The Mercury News
One day soon, a shrewd observer of culture and human behavior will be able to explain why Americans spent a week caring about what a diminutive, former deli worker-turned briefly famous rapper had to say about the inner workings of hip-hop and a New York City street gang.
It hasn’t been the trial of the century, or even of 2019, but the testimony of Tekashi 6ix9ine in a Manhattan federal courthouse this week generated a significant media circus, accompanied by headlines in the New York Times and other major news outlets and hashtags trending on Twitter.
The rapper, who became infamous for his rainbow-colored hair, heavily tattooed face and incendiary social media trolling, was a top Twitter topic on Thursday, his third day of testimony, after he claimed that prominent rappers Cardi B and Jim Jones were members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.
Tekashi’s claim about Cardi B prompted Atlantic Records to issue a denial that she was ever in the gang, Complex reported. However, Cardi B appeared at odds with her reps’ denial, acknowledging in a tweet that she “is a Blood” but not a member of Nine Trey, TMZ reported.
Meanwhile, others on social media renewed their complaints that the 23-year-old Brooklyn native is a dishonorable “snitch” who has jeopardized his music career and possibly his life if he doesn’t go into witness protection.
Tekashi, whose legal name is Daniel Hernandez, is not on trial himself. Rather he is the government’s star witness against two alleged Nine Trey members, Anthony “Harv” Ellison and Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack, in a sweeping gang racketeering case. Among other crimes, Ellison is charged with the July 2018 kidnap and robbery of Tekashi, while Mack is charged with dealing heroin and MDMA.
Cardi’s name came up in court Thursday when Mack’s attorney tried to challenge Tekashi’s credibility during cross-examination by showing jurors interviews in which the rapper admitted to liking the gangster prestige and being “a troll who knows how to rap,” the Daily Beast reported.
The attorney, Alex Huot, also asked Tekashi if he knew Cardi B was a Blood and suggested he used her formula of featuring street gangs in videos to advance his music, Page Six added.
When asked if he knew Cardi B was a Blood, Tekashi replied “Correct,” Page Six reported.
According to reports from inside the courtroom, Tekashi appeared nervous when he began testifying on Tuesday. But by Wednesday, he was an “eager witness,” the New York Times reported, as he discussed the alleged gang affiliations of other rappers, including Trippie Redd, Chief Keef and Casanova, and described the Nine Trey leadership structure and translated gang slang for jurors and others in the courtroom, the New York Times said. Reporters noted that Tekashi’s face tattoos were plainly visible but that his rainbow-colored hair was growing out and revealed his natural black hair.
Tekashi testified that he met Nine Trey members while filming the video for “Gummo,” his hit 2017 single. He said he wanted to do a video with real-life gang members.
“That’s what people like. It was a formula, a blueprint, I found that worked,” Tekashi testified, as prosecutors played a clip from “Gummo” for jurors.
Tekashi said he joined the gang and used his association with them to raise the “street credibility” for his music. But the association was mutually beneficial, he claimed, saying he supported the gang financially.
But the association began to fray. In July 2018, he claimed, Ellison, his bodyguard and “enforcer,” turned on him by kidnapping, beating him and robbing him of $300,000 in jewelry. Shortly after, Tekashi testified, he himself ordered a $50,000 hit on Ellison.
Tekashi also denounced the gang on the radio, calling them “frauds” and “dirty Blood members,” the Daily Beast reported. Jones’ name came up in court when he was heard on a wiretapped jailhouse call telling another Nine Trey Member that they “best get to violating” Tekashi after he denounced the gang.
“He not a gang member no more,” Jones was heard saying, according to the Daily Beast. “He kicked out the whip. He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some (expletive).”
Tekashi also testified that he flipped on the group the day after he and alleged gang members were arrested last November and charged with weapons, narcotics and other charges. Tekashi faces up to 47 years in prison. But under a plea deal with prosecutors earlier year, the rapper may be able to get off with time served and be out of custody by early next year.
©2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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