Trae Tha Truth
Trae Tha Truth poses with his one-year-old daughter, Truth, at the VIBE offices in midtown Manhattan.
Jenny Regan

Trae Tha Truth Won’t Let Himself Cry, But He’ll ‘Exhale’ Instead

Jay-Z once said, “I can’t see them coming down my eyes, so I gotta make the song cry.” Houston rap general Trae Tha Truth has a similar sentiment. In fact, he can count each time he’s wept on one hand. “I just think I’ve groomed myself to not really know how [to cry],” he says. “My only form of crying is probably why I got so much music. I can go in there and release that on records.” But with the year he’s had, no one could blame him if he shed tears. His close friend Nipsey Hussle was murdered this past March, and a custody battle means that he can only see his infant daughter Truth one week per month. Both loved ones provide emotional anchors for Exhale, Trae’s 11th solo LP and his first ever without any guest features. The toll of the year is reflected on the album through songs like “Nipsey” and “Letter 2 Truth,” and it’s just as clear from sitting down with him: his eyes droop with weariness as he responds to questions at the VIBE offices, his voice never rising above the distinct lower register heard in his raps. It’s Nipsey Hussle’s birthday and one of his few precious days with his child, and instead of having time at home to process the accompanying feelings in private, he’s on a press run in NYC with his entourage in tow and his daughter securely cradled in his arm.

Between his music career and caring for his family, Trae also dedicates substantial time to serving his community and building businesses. He’s taking his stake in the headphone and speaker industries, through his partnership with Bumpboxx wireless retro speakers and the co-creation of Wavzs, which is touted as the “world’s loudest wireless headphones” with 10 drivers inside the device. In 2017 he garnered press for his Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and scholarships and has continued his philanthropy in partnership with Simple Solutions to rebuild homes and help families avoid eviction. And he also just released a coloring book with his friend You Can’t Draw Johnny. In a conversation with VIBE, Trae reveals the few times he’s shed tears, recounts his relationship with Nipsey Hussle, hints at how J. Cole is involved in his new album, and shares how he maintains time apart from his daughter.


VIBE: Since today is Nipsey Hussle’s birthday, it feels only right to start out about him. Both of you have a lot of similarities in terms of giving back to your respective communities—you do a lot for Houston, he did a lot in Cali. Did you guys ever exchange ideas or work with each other on those types of things?
Trae Tha Truth: I think we just always supported each other. I definitely brought him down to Trae Day, so he can see how it operates and how much of a breath of fresh air we can be to our community because they really need it. The stuff that we do gives them hope. He used to tell me all the time like, “man that’s dope, I’ma make sure I turn up on my side.” I remember having a conversation with T.I. and he was like, ‘All of us together are like Voltron. Because you have Nipsey there, you got him, then you got me down here. It was just all-around so. I’m just glad I actually shared an important part of each other’s lives because we experienced a lot. Music was probably the least of our relationship, it was more of a family thing.

What did you guys talk about?
All kinds of stuff. I’m going to court now for my daughter, we would talk about that. That was actually the last conversation that we had, was talking about what the process would probably end up being like. As far as me doing it the last time, it was probably maybe a month or so before he passed. We talked about all kinds of stuff. We really just be rooting for each other in so many aspects. I remember many of times I’d just put out projects or something, and he may hit me on a text just out the blue with one of the names of the song and then give me a thumbs up. It was always like that. We got a long, long history from all kind of scenarios, pictures, videos, did a lot of shows together. Not even on tour, just like we would pull up to some party to bring one of the other ones out. First and foremost, happy birthday to him.

Now the song “Nipsey” is a really personal song. I almost felt intrusive listening to it. I felt like I was listening to a personal conversation.
That’s what it was, though. With this project it wasn’t made to make music, it was me venting my conversations. I held one with Nipsey. I held one with my daughter. It’s me actually talking to them. It makes me more comfortable because that’s easier for me to vent when I’m in that state of mind doing music. I’m not thinking [about] what’s going to be creative. I’m just speaking from the heart.

How difficult is it to find that zone? How long does it take for you to tap in?
Not long at all, because one of the things I specialize in is venting, pain, and the struggle within the music. So when it comes to that aspect, I do that like no other. That’s why everybody went to the song and it made them feel a certain way. Because I’m unable to show the sadness emotions, I don’t know how to cry. So what I can go do is I can go vent, and you can hear that song, and if you end up shedding a tear to that song, then I did my job. That’s as if I was you. That would be me crying. That’s why I’m so well at what I do with my music.

Now the album is called Exhale. What are you exhaling? What are you letting you go?
It’s not that I’m necessarily letting go. I think I was just letting it out, just life itself. Like I say from losing one of my close homies, to fighting for my daughter, to past relationships. Everything I was feeling, I just had to get in there and let it out. It was my form of, you know how you be frustrated and you go outside and just scream and just get the sh*t out and you be like, “whew.” That was my form.

The album has no features.
None at all.

That’s not normal for you.
I always make history with my features. I always make people step they game up. But it don’t stop, I’m pretty sure them days will come back easy. But this one I feel like who could exhale better than me, for me. My story is my story. It was that and it was long overdue because I never put a project out without features.

Which is crazy because it’s been a minute. I mean, it’s been a minute for your whole career. How long have you been out?
Two decades.

How is that process different creatively? I mean obviously, you’re writing more verses. But how else?
It’s just all about what I’m feeling at the time. You gotta realize you’re talking to a person that do 40-50 songs a week. Just sitting in there, when I do a record instead of me instantly hearing something and saying “oh he gon’ sound dope on this with me,” it’s just “nah, let me get this done.”

Whenever it comes to no features, everybody always brings up J. Cole, platinum with no features.
Believe it or not. I haven’t told nobody, he definitely... he’s part of what keeps this album inspired. They’ll find out later when the time comes, definitely. That’s my little bro. That’s all that matters.

As you said you make history with your features. I was watching a video for “I’m On 3.0” today, that record has everybody. How do you get that many people together? It’s like from all different age groups, all different areas.
It’s all the relationships I got. When it comes to me, it’s more about the family thing. It’s not about who’s doing what at the time. It’s like I have my own personal relationships so I can call any one of them. And then you know I was doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes for a lot of artists that people don’t know. That’s the easy part.

How do you build all these relationships? Is it a matter of everybody coming to Houston and hitting you up?
Some come to Houston and hit me up. Some I move around there, but it’s all relationships. With me it’s all genuine ‘cuz when it comes to artists I don’t need nothing from them. And anything they got going on I can have going on, too. So if you come to where I’m from you can walk in the building and I can walk in the building and it’s just as much as respect for me. When it comes to that they know, “he good with or without me, so if he f**kin’ with me, he f**kin’ with me. That’s what he wants to do.” It’s not he f**kin’ with me ‘cuz he needs something my pride will have me not asking for sh*t.

One of the standouts on the album is “Even Tho It’s Hard.” Really painful song.
That was produced by Business Boss? And somebody else. “Even Tho It’s Hard” it’s definitely the reality side of it but it gives a lot of people a good feeling. They love that record. It just gives them some type of spunk, you know what I’m saying. Even my son in Houston, he loves it. So now when you go to talking about painful on the album I would lean more towards “Nipsey” and “Letter 2 Truth.” So “Even Tho It’s Hard,” it gives you a church feel. That’s for us. It can be struggle or the soul – if it gives you a good feeling, that’s what it is.

As you said “Letter 2 Truth” is also a painful record. It’s about your daughter, who you have a custody hearing for soon.
That’s me talking to her one-on-one. So if ever in life something happens to me, she can always revert back to that and she can hear her daddy talking to her. Mmmhmm. I go to trial next week.

So what has that process been like?
Very stressful. It’s times when I didn’t come out of my room for weeks at a time. It’s stressful, man. You just gotta get to a point where you gotta shake it off, and I’ve accepted it for what it is. I see her the one week that I get out of a month and we have the most fun on earth. And she goes back, and I sit and I ride it out, count the days down to the next month. But one thing about everybody that knows us or sees us, they know our relationship. So no matter what any court, any person, or anything, or anybody tries to do, me and her are always going to be close. And it’s crazy she realizes at a young age, usually, it takes till they get to an older age to understand. But she knows when I walk in the room ain’t nothing but daddy.

You said a few minutes ago that you can’t cry?
Yes. It’s been very hard. I think the last time, it’s crazy, I can count [the times] on my hand. That’s how much I remember. One, when my brother got two life sentences, when my other brother got killed, when I found out that my middle son was going through stuff as far as having seizures and kinda lost his strength in his legs where he doesn’t walk. Other than that, people tend to lean on me as the hard one, like “he going to deal with it, so we just gotta let him be him.” And again my only form of crying is probably why I got so much music, I can go in there and release that on records.

So you can’t cry because you’re too busy supporting other people you mean?
No, not that I’m too busy supporting other people. I just think I’ve groomed myself to not really know how. It’s like I work well under pressure. I’m kinda just prepared for a lot of stuff.

After Hurricane Harvey, you led relief efforts. How has Houston recovered since then?
It’s still a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t see. It’s still a lot of people who never rebuilt their homes and lost everything. It’s still a lot of people who just can’t catch a break to catch up. Most definitely. It’s always work for us to do. And that’s as far as me and my team: me, BJ, Mr. Rogers, the Relief Gang. We just constantly across the board, that’s what we doing. It never stops.”

You do a lot of work in Houston to help other people, and when people do so much of that work, people don’t really think about the toll it has on them. To see a lot of the bad things they see or to put so much of their time into helping other people. So how have you recovered since Hurricane Harvey?
I mean, I believe I’m content. It was never really about me, it was about helping others and I’m constantly doing that. So I don’t necessarily say that I did recover or didn’t I think I had the time to focus on myself. It’s more about what I can do and what I’m doing with everybody else.

Last year you had filed another lawsuit against RadioOne and UrbanOne with the radio ban. Are there any updates with that at all? How frustrating has that been?
Very frustrating because it’s been a decade. But the problem we’re having now is the person who had the case on their desk didn’t re-elected, so when they didn’t get re-elected, they kinda got spiteful with a lot of the cases that was on their desk. Threw a lot of it out, as is. So they didn’t have to do the work on the exit, and ended up throwing mine out. So I had to appeal it but I’m just at a point in my life, it just is what it is. I got so much other stuff going on, I got so many other blessings. It gets stressful to a point it takes away from my kids, just my energy. So I’m just like whatever. What the homie up above got in store for me, is what it’s going to be.

You also said that you’re rebuilding homes? Let’s talk about that.
We have found homes that people maybe in debt [are] about to actually lose them completely and we find ways where it can get paid off and you can make a little money, too. To start a new life as opposed to people just being stripped of everything. And also the process of that we grabbed the home, so now we’re buying different stuff throughout the streets and the neighborhoods. We kinda control it to where people don’t necessarily get forced out at the same time, with our partner as simple solutions.

When did this inherent desire to help people come from? Not everybody does it.
I think anything I do, I’m dedicated a thousand percent. So if I say I’m going to help people, I’m just going to keep going and just not going to stop. It’s a different feeling when you can walk in a building and you see a kid with a shirt that says “Trae My Hero.” and you inspire people in a different way when you do things like this. I remember it’s been times when people walk up to me and be like, ‘Man, on my life, I planned on hitting the bank this week’ and they were going to crash out to do what they could do to feed their family. But moments that we come through before give them that breath of fresh air where they can start to grasp new thoughts, and other ways where they can try and figure it out and got somebody showing them that they do care, and we’re here to help. It plays a part in many ways.

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Jon Ragel

Martin Lawrence And Will Smith's May 1995 Cover Story: 'Flippin' The Script'

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 1995 issue of VIBE Magazine.

One big summer movie - Bad Boys. Two prime-time funnymen - Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Teaming up to bust caps as well as guts, Smith and Lawrence are an odd couple on the screen and off. Scott Poulson-Bryant talks with both of them about Blowing Up and Growing Up.

Written By: Scott Poulson-Bryant Photographs By: Jon Ragel

When you think about it, it's downright unprecedented. Prime-time television's biggest black stars—Will Smith of The Fresh of Bel-Air and Martin Lawrence of Martin—are starring in Bad Boys, a big-budget Hollywood action comedy full of stunts and explosions and big, crowd-pleasing laughs. Two for the price of one. Call it Beverly Hills Cop 2 meets Miami Twice.

It's easy to think these entertainers, who hold sway over their own hit network sitcoms, would have been at each other's throats, throwing prima donna shade over the slightest of perceived slights. But according to both actors, things were smooth. "We basically ad-libbed every scene," Will says. "It was two and a half months of two of the silliest guys in comedy doing exactly what they wanted to."

In Bad Boys, they play two Miami detectives in the special narcotics division whose temperaments are 180 degrees apart: Will is Mike Lowrey, a flashy playboy; Martin is Marcus Burnett, a homebody family man with a mortgage to pay. After making the biggest arrest in the department's history, the duo have to find the thief who stole $100 million worth of heroin from the station house, or they'll lose their jobs.

Smith and Lawrence weren't necessarily playing their roles from experience—offscreen they're different, but not in the way the Bad Boys are. At the time of filming, Will was the married-with-child brother who wanted to focus on family values, and Martin was the recently dis-engaged rascal, doing his thing on the singles scene. Now, on the eve of the film's release, it seems they've done another role reversal. Will Smith is grappling with an impending divorce from Sheree, his wife for more than two years, and with how it will affect their two-year-old son, Willard C. "Trey" Smith III. He says he's not yet ready to talk about the situation, though he does note that the sudden death of his infant half brother, Sterling, took him back to Philly, where he now intends to spend more time. On the flip side, Martin Lawerence got married in January to ex beauty queen Patricia Southall. He and his wife are planning for children, and Lawrence, after a year of professional ups and downs, looks at the future with great expectations.

Everything's happening so fast for these two transplanted twentysomething East Coast guys who found fame and fortune out West by doing their versions of black-boy cool for the masses. So fast and furious, in fact, that crammed schedules never allowed all three of us to meet at the same time. I had to wait endlessly for Martin. First he was just back from his Caymans honeymoon, then he said he had injured his back, then he was busy finishing his show's "Player's Ball" episode, featuring an array of blaxploitation stars. All that waiting, however, left plenty of time to chill with the very accommodating Will Smith.

We spent one day cruising around L.A., pumping Teddy Riley's BLACKstreet tape in Will's white Ford Bronco. I had been there last June when the media began its all-out assault on OJ, so driving along the freeway in this particular ride with a black male superstar at my side took on an almost surreal quality. "I had mine before all that started," Will noted. But the irony didn't escape him. When the ringing car phone signaled Will's booming system to automatically pause, one thing raced through my mind: The rich really are different. But the price of livin' large is steep out in this bright-lights, big-titty world, where dream seekers flock and where black boys, in particular, come to Blow Up, if not to Grow Up. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are trying their best to do both.

Caverting around the low-key set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wearing oatmeal colored linen and boots, Will Smith seems thinner in person, wiry almost, even though he had to follow an extensive workout regimen for his movie role. His face does its trademark dance between seriousness and just buggin', the balancing act between sophistication and boyishness that has kept this 26-year-old in the public eye for the past eight years.

Smith's office conveys the same sense of his multi-layered self. A big-screen TV is in one corner, the tangled joystick cords of a Sega video game in front of it. A mini-stereo rests on a low table, surrounded by cassettes. A plethora of gold and platinum DJ JazzyJeff and the Fresh Prince records line the far wall, a reminder of the up-and-down road that led to Will Smith's current state of Blowing Up affairs. And adjacent to that wall hangs a huge painting—by a fan from Miami—of Will uncharacteristically in repose. It doesn't seem vain for Will Smith to have a massive painting of himself in his dressing room. One gets the impression he needs his, more serious side to look down upon him, to bestow the necessary intensity to reach his goal: to be the reigning funnyman in the prime-time wars—which is as serious a job as any, as Martin Lawrence also well knows.

"What makes you an effective superhero is that you don't want to be," says Bad Boys costar Will Smith. "Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard--- the last thing he wanted to do was run over that glass barefoot."

With five years of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air under his belt, Will Smith has the hip teen thing down. I ask him if he thinks he's a natural clown—considering the comedic video persona of his early rap days and raucous appearances on late-night talk shows—and he laughs. "I'm just outgoing," he says, then pauses, as if that doesn't quite sum it up. Then he jumps right back in to answer, appearing to try out responses in his mind as he goes along. "I'm comfortable enough to impose myself on my surroundings," he continues. "That's the best way to describe it, really. It's a gift. It's the ability to impose myself on my surroundings without making people feel imposed upon."

Good answer, I'm thinking, as he continues on, knowing innately that a good answer isn't enough. Only a great answer will suffice. "But it's always been like that. When I was younger, it was more about being different when everyone else wanted to fit in. I always wanted how I talked or my clothes to be different. Peer pressure never meant anything to me. If something was done one way, something in me resisted it."

He pauses again and laughs. "It was the same way in my music. Something in me enjoyed coming to New York from Philly and people not liking us at first. When everyone else was trying to act tough and grab their dicks, the first thing anyone heard me say on record was, 'Oh man, my eye! This guy just punched me in my eye for nothing.' I enjoyed that. I strove for that. Oris is it strived? Or striven?" He throws his hands in the air, deferring to the writer in the room. "Whatever, just put it right in the article."

Will Smith can make that kind of demand. In fact, you want him to make demands of you because he's so demonstrative, acting out scenes from his life when words won't suffice, rapping entire verses of "The Message" to make his point about rap's changing style, reciting complete Tony Montana monologues from Scarface to illustrate a point you just made, challenging your taste in movies ("You haven't seen Pulp Fiction yet?"), challenging you to one-up him ("Don't you wanna ask me some more questions?"). But it's almost more interesting just to observe Will Smith. He's a perpetual performer, always doing his job, always giving his all.

Six years ago, though, the Fresh Prince nearly gave it all away, nearly lost the crown off his head. He blew up too big too fast, and it all came crashing down. He suddenly went broke. His first album, 1987's Rock the House, went gold the following year. Then 1988's He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper eventually sold 3 million copies, spurred by the single "Parents Just Don't Understand." Next, And in This Corner merely went gold, before 1991's Homebase, the return to Philly roots featuring "Summertime," went platinum. His most recent album, 1993's Code Red, went gold. The DJ. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince phone line, the first celebrity 900 number, minted money—in its day it was the second-highest-grossing line behind Dial-A-Joke. "In '87-'88 I was rich," he says. "In '89 I was broke."

Broke like, rich-folks broke? I ask. No dollars in your pocket, but a couple hundred thou tied up in investments and CDs? He laughs and shakes his head vigorously. "Nah, man. I was broke. Like, can't-buy-gas, sell-the-car broke. Actually, you know what? Sell everythingbroke. I was a moron. I had the suburban mansion, a motorcycle, I was traveling the world. I was 18 and the world was open, and when the world is open like that it makes you crazy, you want everything. I wasn't any happier with money, and I wasn't any less happy when I went broke. It hurt, and mentally it was tough dealing with, but inside it didn't change. I still had my family, and I could still have a good time. I could still laugh."

He rebounded in a new arena-prime-time TV as the star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, post-Cosby sitcom with a nod to The Jeffersons: movin' on up with a hip hop twist. Then, through sheer force of will, Smith made it to the big screen in 1992, debuting in Where the Day Takes You as a wheelchair-bound street kid. His role in the Whoopi Goldberg comedy Made in America (and the screams of teenage girls on the set) led to his landing the plum role of Paul, the sad, confused con man in the critically acclaimed film version of the Broadway hit Six Degrees of Separation. In the process, Will Smith's screen persona grew exponentially, acquiring layers of resonance devoid of the street corner histrionics usually demanded of young black male actors.

As Smith copes privately with the dissolution of his marriage to a woman who shunned the amusement park of the klieg lights, his public persona enters the high-stakes world of shoot-'em-up, make-'em-laugh, big-bank movies. And he may have just found his Axel Foley—the role that will give him a defining big-screen image. Produced by the Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer team behind Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop series, Bad Boys stretched Smith in ways he's never been stretched before.

"With all that jumping and shooting when you're making an action movie, you realize that it's a stunt, not a trick," he says. "And it brings out all that testosterone. I saw how the situation brings that stuff out in people. Everybody has an action hero in them; everyone wants to kick in a door and shoot somebody." On the other hand, he says, "I knew it had to be as real as possible, because what makes you an effective superhero is that you don't want to be. Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard the last thing he wanted to do was run over that glass barefoot. People can't relate to a guy who just jumps in front of bullets."

Martin Lawrence knows that too, considering the potshots he's taken in public over the past year. Coming on the sitcom scene more than two years ago as Martin Payne, Lawrence instantly became the quotable cock of the walk with a bop in his step. He was the leading man in Martin (the funniest post-hip hop black show on the air) and did double duty as the host of the successful Def Comedy jam.

But somewhere along the line, Martin lost its stride. Year No. 2—the 1993-94 TV season—was supposed to be the one in which its star, Martin Lawrence, Blew Up, bringing his candid ghetto realness to the moviegoing, record-buying masses with his first concert film, You So Crazy, and comedy album, Talkin' Shit. Things didn't quite work out that way. The endearing wannabe who played Bilal (a.lea. Dragon Breath) in the House Party movies seemed to morph into a larger-than-life, self-made superstar from the 'hood, whose comeuppance was—like Tony Montana's—just around the corner.

First, there was his battle with the Motion Picture Association of America over the NC-17 rating they slapped on his concert film, You So Crazy. Of course there was race issues here (why a brotha gotta get the NC-17?) and censorship issues (why a brotha gotta get told what to say?), but what got lost in all the hoopla was that this comedic performance didn't meet the high standards he had already set for himself. Neither did his next notorious public moment.

Last winter, on his first Saturday Night Live hosting gig, Lawrence brought Def Comedy Jam to Lorne Michaels's crib. It was a debacle. Spraying the small stage with the scent of his insecurity and nervousness, Lawrence littered his opening monologue with scatological references that play fine on cable but shocked NBC's brass. He subsequently found himself at the center of a media storm regarding his not-ready-for-network language and subject matter, which ultimately led to his being de-scheduled from an appearance on Jay Leno.

Looking back at the whole situation, Lawrence believes he was "set up" by the SNL people ("They kept telling me, 'Do what you do.' And I did.") and admits to a certain nervous energy that informed his antics. He also says that after so many black folks came out to see him at Radio City Music Hall in New York earlier that year, he anticipated playing to a more racially mixed studio audience. Yet ultimately he chalks the disaster up to youth, to being intimidated by the history and mythology of the once-cutting-edge late-night dinosaur. But for a minute there, it looked like Martin Lawrence was about to be taken out like just another sucker MC.

Lawrence wasn't going to let that happen. He laid low after enduring those storms, held back on public appearances, broke up with his then girlfriend, actress Lark Voorhies, and concentrated on Martin—which was still being talked about, although two years into its run the funniest thing people were saying about the show was that it wasn't funny anymore. (And exactly where was Sheneneh, anyway?) Lawrence also started looking for a movie script that would have a "buddy-buddy feel to it, but something that was real, that would be good for my audience and work for other audiences as well." Which was probably a good move for him: That way he wouldn't have to carry the burden, or the risk, alone—as he did in his concert film and on SNL. 

He found Bad Boys, a movie that was, ironically, originally slated to star former Saturday Night Live clowns Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. In the box-office-friendly blend of action and comedy, perhaps Martin saw the opportunity in his first starring role on the big-screen to follow that other foulmouthed black funnyman who found fame on TV. Eddie Murphy, the post-Pryor model of black comic as household name, has already primed the box office for Lawrence and his generation's brand of raw good humor. Maybe Martin Lawrence too had found his Axel Foley—a role that could establish him as a cinematic franchise with Badder Boys and Even Badder Boys to follow. As creative and fluid as his work can be, Martin's savvy very much includes keeping the business plan in full focus.

"I called him Martin Lawrence King," says Smith of his costar. "It's really important to him to be real, and present himself and his work to his audience with integrity."

Sitting in his small office in the Martin bungalow on the Universal lot, with fake African masks adorning the end tables—"I don't know where they're from," he says casually—Martin Lawrence, dressed in a black turtleneck and gray plaid slacks, comes off less like a creative dynamo than as the Hollywood hyphenate he is: sitcom star, executive producer, sometime writer, and soon-to-be feature film director. He's very wary, even difficult, toward the press these days. Like other stand-up-to-sitcom stars, Martin fought through the usual creative control issues, in part by firing longtime manager and show cocreator Topper Carew, reportedly before a live studio audience. When asked about that incident, his reply is, "I have the utmost respect for him, but I don't wanna go there."

Ask Lawrence if he likes having more power on the set, and he looks at you with a blank stare and asks, "What do you mean by power?" Then he adds, "I have more say, so if I don't like something, we won't do it. If I do like something, we do." Does it make work more difficult with more responsibilities behind the camera? "You have to be the judge of that," he replies tersely. "If people are saying the show's suffering because of it, maybe I'm too much involved in the business."

While making Bad Boys, it wasn't hard for Will Smith and Martin Lawrence to find a working rhythm, even though both guys are more accustomed to having straight men than being them. "You never see two brothers from different networks getting together to do something like this," Lawrence gushes. "But we had a lot of fun. We worked hard together. Since both of us have comic timing on the sitcoms, we knew it was just a matter of getting together and finding out how we complemented each other."

"That's the beauty of working with another comic," agrees Smith. "You go in in the morning and you have no clue what's about to happen. I'm used to changing lines on my show, and he does the same thing. It was like a tennis match. He would say something, then I'd toss a line right back."

Smith was also taken with Lawrence's devotion to the social and cultural impact of their collaboration. "He has a lot of interesting insights," Smith says. "I called him Martin Lawrence King. It's really important to him to be real, and present himself and his work to his audience with integrity. We'd talk for hours about whether our coming together would mean anything to young black kids. Would it mean anything that we were being strong enough for it to work with no problems?"

Which begs the ego question. Compared with Will's accessible playfulness, Martin is guarded and defensive in person. Yet on-camera, he invariably thrusts himself centerstage, as if demanding his costars catch up to his manic energy. His mercurial reputation precedes him. When I mention that he's regarded as a taskmaster, Lawrence replies, "I feel everyone should come to the project as I do. If you don't care as much for it as I do, why are you there?"

When I ask Will Smith, "Do you have a big ego?" he replies, "Yeah, I have a huge ego, but I don't impose it on people. You have to have a big ego to be an actor. But I have control over that, because I don't like how it feels when other people throw their weight around. That experience makes me struggle really hard not impose myself on people for selfish reasons. Ego drives you. I think it's really important. But you have to control your ego; you can't let your ego control you."

When I ask Lawrence the same question, he looks at me for about 20 seconds before responding. After a bit of verbal jousting and nonanswers ("Do you think I have one? What defines a big ego?"), I ask him how he's changed as a result of having a hit TV show, a wedding that was covered by the tabloids, and a big summer movie about to drop.

"I've grown up a little more," he says, "though I don't know if I'll ever be fully grown-up, 'cause I ain't trying to lose the kiddish things in me, 'cause that's what I love. I love to bug out and be spontaneous and talk some shit. I changed for the better, and I'm steady trying to get better at what I do. But by the same token, I talk shit. We all do. "Spoken like a true bad boy.

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Tekashi 6ix9ine Identifies Cardi B And Jim Jones As Nine Trey Members And More Takeaways (Day 3)

Daniel "Tekashi 6ix9ine" Hernandez's witness testimony continues to shock the masses. On Thursday (Sept. 19), the rapper took the stand again to elaborate on his kidnapping as well as interviews he gave about his broken relationship with members of the Nine Trey gang.

Interviews by Angie Martinez and Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club were analyzed due to the rapper's subtle jabs towards his former manager Shotti and defendant Anthony "Harv" Ellison. 6ix9ine's social media personality was also broken down as he explained the definitions of trolling and dry snitching.

But perhaps the most questionable part of his testimony arrived when he name-dropped Cardi B and Jim Jones as members of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods.

Below are some of the biggest takeaways from today.


Day 3 1. Tekashi Claims Cardi B And Jim Jones Are Members Of Nine Trey Gang

Hernandez provided context to a wiretapped conversation between alleged Nine Trey godfather Jamel "Mel Murda" Jones and rapper Jim Jones. Complex notes a leaked 'individual-1' transcription revealed who appeared to be Jim Jones. During Mel Murder and Jim Jones conversation, the two discussed Hernandez's status as a Nine Trey member.

"He not a gang member no more," Jones reportedly said. "He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bullshit." Hernandez went on to identify Jones as a "retired" rapper and a member of the Nine Trey.

Prosecutors play phone call between Nine Trey godfather Mel Murda and rapper Jim Jones. Tekashi says Jones is in Nine Trey.Jones: "He not a gang member no more. He was never a gang member. They going to have to violate shorty because shorty is on some bull--it."

— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) September 19, 2019

When it comes to Cardi B, the rapper named the Bronx native as a Nine Trey member. He was also strangely asked if he copies Cardi's alleged blueprint of aligning herself with gang members in her early music videos. "I knew who she was. I didn’t pay attention,” he said. In a statement to Billboard, Atlantic Records denied 6ix9ine's claims that she was a member of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. 

In a now-deleted tweet on her official Twitter account, Cardi B responded to the allegation writing clarifying her affiliation, “You just said it yourself…Brim not 9 Trey. I never been 9 trey or associated with them.”

2. Tekashi Defines The Term "Dry Snitching"

In a quick back and forth with AUSA Micheal Longyear, the rapper gave an odd definition of dry snitching. He also made it clear that he was open to becoming a witness to reduce his prison sentence.

Q: Who is Jim Jones?#6ix9ine: He's a retired rapper.Q: Is he a member of Nine Trey?A: Yes.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

3. Tekashi Was Willing To Pay Hitmen $50,000 To Take Out Friend Who Kidnapped Him

Shortly after he was kidnapped by Harv, the rapper went on Angie Martinez to slam those in his camp. Without saying names, Hernandez promised he would seek revenge on those behind the kidnapping. The court was then showed footage of the incident which was recorded in the car of Jorge Rivera who was already a cooperating witness in the case. Hernandez reportedly confirmed he wanted to pay a hitman $50,000 on Harv after the kidnapping.

4. He Believed He Was "Too Famous" To Hold Gun Used In Assault Against Rap-A-Lot Artist"

The alleged robbery of Rap-A-Lot artist was brought up once again when Hernandez confirmed that he recorded the incident. A weapon allegedly used in the incident was tossed to Hernandez by his former manager Shotti. When asked why he refused to hold the gun the rapper said, "I'm too famous to get out the car with a gun." As previously reported, the rapper was kicked out of the car after the incident in Times Square and was forced to take the subway back to Brooklyn with the gun.

5. Tekashi May Be Released As Early As 2020

Cross-exam Q: If you get time served you'd get out at the beginning of next year, correct?#6ix9ine: Correct.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

There's that.

6. Footage Exists Of Tekashi Pretending He Was Dead

Harv's lawyer Deveraux: Do you recall publishing a video pretending you were dead?#6ix9ine: Can you show me? For now, a private viewing.

— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) September 19, 2019

Before wrapping up, the court briefly touched on his trolling ways. From setting up beefs to strange notions like faking his death, the videos were viewed privately.

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Tekashi is seen in Los Angeles, CA on November 8, 2018.
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Nine Trey Trial: 4 Takeaways From Tekashi 6ix9ine's Testimony (Day 2)

The second day of Daniel "Tekashi 6ix9ine" Hernandez's witness testimony provided insight into the handlings of several incidents surrounding the rapper including the attempted shootings of rappers Casanova, Chief Keef and former labelmate, Trippie Redd.

As Complex reported Wednesday (Sept. 18), Judge Paul Engelmayer noted the leak of the rapper's testimony that hit YouTube by way of VladTV. Shortly after, Hernandez explained how the Trey Nine gang began to fall apart–or split into four groups–leaving him to take sides. In the end, Hernandez was robbed and kidnapped by his own manager as video footage revealed. The rapper explained how his initial deal turned into extortion as he provided over $80,000 to the gang.

See more details from the trial below. Hernandez will take the stand again Thursday (Sept. 21).

Day 2 1. Tekashi Arranged A Hit On Chief Keef For $20,000

The hit against Keef was widely reported last year but Hernandez provided clarity to the incident. The rapper admitted to arranging a hit on the Chicago rapper after a dispute over "my friend Cuban," a reference to rapper Cuban Doll. Although Hernandez planned to provide the gunman with $20,000 he paid him $10,000 since the hitman fired one shot and subsequently missed.

2. 6ix9ine Credits Anthony “Harv” Ellison For Barclays Center Shooting 


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A post shared by Tr3y (@tr3yway_ent) on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:11pm PDT

Hernandez's brief beef with fellow Brooklyn rapper Casanova sprouted from Cas' diss song, "Set Trippin.'" After hearing it, Hernandez said he was ready to "run down" on the rapper. Seqo Billy tipped him off about Cas' alliance to the Bloods set, the Apes and how they would more than likely retaliate if Cas is harmed.

“There’s a kite out saying if any apes happen to cross ya path to fire on you or anybody around you… smarten up,” Seqo wrote in a group chat presented in court. Ellison allegedly replied, “Apes can fire on this dick… They don’t want to war with Billy’s [Nine Trey]." From there, several shootings took place in Brooklyn with one inside the Barclays Center.

3. Tekashi's Beef With Rap-A-Lot Crew Caused Bigger Fallout With Trey Nine 

Hernandez went on to detail the very complicated story behind his beef with Rap-A-Lot records. The debacle started when Tekashi and the Treyway crew didn't "check-in" with Jas Prince before taking the stage at Texas' South by Southwest in March 2018. The incident was further muffled since Trey Nine members like Ellison and Billy Ato were beefing with Hernandez and Shotti at the time. In the end, Hernadez never performed. His crew would later go on to rob and attack an artist from Rap-A-Lot in New York a month later.

4. Footage of the Robbery/Fight Was Filmed By Hernandez aka 6ix9ine

As he and Shotti fled the scene, Shotti kicked the rapper out the car forcing him to take the train to Brooklyn with a gun in his possession. All of the incidents led up to the kidnapping scenario which Herdanaez claimed was in no way staged.

“I’m pleading with Harv,” Hernandez said. “I’m telling him, ‘Don’t shoot. I gave you everything. I put money in your pocket.’ I told him that I was tired of being extorted.” The robbery/kidnapping was filmed by Ellison but also recorded by Hernadez's driver Jorge Rivera who was already a cooperating witness in the case.

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