The rapper Tekashi 69 was sentenced Wednesday in a federal court in Manhattan to two years in prison as part of a cooperation deal that saw him testify against fellow members of his former gang.
The musician, born Daniel Hernandez, was also sentenced to five years of supervised probation. He has spent the past 13 months in jail, which will count toward his sentence.
He’s set to be released at the end of 2020, when he’ll also be sentenced to 300 hours of community service and will be required to pay a $35,000 fine.
According to an Inner City Press reporter who live-tweeted the court hearing, Tekashi read a prepared statement to the judge before his sentencing. He said that he wanted the opportunity to be free and help inspire young people to change their lives, relating to those with difficult upbringings.
“I failed these people. They believed in Daniel Hernandez. I was too busy making the negative image in my 69 persona. I know God has a bigger plan for me. I want to inspire the youth that it never too late to change,” Tekashi said. "If I can change for the better, so can they."
In November 2018, Tekashi 69 was indicted on federal racketeering and firearms charges. He was facing decades in prison for his alleged involvement in the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, a gang that has been associated with murder, robbery, and narcotics trafficking.
At the time, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said that the 23-year-old rapper and other members of Nine Trey “wreaked havoc on New York City, engaging in brazen acts of violence...showing reckless indifference to others’ safety.”
Tekashi struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors and agreed to cooperate with authorities in the case with the hope of a reduced sentence. Because of this, he may also be entered into a witness protection program upon his release. However, he has said he intends to keep performing.
In September, Tekashi took the stand for three days to testify about his time with the Nine Trey gang. After his testimony, Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang members Anthony Ellison and Aljermiah Mack were convicted.
During his testimony, Tekashi also named rappers Cardi B and Jim Jones as members of the gang, sparking controversy and criticism from the rap community. A representative for Cardi B denied any gang affiliation in a statement to BuzzFeed News back in September, saying, "This news is not true." But in 2018, Cardi B told GQ, “I used to pop off with my homies and they'd say, 'Yo, you really get it poppin'. You should come home. You should turn Blood.' And I did. Yes, I did. And something that — it's not like, oh, you leave. You don't leave.” (Jones’ representatives did not respond for comment.)
Tekashi rose to fame in 2017 with the major success of his music video “Gummo,” which currently has more than 360 million views. He went on to release the single “Fefe” with Nicki Minaj followed by his debut album Dummy Boy in November 2018.