the proceeding (Read an excerpt here). In the grand jury proceeding Jallepalli pointed to Mitchell’s violent references to murder and AK-47s with lyrics like, “If I see him I’m gonna murk em” and “When that K-ter starts sparking it get to jumpin but I’m a grip em.” This was supposed to illustrate Mitchell’s character but Jallepalli did not provide context for the lyrics as artistic convention.
Peep the documentary below.