The rapper Tekashi69 gave a federal jury a glimpse into his life as a gang-banging criminal—and a crime victim.
Taking the stand in the trial of ex-associates for a second day, the hip-hop star turned government witness testified Wednesday that as his fame grew, the Nine Trey Bloods disintegrated into two camps: those with Tekashi and those against him.
He told jurors that things became so toxic, one of the gang members—who walked out of the courtroom in the middle of his testimony—kidnapped him and forced him to turn over jewelry, including a diamond-encrusted necklace of a pony with rainbow hair like his own.
And he also told them about the role he played in a number of crimes, including the broad-daylight armed robbery of some rivals in Times Square that ended with Tekashi holding the gun and desperately trying to hail a getaway car.
“We tried to flag down cabs, but they wouldn’t stop for it,” Tekashi said shaking his head.
Although Tekashi appeared nervous when he first testified on Tuesday, he seemed to have found his confidence for the encore performance—even drawing laughs from spectators as he provided commentary on the video of the robbery.
His appearance came courtesy of a plea deal with prosecutors who took down him and other members of the Nine Trey Bloods gang late last year. Two alleged gang leaders, Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack, 33, and Anthony “Harv” Ellison, 31, are on trial.
Tekashi says he had a symbiotic relationship with the Nine Trey Bloods—which meant regularly giving Ellison and other members wads of cash—but didn’t realize how much influence he had in the gang until his social media beefs became Nine Trey brawls.
As an example, he testified that after months of “ongoing disputes” and “a lot of jealousy” with rival rapper Trippie Redd, he ordered his manager to get “something done.” A plan was quickly orchestrated to attack Redd at the Gansevoort hotel in Manhattan while he was in town shooting a music video.
Tekashi said that while he waited in a car around the corner, four gang members stormed Trippie’s hotel room—fleeing after Ellison punched Trippie in the mouth without warning. The attack, Tekashi said, earned Ellison the rapper’s trust—and access to his bank account.
“After the incident with Trippie Redd, [Ellison] and I got super close,” Tekashi said. “I used him as an enforcer, for protection. He became apart of my entourage.”
The relationship fizzled after “about four months,” when Ellison started to exhibit “aggressive behavior,” Tekashi said. And Ellison was not even invited when Tekashi went to the "World Star" SXSW showcase in Austin, Texas, in 2018.
“I didn’t invite [Ellison] to Austin,” he said. “I just went to perform and didn’t want trouble. But Isaw him at the front of the show. But I didn’t even get to play.”
Tekashi was denied entrance to his own show by Rap-A-Lot Records, a move he claims was the result of not “checking in” with an affiliated Bloods gang in Texas. The next day, the rapper said, he was publicly denied entry into the label CEO's birthday.
“We had to get them back—it was embarrassing,” he said.
“They tried to embarrass us, so we were going to rob them.”
A month later, the opportunity for revenge presented itself when several Rap-A-Lot musicians flew into New York for a meeting at the label’s Times Square offices. Tekashi said he and a half-dozen Nine Treys for wind of the meeting and went to Manhattan to defend his honor.
As soon as they pulled up, Tekashi’s former manager put several bullets into his gun. Tekashi said his own role was videographer—from a nearby car.
“I started recording when we pulled up, and put my phone out the back of the window to make sure to tape the whole thing,” he recalled excitedly, his Dutch braid pigtails bouncing as he spoke.
In the video played in court Wednesday, several men can be seen through a rain-stained car window walking into an enclosed breezeway of the New York high-rise. Tekashi, then is seen opening the door to get a better view while a fight ensues about 5 feet away. In another surveillance video played to jurors, at least three men involved in the scuffle are armed.
Tekashi said his gang escaped with “a book bag...a passport, and fake jewelry,” but their car stopped about 20 feet from the incident at a red light. Right behind them, he said, squad cars were moving in. Amid the chaos, one gang member “threw the gun” on Tekashi’s lap and told him to get out of the car, he said.
“Bro, I’m fucking famous at this point, I can’t leave this car in Times Square with a gun,” Tekashi said in court to laughter.
He said got out of the car, hiding the gun inside his hoodie, before walking into the Times Square subway station to take the train home with another Nine Trey.
The rapper testified that after the robbery, the Nine Treys were consumed by infighting, and by July 2018, the gang split into supporters and enemies of Tekashi.
“We were all part of the same gang, but we were all attacking each other at the same time,” he said.
The bad blood overflowed the night before the singer’s single “FEFE” was set to drop, Tekashi told jurors. He went to a strip club, then headed home to finish working on the video for the future hit. He realized he needed help from a friend and convinced his driver to take him there.
On the way, Tekashi testified, they were “hit from behind by another car.” The driver exited the car to check out the damage and Tekashi looked through the rear-view window to see a man running toward him with a gun in his hand.
“My heart falls to my ass and I freeze,” he testified, his voice choking up. “The guy opens the door, gun pointed at me and says ‘give me everything.’”
The rapper said he immediately recognized Ellison—who had been cut off for bad-mouthing Tekashi and his former manager— as one of the two assailants. He said he pleaded with his ex-friend to not shoot, offering him everything he owns.
Ellison, sitting at the defense table, wore a bored expression as Tekashi spoke, but then asked one of his attorneys to leave the courtroom with him.
In a dash-cam video played in court, Tekashi can be heard begging Ellison to spare him and reminding his fellow Nine Trey: “I’ve always done right by you.”
Tekashi said he was eventually taken by Ellison and the other assailant to another location and beaten up. Then he was brought to his Brooklyn home, where the duo wanted his all jewelry, including the pony necklace.
“Usually when I take off my jewelry, I put it on the table and my driver wraps it up and puts it in my daughter’s pink backpack,” Tekashi said, adding that the mother of his child gave the kidnappers the gem-filled backpack in exchange for his life.
Minutes later, Tekashi said, he was let go and ran away to a local police precinct.
During opening statements on Monday, defense attorneys called the alleged kidnapping “a hoax” staged by Tekashi for publicity for the upcoming single.