6ix9ine; Hip Hop’s Rainbow Haired Rapscallion
Hip hop culture loves and needs villains. Sometimes they come to save the day from a lesser MC, as is the case with 50 Cent saving our ears from Ja Rule. Sometimes they have the least favorable opinions, (see Kanye West). Sometimes they’re really only a villain until they reform or die, like Tupac. No matter their backstory, they are villains—most often without a hero to stop them.
Over the last year, hip hop has found itself enthralled by the epic shenanigans of its newest evildoer, Tekashi 6ix9ine.
Born Daniel Hernandez in Brooklyn, New York, 6ix9ine built a largely local fanbase on Soundcloud before he went platinum with his single “Gummo” in 2017. Despite being spoofed constantly, the song quickly became ubiquitous with its screamed vocals, almost incomprehensible lyrics, and hoodlum mentality. Riding the success of the single, 6ix9ine quickly became one of the most recognizable of a new crop of Soundcloud based rappers who utilize dark styles and rebellious metal attitudes. The class includes acts like XXXTENTACION, SkiMaskTheSlumpGod and Trippie Redd who was a teammate of 6ix9ine’s before a conflict caused the two to fall out.
6ix9ine is undoubtedly the most successful to come out of the crop, with his first album going Recording Industry Association of America certified gold with four gold singles and two platinum. At 22 that’s impressive, but not groundbreaking considering the caliber of rappers 20 and younger throughout history. The trouble many people seem to have with taking his music seriously is that he really seems like he’s just trolling — another one of the new-wave rappers who made a song as a joke and accidentally got famous. For that reason alone, a significant fraction of listeners will tune out this artist completely.
Tekashi 6ix9ine isn’t one to be ignored, as he’s proven thus far. What really makes 6ix9ine such a well-known figure is his charisma and the amount of work he puts into being noticed outside of his music efforts.
His most popular exploits include fighting and publicly insulting other artists on social media, even a robbery and escaped kidnapping that left the rapper hospitalized and out $750,000 in jewelry and $20,000 in cash.
6ix9ine comes from New York, a place where restlessness is rewarded and resisting the pressures of the mainstream is the best way to make it big. His home city OGs, the likes of DMX, Onyx and Ol’ DIrty Bastard, are all credited as envelope-pushers who bowed down to no one and set their own rules. 6ix9ine fits in this group, as much as it may pain some hip hop purists to admit .
He has the rap sheet and the rap lyrics to match New York gangster rap vets, but his past crimes stick on him in a much different way. One problematic senior rapper has met many comparisons to the up-and-coming “Gummo” rapper, and that’s the infamous Dark Man X.
DMX was known to steal, impersonate the police, fight, drive unlicensed, and smoke the occasional crack rock, but all of these transgressions were passable. He wasn’t the first rapper to rob, and most certainly won’t be the last. What sets 6ix9ine apart from this pedigree is that he has faced sexual misconduct charges involving a minor, and that case persists to this day.
According to New York court records, on the night of Feb. 15, 2015, 6ix9ine engaged in a sexual performance that involved a girl aged 13 at the time. After a video surfaced and the complaint went to court, the New York rapper plead guilty to three felony counts of “use of a child in a sexual performance.”In lieu of jail time and registered sex offender status, he copped a plea, and received three years of probation and a long list of other terms including mental treatments, committing no crimes and getting his GED, as he dropped out of high school in eighth grade following the murder of his father.
That case alone would take away from any other rappers credibility. But 6ix9ine is a living, breathing and screaming testament to the way rap looks past certain things. Somewhat ironically, rap fans typically champion those tried and or convicted of violent crimes while shunning those accused of sexually heinous crimes, such as rape, molestation or other sexual taboos. Despite backlash from several other rappers and many listeners, 6ix9ine has never seemed phased by his problems, posting pictures of himself clad in jeans, sneakers, a too-big shirt and an improperly tied necktie with the caption, “Court went aight.”
Despite running afoul of law enforcement and there being a number of rappers who’d like to mount his rainbow-haired trophy on their wall, the kid persists. Forcing his way onto airwaves and into the network of rap fans everywhere, he’s accrued as many compatriots as he has enemies. Rap veterans such as Swizz Beatz (DMX’s partner producer), Fat Joe and 50 Cent have vouched for him, giving him some credibility in circles he probably would not have reached otherwise. His peers, the likes of Offset, Nicki Minaj (whom he’s slated to tour with this September) and Fetty Wap have cosigned him whether it’s business or personal.
On the other side, he’s gotten some of the most gangster-proven rappers on his bad side. He’s on the bad side of The Game, YG, Ludacris (who’s been minding his own business for a few years now) and Chief Keef, to name a few. He and Chicago Drill-God Chief Keef exchanged words several times on Twitter and Instagram. 6ix9ine continued to diss the streets Keef came from, West 64th and South Normal, known to Chicagoans and Keef fans as O-Block. The intersection is known as the most dangerous block in Chicago, yet 6ix9ine went as far as visiting O-Block and making a video, which was later proved to be recorded at three in the morning. He even took one of Chief Keef’s five baby mamas on a shopping spree to a Gucci store. The flex is undeniable. All the while Chief Keef travelled the country from LA to New York looking for him.
It’s worth mentioning 6ix9ine also travelled with undercover security and an undercover police escort during his trip to the Windy City. All the while, he checked into social media, fueling the fire and furthering his cause as rap musics lord of mischief.
As he beefed with Compton rapper The Game in March, 6ix9ine took to Instagram to give some insight into his mentality. He posted a photo that has since been deleted. To paraphrase, the picture was captioned:
“A kid with rainbow hair got the whole industry now aggravated,”…"I literally come to everyone city when y'all say don't come. Pullin everybody card.. y'all stay in y'all hometown..”
With that, it became clear that 6ix9ine was exactly what most of us assumed from the beginning: a troll made famous. He claims to pull other rappers cards, as he typically incites the beef between himself and others. He throws a middle finger to tradition in the mix by mentioning his rainbow hair and the fact that he’s a kid.
Rap has always been dominated by young people, but those young people typically tend to seem older, due to their past, rugged tone and straight-laced deliveries. 6ix9ine goes strictly against the grain of tough-guy rap etiquette just by wearing his signature hairdo proudly and doing what he wants creatively.
From anime-themed album artwork, to depicting himself as a unicorn, 6ix9ine has seated himself as an enigma who refuses to be tamed. He’s even crowned himself “King of New York,” a mantle many hip hop heads zealously defend for the late Notorious B.I.G. and would never consider offering to most artists, much less a rookie.
His troll activities have been relentless, yet his musical impact has been undeniable. These attributes have made many wonder whether or not he’s here to stay. He certainly hasn’t made plans to go anywhere, but if that decision is like any of his others, it’s a toss up.
As the Joker continually attempts to take over Gotham, so does 6ix9ne terrorize the rap community with his signature personality. He doesn’t have a purple suit (that I know of), nor does he try to kill Batman, but it seems like he just tries to have fun at the expense of other artists and make a lot of money. He’s often seen flaunting his cash, even wasting it generously. This “spend now, be destitute later” demeanor has taken hold of a lot of new-wave artists, who seem more focused on living their best lives and supporting expensive habits than their predecessors. 6ix9ine has seated himself at the helm of this wave, becoming the closest thing there is to a leader in the entire movement.