MANHATTAN (CN) – Tekashi 6ix9ine, the jailed Brooklyn rapper and braggadocious social media personality turned government cooperator, detailed how his ascendant viral popularity was inextricably entangled with street crimes and juvenile rap feuds in testimony against two accused gang members in a Manhattan racketeering trial this week.
“I would say my career,” 6ix9ine replied Tuesday when he was asked by the federal prosecutors on direct questioning what he got out of his association with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang.
“Street credibility, videos, music, the protection. All of the above,” he said.
Ten months in protective custody have rendered his trademark rainbow-dyed hair from that of a psychedelic Japanese cartoon character into natural black locks with two long braids of bleached highlights. The Brooklyn-born rapper squinted into the courtroom gallery as he pointed out who he described as two former associates from his days running around New York City with the Nine Trey set of the Bloods gang.
Dressed in dark blue prison garb, 6ix9ine couldn’t help but bop his heavily tattooed head slightly while prosecutors played jurors the two bombastic music videos for his 2017 breakout songs “Gummo” and “Kooda” in the Thurgood Marshall federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
The 23-year old rapper, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, faces a possible 47-year sentence, having pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York in January to nine gang-related counts including racketeering, narcotics conspiracy and attempted murder.
As part of his plea, 6ix9ine agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors against his former Nine Trey associates.
6ix9ine and five other alleged members of the Nine Trey set of the Bloods gang were arrested on racketeering charges in November 2018 after a government wiretap intercepted a credible threat that ex-associates of the New York rapper had authorized a hit to “super violate” him one day after the rapper publicly cut all ties to his manager, booking agent and publicist in an appearance on the popular “Breakfast Club” radio show.
At a bail hearing in November, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer, who has previously handled trials in the Southern District of New York involving the Bronx gangs 18 Park and the Trinitarios, correctly anticipated that at least a couple co-defendants may become cooperators and diminish the body of defendants from the six named in the original indictment.
The only two alleged Nine Trey Bloods remaining on trial are Anthony “Harv” Ellison, a co-defendant from the original indictment who did not take a plea, and Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack, who was added in a superseding indictment in June.
Both Ellison and Mack are charged with being members of the Nine Trey racketeering enterprise.
Ellison is charged with kidnapping and robbing 6ix9ine in Brooklyn in July 2018, and with slashing a different Nine Trey member in October 2018. Mack faces narcotics and firearms charges associated with dealing heroin and ecstasy.
Taking the witness stand against Ellison and Mack on Tuesday afternoon, 6ix9ine, a former Bushwick deli clerk, said that he met members of the Nine Trey Blood gang in fall 2017 and asked to use one of their members’ brownstone townhouses in Bedford-Stuyvesant for the “Gummo” music video.
6ix9ine told jurors that he supplied the dozens of red bandanas featured throughout the video because he wanted to play up the Bloods gang aesthetic.
The only compensation Nine Trey sought for supplying its members and stoop for the video shoot was “a bottle of Henny…and some food for the boys,” 6ix9ine explained.
Following the immediate viral success of the “Gummo” video, which to date has 355 million plays on YouTube, 6ix9ine said he had found the blueprint for his aesthetic.
“I knew I had a formula,” he explained Tuesday. “I knew the formula was to repeat the gang image, promote it. That’s what people like.”
Although he was never initiated, 6ix9ine said he officially joined Nine Trey around late November 2017 after the similar “instant success” of his follow-up music video for his song “Kooda.”
The “Kooda” video was played briefly for jurors in court Tuesday, featured an even more exaggerated realization of gang image formula: 6ix9ine flaunting a gun and a pit bull puppy, even larger red bandanas, and more Nine Trey members holding court in the Utica Avenue subway station in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Once he officially joined the gang and riding on the success of two hit music videos, 6ix9ine made co-defendant Ellison his protective enforcer after he carried out an attack on rival rapper Trippie Redd at the Gansevoort Hotel, 6ix9ine explained Wednesday.
“After the incident with Trippie Redd, I saw that he was a doer, more than anything else,” he said, of Ellison, telling jurors that the two grew close after the attack. “Like, I attended Thanksgiving at house.”
Pressed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Longyear to explain Nine Trey’s leadership structure, 6ix9ine identified co-defendant Jamel “Mel Murda” Jones as the gang’s “godfather…at the top.”
6ix9ine said his former manager, co-defendant Kifano “Shotti” Jordan, was a level below that, “the Higher 20”, and Ellison, his former enforcer, was below Jordan in “the Lower 20.”
Jordan was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this month, while Jones’ sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 24.
6ix9ine is represented by Manhattan defense attorney Dawn Florio, who has previously served as counsel for Bronx rap icons Fat Joe and Remy Ma.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.