A rapper facing life behind bars for the content of a recent album went on CNN Thursday to deny all charges against him, saying he feels law enforcement is, “trying to eradicate black men.”
The San Diego-based rapper is facing indictment not for violent behavior, but because of a rap album he recorded which features violent imagery and graphic language.
Brandon Duncan, known by the stage name Tiny Doo, was arrested eight months ago for conspiring to benefit from gang activity, CNN reports. Unable to afford $500,000 bail, he has remained in prison for most of that time.
Duncan was charged in connection with a series of 2013 shooting incidents perpetrated by a notorious California gang, the Lincoln Park Bloods. Though prosecutors claim he is associated with the gang, they have not accused Duncan of participating, nor do they claim he had any direct knowledge of the attacks. Rather, he faces indictment under a 2000 California law because he allegedly benefited financially from the gang’s activity through sales of his album, No Safety.
Prosecutors say his album cover—which features a loaded revolver—and some of his lyrics have “direct correlation to what the gang has been doing.” They also say social media messages posted to Duncan’s account prove he’s a gang member.
Duncan denied the claims in the CNN interview. “I go to work every day,” the rapper, who was working in construction at the time of his arrest, said. “How am I benefiting from what someone else is doing? I haven’t sold a million records or anything.”
The rapper has called his music purely artistic fiction. “I said I had a million dollars on a couple of raps, too. Obviously I don’t have that, because I’d be home already,” he told Vice.com in an interview from jail in December. “It’s entertainment. It’s not real.”
Duncan faces nine counts of criminal street gang conspiracy, and will stand trial with 14 other men who prosecutors say increased their stature and respect because of the incidents. The rapper’s lawyer told CNN none of the men are being charged with actually participating.
“They’re going after the person who says the word ‘gun,’ rather than the person who actually used the gun,” the attorney, Brian Watkins, said.
In a statement, the San Diego District Attorney’s office maintained that there is sufficient evidence supporting the defendants’ alleged gang involvement. If the men are found to be active members of the Bloods, they can be held responsible for the actions of other gang members according to California law.
“The focus is holding violent individuals accountable for crimes that terrorized a neighborhood,” spokesman Steve Walker said. “Criminal charges against these defendants were filed appropriately under this specific law, which was put in place by voters to stop deadly gang violence and hold active gang members accountable.”
Duncan’s trial date has been set for Apr. 20.