The increase of crime in Atlanta has been the main issue going back well beyond last year’s Mayoral race and continues to be front and center in all Atlanta issues ranging from the upcoming Attorney General race to the Buckhead secession movement. Outside of New Orlean and Cincinnati, Atlanta has seen the 3rd largest increase in homicides since the pandemic started. The reasons remain opaque but lack of schooling, pandemic-induced relocations, and closed courts are the first places fingers are pointed. This month has generated headline after headline of gang activity, updates, and arrests. Twenty eight YSL gang members, which according to Fulton County DA, Fani Willis, claim gangs to be approximately 75% of all violent crime, have been arrested this month on RICO charges.
If you’ve ever watched The Wire, Atlanta is living it right now – the only difference is the main character (Avon Barksdale) is a Grammy-award winning artist with several #1 chart topping hits named Young Thug. One example of his work is Camila Cabello’s song “Havana” – listened just over 1.8B times on Youtube.
I first learned about the backstory of YSL in Atlanta from civic journalist George Chidi’s Atlanta Objective via Twitter. Since then he’s been interviewed on several podcasts including King Williams and most recently Rose Scott around the intricacies of the YSL gang and stories over the past 7 years that have led to May’s numerous arrests. Note: George believes gang activity accounts for likely 40% of violent crime in Atlanta, much less than DA Willis number.
There are so many sub-stories to the YSL gang narrative ranging from their rival feud with YFN, how the street life is hard to leave behind, how the music industry monetizes drill music, and most importantly, how Atlantans can live in a safe city?
The story is far from over but if you want to jump down an even deeper rabbit hole, view this extremely professional video, published 6 months ago, of the origin story and context of several lyrics are here (along with the feature image of this post) as the rivalry between YSL and YFN play out.
As more reporting from civic journalists like Chidi continues, the biggest question Atlantans have to ask ourselves: what can be done to provide greater opportunities and incentives other than the street for our youth?