Young Thug, Gunna & YTB Trench – Paid the Fine (feat. Lil Baby)

Both of the songs that I picked for this project have to do with incarceration. Is no secret that the US has a mass incarceration problem especially targeting minorities. The first song I’m proposing is “Paid the Fine” by Young Thug, Gunna, and YTB Trench. This song will be very challenging because I sense that its meaning is mostly given by the video and this is something that concerns me the most about the project since it is a podcast. This song intrigues me because its visuals are very different from what we’re used to seeing in conventional rap videos. Rap videos are known for showing a lot of women, drugs, and very expensive things, and this video goes way beyond that. Although its lyrics don’t really match the video, I think like we’ve talked about in class before, a song’s meaning can be found beyond its lyrics. I believe this song is protesting against the mass incarceration problem that is found in the USA. The song’s title “Paid the fine” has a lot of meaning as well because if we look deeper into the issue a lot of the people that are incarcerated wait years for a court date for crimes that they might not even be guilty of and it all falls down to them and their families not being able to pay their bail and they have no other choice but to stay in prison. The video shows these rappers that are always labeled as “thugs” doing something for their community and getting together to battle this horrible issue. I firmly believe that this song has a deeper meaning than its lyrics and I think it will lead me to learn more about how rappers deliver their protest messages to their audience in a much different way.  

Mass incarceration has everything to do with the 13th amendment and this song definitely connects back to that moment in history. For instance, this song is important to me because I care about returning citizens and their stories. Their stories should always be told because they’re the ones who end up experiencing awful things because of how the system sets them up. I also find this song really meaningful because as of right now both rappers Gunna and Young Thug are in jail facing RICO (​Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges over their lyrics so I’m even more intrigued into exploring their song knowing that the law targets rappers based on their explicit lyrics which falls down to genre. 

Akon – Locked Up (Official Music Video) ft. Styles P

Although this song was released in 2004, its video was released in 2009. This is extremely important to keep in mind because mass incarceration hit its peak in the US in 2009 with 1,615,487 people. Akon was really popular during the 2000s so I’m very intrigued by the impact the song might have caused during that period of time. I’m curious to know if people then interpreted it as a protest song or just as another one of Akon’s popular songs. The song is very obvious about the incarceration issue so I think in that sense it won’t be as challenging to decode its true meaning. In this song, Akon and Styles P try to depict what a prisoner might feel while being incarcerated. The song and its video depict the mass incarceration that minorities were going through during that specific time period and it’s shedding light on a prisoner’s POV which seems like a protest against mass incarceration and the living conditions that they have to face inside of prison. For instance, taking a deeper look at this song could lead me to see the contrast between what mass incarceration used to look like vs what it is right now. As for its genre, the song is divided mostly into rap and R&B. This is important to consider because both genres are very prevalent in the Black community, and in the song’s video it is depicted how only black people and other minorities are the ones being “Locked Up”. Personally, I care a lot about recidivism and the root of it comes down to mass incarceration and the targeting of specific marginalized groups which is why the song resonated a lot with me. 


Isabella Colina Hidalgo