The rapper Tekashi69 told jurors Thursday that he was so “humiliated” after a fellow gang member kidnapped and robbed him, he put a $50,000 price on his head.
The hip-hop artist testified that he could have gone to police and told them that Anthony “Harv” Ellison abducted him and stole a bag full of jewelry. But, he explained in a moment rich with irony, “I didn’t want to snitch.”
Instead, Tekashi said, he opted for revenge.
“I wanted someone to shoot Harv, rob him,” the rapper said in Manhattan federal court, where he is testifying as a prosecution witness against Ellison, 31, and another alleged gang member, Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack, 33.
It was his third day on the stand, and he seemed agitated, huffing when asked to “slowly” repeat himself for the court reporter and squinting as prosecutors grilled him. He also name-dropped several famous rappers and alleged gang members, including Bronx natives Cardi B and Jim Jones.
Prosecutors charged Tekashi, 23, in a takedown of the Nine Trey Bloods gang last year—and he and several other defendants cut plea deals.
His stint in the witness box has given jurors a glimpse into his life as a rap star who functioned as a cash cow for a street gang that gave him street credibility. He’s also testified about the internal strife that gripped Nine Treys,
On Wednesday, Tekashi alleged that he was kidnapped by Ellison, described as his one-time “enforcer,” the night before he dropped his single “FEFE” last July. Dash-cam video played in court showed Tekashi pleading with Ellison to spare him and reminding him: “I’ve always done right by you.”
He says Ellison and another assailant beat him up and then swiped more than $300,000 in jewelry—including a diamond pony necklace with rainbow hair and a spinning “69” chain.
“I was so humiliated,” Tekashi said, fiddling with Dutch braid pigtails. “Humiliated because I constantly brag that I am untouchable and invincible on Instagram. Then I get kidnapped by a brother.”
Tekashi said he asked his former manager to take a photo of him in the hospital that showed him swollen and cut. It was immediately posted on Instagram, he said.
“I wanted to be the first one to tell the media that I was kidnapped and robbed,” he said. “I wanted to tell people what happened and not [Ellison].”
After the kidnapping, the Nine Treys were consumed by infighting, he testified. Egged on by his closest fellow gang members, the rapper said, he ordered a $50,000 hit on Ellison.
The goal was to either shoot or rob Ellison and “make him pay for what he did to me,” he said. A few failed attempts were made, he said.
He admitted that embarrassment led him to lie to both police and his friends about the kidnapping; he falsely claimed he “blacked out and was whipped with a pistol.”
But he said he made sure not to tell authorities at the time who robbed him. “I was still part of the Nine Trey gang and I had to stay loyal,” he explained.
The rapper’s symbiotic relationship with the Nine Treys disintegrated shortly after the July robbery when he denounced the Brooklyn-based crew on the radio, calling them “frauds” and “dirty Blood members.”
Weeks later, he and a dozen other alleged members were indicted on racketeering charges. The day after he was arrested, Tekashi said, he decided to cooperate with the feds to “shed light on the whole operation.”
Bronx rapper Jim Jones, who was described by Tekashi as a “retired rapper,” was heard in a wiretapped jailhouse call in court telling another Nine Trey member they “best get to violating” Tekashi after he denounced the gang.
“He not a gang member no more. He kicked out the whip. He was never a gang member,” Jones said after Tekashi’s radio interview. “They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bullshit.”
The defense, however, argued during cross examination the rapper is nothing more than a troll who enjoyed being famous for a few months.
Alex Huot, Mack’s attorney, showed Tekashi multiple interviews in which he admits to being “just a troll who knows how to rap” and enjoyed the gangster prestige. While Tekashi admitted he “liked getting under people’s skin” when he had a “conflict,” he pushed back against the argument that he was disingenuous.
“It was me showing off a bit of my personality,” he said as he slouched in his witness chair.“I was just being me.”
When asked whether he joined the Bloods to “advance” his music career and piggybacking off the Cardi B’s formula of using the street gang in music videos, the rapper agreed.
“I knew who she was. I didn’t pay attention,” he said of the Bronx rapper, who has openly admitted about her past as a Bloods member.