Because of the whirlwind, controversy-laden career of Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, it is difficult to find an appropriate place to start discussion. Many articles tend to engage in some level of diplomacy with the love him or hate him… trope, but this is not going to be one of them. You should dislike him. If for some reason you don’t because you think his actions can be dismissed as trolling and his appearance makes for a neat Halloween costume, I do not fuck with you. Really, I struggled if I should even give 6ix9ine, real name Daniel Hernandez, a platform, but he’s already oversaturated music commentary so heavily that this post is just a drop of rainbow piss in the big old shit bucket that is the internet.
Further, I think there is a key question that can be begged from his recent federal charges that can potentially apply to other artists – what happens when you put your hand on a holy book and swear before a U.S. magistrate that your public persona—the music, the visuals, the personality—is all for show? Well, that’s primarily the approach that Hernandez’s legal defense team has taken to get him out of a possible life sentence. By constantly shouting out “Treyway,” an ode to Blood Nation sect, Nine Trey Gangsters, in his music videos, songs, and social media, the 22-year-old has effectively incriminated his alleged criminal past. Even after firing his extremely suspect manager, Shotti, who is also facing charges, Hernandez has not been able to shed blatant relations to organized crime.
Are you confused? You probably should be. I’ve been following this man’s case like the OJ trial and I’ve still been having trouble keeping up with the daily developments in a long and lengthy legal process. Perhaps before we can dissect the implications of Hernandez’s defense, we must go back to how he got into federal custody in the first place.
While Hernandez has been releasing rap videos since 2014, he rose to fame through social media in 2017 thanks to his colorful hair and grill, along with a plethora of 69 tattoos. Because his look is so outrageous, it’s easy to jump to conclusions that he’s some kind of covert parody of Soundcloud rappers. However, as it always does, the truth started to emerge that his rap sheet is as long as his list of celebrity feuds. It became increasingly clear that this dude is at least some of the scumbag he portrays himself to be, regardless of the brazen gang affiliation that’s manifested more recently in his career. When Hernandez was 18, he decided it would be a good idea to include a nude 13-year-old sucking off his buddy in one of his early music videos. Oh, and he circulated the footage around Instagram.
As hometown rappers, regarded hardcore vocalists, and forgotten pop punk icons so often do, Hernandez lied about knowledge of her age, going on to say that he actually thought she was older than him. As someone who was once a mature-for-her-age 13-year-old girl, I can attest to the fact that even the most skillful makeup application won’t make a preteen look like a 20-year-old (and if you try to fight me on that, I look forward to watching Chris Hansen pull you out a seat around the kitchen island). Nevertheless, I guess the defense worked, because guess how many years in jail Hernandez was sentenced to for this offense…NONE ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. He even failed his GED (passing being a condition of his plea deal) and choked a kid out at a mall while he was still under watch and this motherfucker received no real consequences.
Before I say this next part, I want to make one thing very clear: I will never applaud or mock anyone going to jail for involvement in the drug trade because the story is always more complicated than it seems. That being said, when I learned of Hernandez’s federal racketeering charges last month, I couldn’t help but get a little sense of satisfaction that he was finally going in on something. I was almost disappointed by the federal status since any jail time would yield a cushier stay. But, after some research, it turns out Hernandez had already spent time at Rikers prior to the child pornography incident for selling heroin. Being a casualty of the drug war will get you locked up in county, but ruining a young girl’s life with sexual abuse? That’s American as apple pie.
Interestingly enough, if proper legal action would have been taken for Hernandez’s sex crimes, he might not have been on the streets engaging in whatever activity that’s apparently led to his RICO charges. But the plot only thickens when you look at the timeline of Hernandez’s vocal support of Treyway in his music. The visuals for 2015’s ScumLife show quite a different side to the Hernandez we know in 2018. Incorporating Purge-like theatrics, anime sequences, and motorcycle riding with his friends, the track showcases Hernandez’s potential for bangibility in the absence of honed lyricism. Yet, the then 19-year-old rapper presents a bit of an identity crisis. His flow takes on an aggressive, almost hardcore-like edge and animated cityscapes blend in with shots of the New York skyline. These appeals to the golden age of basement-dwelling Soundcloud are coupled with the realities of everyday life in the streets of Brooklyn. While Hernandez could have blazed trails by bridging these spheres, the paths diverged, and he only went down one.
Cut to 2017 and Hernandez drops the visuals for Gummo featuring a whole lotta red bandanas. The Blood affiliation is so overt that it almost feels disingenuous. A pack of Skittles in a crowd of otherwise conventional-looking dudes, Hernandez wraps a scarf around his rainbow locks with the intent of sending a message. While sources allege that he began associating with the Bloods back during his time on Rikers, his sudden need to represent the gang was reportedly to provide himself with some level of protection since his career started taking off. Half a billion views on a video with Nicki Minaj certainly garner some prying eyes.
As members of Hernandez’s own music team face similar federal charges, the remaining question is how deep his loyalty truly goes. Would he truly take a bullet for Treyway, or was he just looking for some guards to prevent getting run up on a la XXXTentacion? Or, is this all a ploy for attention entirely? No matter what the true answer is and what his sentence may be, Hernandez’s career is effectively over under his current legal defense.
Admitting that you’re a fake gangster is never a good look. It also presents a whole host of very real issues. If you’re downplaying your affiliation to escape prosecution, then you’re putting yourself in a great deal of danger. If you’re telling the truth, then all your fans will know that you’re a fraud. Of course, it has been documented that Hernandez has not had an easy life but waving around a red bandana for views is asking for some kind of cultural appropriation callout. Although I’m not entirely certain who his fanbase consists of, I don’t think friends will let friends bump some fugazi Blood.
When it comes to other artists of any and all genres, there tends to be a need to dwell on some level of authenticity. Even pop stars like Ariana Grande are supposed to be forthcoming about intimate details of their relationships, bringing them to life in music videos as if they’re anyone’s business. When this trusting relationship between artist and consumer is severed, a huge blow to a career is imminent. There are some exceptions of course. If you can go as far as to call YouTuber Jake Paul an artist, his admission in Shane Dawson’s docuseries about his life that his stunts are fake hasn’t erased his fanbase of people’s children. While certain personality cults can survive anything, 6ix9ine’s is perhaps too fragile to enjoy longevity.
Tune in next week to Thirsty Thursday for more from Jenna.
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