NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine testified on Tuesday against two alleged members of a Brooklyn street gang, describing how he discovered a formula for success with the crew before betraying it by becoming a prosecution witness.

6ix9ine — a Brooklyn native — explained that his role in the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods was to “just keep making hits and be the financial support for the gang… so they could buy guns and stuff like that.”

Asked what he got in return, the 23-year-old rapper responded: “My career. I got the street credibility. The videos, the music, the protection – all of the above.”

Rapper 6ix9ine, or Tekashi 69, performs during the Philipp Plein fashion show as part of the Women’s Spring/Summer 2019 fashion week in Milan, on Sept. 21, 2018. (credit: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images)

The testimony in federal court in Manhattan was a dramatic turnabout for a performer who had gone out of his way to portray himself as a legitimate gang member. He told the jury he decided to cooperate only a day after his arrest last year on a racketeering indictment naming him as a member of the gang – a move that has put him at risk behind bars and prompted rap icon Snoop Dogg to label him a “snitch” in a recent Instagram post.

MORE: Brooklyn Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine Pleads Guilty To Federal Charges, Admits Ties To Violent Gang

On trial are Aljermiah Mack and Anthony Ellison, described by prosecutors as two high-ranking members of a gang that terrorized city streets with drug-dealing and gunfire. They say that after a falling out with 6ix9ine, Ellison took revenge by abducting and robbing the rapper.

MORE: Rapper Tekashi69 Says Men Forced Him From Car, Stole Jewelry

Both defendants have denied the charges, with an attorney for Ellison portraying the alleged kidnapping as a publicity stunt.

6ix9ine, 23, was a social media phenomenon with millions of followers on Instagram before becoming an ascendant name in hip-hop. He had a multi-platinum hit song, “Fefe,” with Nicki Minaj, which peaked at No. 3 on the pop charts, and “Stoopid,” featuring the incarcerated rapper Bobby Shmurda.

Last year, more than 13,000 people signed up to follow a Facebook group aiming to free Tekashi 6ix9ine from jail in Brooklyn after the rapper was indicted on racketeering and firearms charges.

The “Break 6ix9ine out of jail” Facebook group was founded by someone using the name TR3YWAY and shows Dec. 12 as the date of the “event,” though the post mainly is a place for fans to comment their support.

With prosecutors referring to him by his legal name, Daniel Hernandez, 6ix9ine testified on Tuesday that he was a high-school dropout and deli worker when he launched his rap career. He said he began inviting gang members to be extras in his videos for “Gummo” and other hit songs, he said, “because I wanted the aesthetic to be full of Nine Trey.”

Prosecutors showed the jury portions of the videos so that 6ix9nine could identify various gang members, some seen on tape flashing guns and hand signs, and explain lyrics to songs that he said were often meant to taunt “somebody I didn’t get along with.”

When the videos blew up on the internet, “I knew I had a formula,” he said.

He’s to return to the witness stand on Wednesday.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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