young thug | His Full Story from Cleveland Avenue to Trial Pt. 1

About “Jeffery”

11Alive’s exclusive “Jeffery” series uncovers the high-profile indictment of Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, better known as Young Thug. We explore the impact of the controversial indictment, which alleges his prominent record label, YSL, is linked to street gang activity, according to Fulton County prosecutors.

Recent events have reignited a decades-long conversation on the use of rap lyrics in courtrooms across the country, the movement towards protect black artand the precedent this case could set.

As this notorious case nears a trial date, 11Alive’s “Jeffery” series provides exclusive insight into what this case means – legally, artistically and culturally. And where do the boundaries between art and reality blur?

The rest of this series will soon stream exclusively on 11Alive+, available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Text “more” to 404-885-7600 to download 11Alive+. For more information, visit:

Part 1
Jeffery Williams of Cleveland Avenue

At the heart of the Southwest Atlanta community is a distinct area that is not only steeped in history, but has also contributed significantly to the landscape of Atlanta’s hip-hop identity.

Cleveland Avenue runs horizontally from the south side for approximately 4 miles that crosses I-75 and I-85, connecting a cluster of bustling neighborhoods by a linear pathway.

It was near the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Jonesboro Road that Young Thug’s journey began. The young artist, real name Jeffery Williams, grew up at Jonesboro South Apartments, part of the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Young Thug attributes his sense of community to the way he was raised in Jonesboro South. Over the years, he’s told his life story through interviews that have captured his upbringing, his rise to success, and his own path as a hip-hop artist.

“Jeffery, I hated that name so much,” the Grammy-winning artist said in a 2016 interview with XXL Magazine. “But now I’m starting to understand the name.”

As he learned to embrace his rap name and his real name, Young Thug said Jonesboro South gave him the opportunity to lay the groundwork for his American Dream, given that he started out from poverty and never Had only had hard times.

the come

Jeffery Williams, aka Young Thug, was able to enter the music scene at a young age. After releasing a string of mixtapes, music videos, and bookings at local venues, her brand grew in stature and success.

“The next thing you know, you went here for a $10-15 million deal,” Jeffery said in a 2013 interview with Hood Affairs TV, hinting at bubbling success.

His path to success has been similar to that of many others in the industry. They only face difficult times, but have found their way to success in conditions that many do not survive.

One artist who understands Jeffery’s journey all too well is Atlanta hip-hop veteran TI

“How does it feel chasing your dream in Atlanta? To start with nothing. Start at Jonesboro South. Start in zone three. Starting in Sylvan Hills with nothing? 11Alive reporter Neima Abdulahi asked the rapper in an exclusive interview.

“Well, that would be likened to the idea, similar to the thought of walking into a store and buying a lottery ticket,” he replied. “The Mega Millions. Do you know what I’m saying?”

TI grew up in Bankhead, Atlanta. He has witnessed Young Thug’s musical journey from the start and sees how it parallels his own road to success.

“I didn’t know where a studio was. I had no idea,” TI recalls. “Apart from the cafeteria table or freestyle with my local partners. I didn’t know how to find my way to success. After a while, I found myself in the light.

He said Jeffery’s journey was even more difficult.

“He didn’t come from a family that knew how to put him forward,” he said. “These children ran the streets lost.”

Former Atlanta Police Officer Tyrone Dennis is familiar with the landscape of Atlanta’s black communities, the city’s vibrant history, and the barriers many people face in generationally poor neighborhoods. He has been with the ministry for almost 17 years.

“When you say you’re from these different housing projects, it’s almost like a stamp, a badge of honor,” Dennis said. “[That you] pulled him out of the mud.

Atlanta was home to the nation’s first public housing complex, Techwood Homes, which helped usher in a wave of federally subsidized housing organizations to provide assistance to families in need.

Over time, housing projects have become predominantly black communities, according to Amir Shawtrap music historian and author.

One by one, the original housing projects have been demolished over the years. Before the city demolished the Jonesboro South housing project in 2009, the community raised several generations of Atlantans. It was built in 1970, according to the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Even though he is physically gone now, there is still a deep connection to what he represents to this day.

“At the same time, there’s high crime, lots of drug dealing, just lots of poverty,” Shaw said. “Even today, there are still pockets of Cleveland Avenue that are still [troubled] nowadays.”

“Ahead of its time”

From TI to Gucci Mane, veterans of the hip-hop world have watched Jeffery build his career over the years. Industry legends, who topped billboard charts themselves, were in awe of Jeffery’s talent.

“I’ve been rocking with Thug since before music,” Atlanta rapper Yung Ralph told the Atlanta-based interview series on Dirty Glove Bastard’s Off The Porch platform. “I already knew [he] was going to be great. I didn’t know it was going to be so big. But I knew that [he] it was going to be big.

Jeffery’s success didn’t happen overnight.

“He didn’t have a talent at the time that was easily recognizable to people in office,” TI explained. “So he kind of had to work a Rubik’s Cube to find himself in a position not only where he could present his art to people, but where the people he was presenting to could actually understand the art he was presenting.”

“Because he was ahead of his time?” 11Alive asked.

“Completely ahead,” TI replied. “Still ahead of its time today.”

Jeffery’s rapping style stood out and caught the attention of major players in the industry.

“Her voice was so distinctive,” said music historian Shaw. “It was like a very interesting rap style that we had never really heard before.”

His path to fame is rooted in the relationships he made right in his community of Jonesboro South. Jeffery grew up with Atlanta musician Peewee Longway, who introduced him to hip-hop veteran Gucci Mane. This led to Jeffery’s first major recording contract. And in 2013, Gucci Mane signed Young Thug.

“Young Thug was able to kind of release songs and, especially in Atlanta, they became club hits,” Shaw said.

Building the ‘YSL Records’ empire

In 2016, Young Thug launched Young Stoner Life (YSL) Records and signed with 300 Entertainment. Music Director Kevin Liles is the co-founder of 300 Ent.

“We are creative people. We are hard working people,” Liles told 11Alive’s Neima Abdulahi. “Most importantly, we are people who have faced so many things that are against us that we have also built for it.”

Young Thug has used YSL Records to sign other Atlanta artists, such as rapper Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Kitchens.

“One time he found himself able to offer to come back and help people like Gunna,” TI said. “And through the vision, artistry and execution of Young Thug, it was all made possible.”

“I know what he’s done for his community,” Liles said. “I know what the symbol of Young Stoner Life and the record company meant, not just him, but Gunna and Keed coming out. They were the beacons of light.

A beacon of light that has recently faded.

“I really don’t know anything about the other stuff they’re talking about, because I haven’t seen it,” TI explained.

“I always use my music as a form of artistic expression,” Jeffery said from behind bars in a viral video from a Fulton County Jail cell. “Now I see black artists and rappers don’t have that freedom.”