The troubling rise of Tekashi 6ix9ine. Breaker of modern music fandom.


At just 24 years old, Daniel Hernandez could be one among the foremost hate-watched people within the world. Rapper, whose record makes for truly depressing reading and who is best referred to as Tekashi 6ix9ine; release the gaudy comeback single […]

The troubling rise of Tekashi 6ix9ine. Breaker of modern music fandom.
The troubling rise of Tekashi 6ix9ine. Breaker of modern music fandom.

At just 24 years old, Daniel Hernandez could be one among the foremost hate-watched people within the world.

Rapper, whose record makes for truly depressing reading and who is best referred to as Tekashi 6ix9ine; release the gaudy comeback single ‘GOOBA’.

The typically nonsensical track is one-part generic trap song and three-parts Fatman Scoop, and its video – 6ix9ine leering at paint-splattered women during a bland studio somewhere – duly became the most-watched hip-hop video on YouTube during a 24-hour period.

On May 8, 43 million people tuned in to ascertain the face-tatted social media celebrity, on confinement and fresh from prison after an astonishing and highly publicized legal case that saw him offer authorities information on a replacement York gang, flash his anklet and provides an obnoxious grin.

During a brief but telling cut , acknowledging that he outraged members of the hip-hop community by ‘ratting’, he transforms into a cartoon rodent.

At the time of writing, the YouTube views of ‘GOOBA’ stand at quite 279 million.

“6ix9ine had been building momentum for what that moment would be,” says Kathy Iandoli, a replacement Jersey-based hip-hop writer whose book God Save The Queens:

The Essential History of girls in Hip-hop was published by Harper Collins last year. “So much of that’s the story element around him.

Because social media plays into that such a lot , the whole scenario reads sort of a continuous Twitter thread – you’re always tuned in even when the music isn’t there.”

Two weeks after ‘GOOBA’ was released, 6ix9ine shared an Instagram post during which he promised, a kitten in each hand, that his next single and video would “break the internet”.

The rapper later told his 21 million followers, in extreme close-up, that it had been delayed until this Friday (June 5). 10 million people watched the clip.

“Everything he does is attention-grabbing,” says KSI, a YouTube star with quite 30 million subscribers across two accounts on the platform, who recently reached Number Two within the UK charts together with his hip-hop album ‘Dissimulation’.

“He has such a lot hype around him that it is sensible he would be getting 200 million-plus views on YouTube. You’ve gotta respect it – obviously I don’t respect him… actually, I don’t want to urge into that, but I respect when it involves what he’s through with the music.”

Tekashi 6ix9ine’s ‘GOOBA’ became the most-watched hip-hop video on YouTube during a 24hour period. CREDIT: YouTube
Tekashi 6ix9ine’s ‘GOOBA’ became the most-watched hip-hop video on YouTube during a 24hour period. CREDIT: YouTube

Tekashi 6ix9ine is an artist so steeped in controversy and transgression – without the positive connotations that those words usually carry in music – that, strictly in terms of the news cycle, his newer activity has eclipsed the kid sex charge he faced in 2015.

The rapper admitted to appearing in – and posting to Instagram – a video of a sexual nature with a 13-year-old girl, claiming he believed her to be older.

Last November, he was arrested in his native ny on firearms and racketeering charges and accused of involvement with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang, an affiliation that reportedly encompassed heist , drug traffic and conspiracy to commit murder.

Hernandez claimed that his role had been to “keep making hits and be the support for the gang … in order that they could buy guns and stuff like that.” reciprocally, he explained, “I got the road credibility – the videos, the music, the protection.”

He traded the knowledge to avoid 47 years behind bars, instead receiving a two-year sentence. He spent six months in jail (he’d already served 13 months while on trial) and announced his comeback with lyrics barked to the camera with bug-eyed defiance within the ‘GOOBA’ video:

“You’re mad – I’m back.” Anyone expecting 6ix9ine to get low, fearing potential repercussions of turning on a violent gang (“I come from old-school hip-hop culture,” says Iandoli, “so I’m nervous to ascertain the outcome”), was clearly wide of the mark.

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Since hip-hop is founded on anti-authoritarian values, though, shouldn’t turning informant have spelled the top of 6ix9ine’s music career?

“You would think so,” agrees Iandoli, “but you’re talking a few different sort of hip-hop. You can’t hold these new artists [who came abreast of social media] to the hip-hop standard code on the streets within the ‘90s.

They don’t even match in sound and elegance , in content, in lifestyle – so why start there?”

This hasn’t stopped one high-profile spokesperson of hip-hop’s faction from denouncing 6ix9ine.

After ‘GOOBA’ smashed YouTube records, Snoop Dogg demanded via Instagram: “They gotta stop pushing this rat!” Young artists don’t seem much fonder of him: back in September, when outraged media coverage of 6ix9ine’s trial was at excitement , Ohio SoundCloud rapper Trippie Redd released the track ‘Under Enemy Arms’, the video that featured a rat together with his trademark multi-coloured hair.

Of course, 6ix9ine soon played Redd at his own game with the ‘GOOBA’ video, reclaiming the image of the rodent.

Indole likens this to “Eminem’s final battle in 8 Mile” and explains: “If you say everything most are thinking first, people can’t use it against you. It’s become his super power.

He’s saying everything the general public wants to mention , and he’s owning it. That creates him more powerful than if he were hiding within the shadows while everyone’s hurling insults at him.”

Zane Comer, a 26-year-old creative director at WITHIN, a replacement York agency that bills itself as “the world’s first Performance Branding Company”, has the dubious distinction of being the person who turned Tekashi 6ix9ine into a rat – he added the computer graphics to the ‘GOOBA’ video.

“It was so secretive,” he says. “We couldn’t even reference the project or 6ix9ine in texts. They were super-strict and dead-ass serious about something getting out, and also about the safety measures around him getting out of jail.”

These measures included the utilization of a code name, which Comer says he can’t reveal: “I wish I could tell you, but they might blacklist me.

I will be able to say that I didn’t know what it had been initially and once I Googled it i used to be like, ‘Holy shit – this is often what he wants people to call him?’ it had been something Greek and mythical.”

Given the character of 6ix9ine’s transgressions, did Comer have any reservations about working with him?

After an interruption, he replies, “There is only a few times where you’ve got the power to the touch something that has the likelihood of this type of impact.

There definitely was concern about everything surrounding [him] because there are [so many] different people in our company.

But everyone directly involved understood the elemental concept we were going for, which was to require all the cons around him and switch them into something iconic. That was the vision that kept everyone aligned.”

Asked if he felt professional unease specifically about 6ix9ine’s child sexual assault charge, Comer eventually says: “Um. That’s an excellent question. I don’t think I want to continue the record thereupon one now.”

Later, asked if anyone at WITHIN made any protest about the agency’s involvement with 6ix9ine, Comer – who is polite and thoughtful throughout our 30-minute conversation – replies: “Yeah… that’s another one I’d rather not get on the record for. It’s sensitive, I will be able to say that, and it’s valid. Anyone who brings that up to me – it’s a completely valid concern and it’s some extent . But at the top of the day, the numbers don’t lie.”

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Despite his success, it’s unusually hard to seek out a 6ix9ine fan willing to speak on the record. during a bid to find out what people actually like about him, you’ll be reduced to trawling Reddit: NME poses the question on the rapper’s official subreddit – home to 11,000 ‘Scum Gang’ members – and receives just nine responses in almost 24 hours.

The very fact that he’s a “troll” comes up a few of times, as does “the plot” and “the storyline”, suggesting he’s an entertaining sideshow.

One person, who requests that their username isn’t quoted during this article, says that 6ix9ine “came from a very tough background” and was later “belittled” for his outlandish appearance. They add: “If you’d have told [those who mocked him], ‘this extreme looking rainbow hair guy will become a record breaking artist, one among the most important within the world’, they’d haven’t believed it… But he did it, against all the chances.

Which helps give me hope and motivation? Anything is feasible folks!” They sign off: “Also he’s a funny troll.”

It’s true that Tekashi 6ix9ine has spent the 2 months since his release feeding the web algorithm, flooding Google and social media platforms with a never-ending stream of controversy. during a typical story, he alleged that Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s track ‘Stuck With U’ only beat ‘GOOBA’ to favorite on the Billboard Hot 100 (his song came in at Number Three) because they used “six credit cards” to rig the chart – Grande and Bieber have both since refuted the claim.

The rapper also attempted to donate $200,000 to the American child poverty charity No Kid Hungry, who declined the donation on the grounds that, consistent with the organisation’s director of strategic communications, Laura Washburn, his “activities don’t align with our mission and values”.

Kathy Iandoli, who has written about hip-hop for 2 decades, says that this represents an effort to take advantage of the “goldfish memory” of social media and therefore the refore the news cycle: “If he does something heinous and the next week he’s handing out money to kids, suddenly you’ve erased that very first thing.

Then something else happens that’s horrible and he donates some extra money and you forget the opposite thing. So it starts to happen where one thing will negate the opposite and you simply remember the last item he did.”

6ix9ine’s attempt at brand rehabilitation may have backfired, but this “goldfish memory” does help to elucidate how his child sexual assault charge could are overshadowed by his endless headline-making.

“People have completely washed that from their memory,” says Iandoli. “Look at what’s happened with R Kelly.

 We’ve heard these stories about R Kelly that have resurfaced on the average probably every 10 years. Everyone gets horrified; [the stories] go.

They are available back; everyone gets horrified; they are going .” She points out that “in a post-#MeToo, post-Time’s Up world”, Kelly’s alleged crimes are finally being reckoned with because “it’s reached breaking point”.

Yet 6ix9ine seems, within the popular consciousness, to be outrunning the memory of his most appalling crime by creating more outrage, more sickly publicity – always more, more, more until the algorithm shuffles it to the rear .

Asked on Reddit how they will be a 6ix9ine fan when he’s pleaded guilty to a toddler sex charge, that anonymous fan makes excuses for the rapper, noting that he claimed ignorance about the girl’s age, and says: “He’s made mistakes but who hasnt, and hes not a pedo imo.”

Tekashi 6ix9ine. Credit: Getty
Tekashi 6ix9ine. Credit: Getty

Prior to working with 6ix9ine at WITHIN, Zane Comer was an Associative Creative Director at Facebook, placing him during a unique position to know how the rapper uses social media to his advantage. He says that 6ix9ine has achieved his undeniable streaming success through “a fundamentally great understanding of the way to manufacture controversy”, and adds: “It doesn’t matter whether you wish it or not – you paid him together with your time. You paid him together with your attention, which he earned.”

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Comer says that in their video calls he was “impressed” by 6ix9ine’s “lazer focus” in using his ‘brand’ for max exposure: “Most of the artists we work with make their decisions from a perspective of, ‘This is what i prefer because i feel it’s cool’. Whereas everything he delivered to the table was: ‘This goes to figure because my audience will resonate with it’.”

He cites the image of the cartoon rat: the first plan was for a rodent with “tattoos and colored hair” like 6ix9ine himself, but the rapper chose to simplify this. Comer explains: “He said, ‘If we make it on the brink of the [mouse] emoji, it’ll travel more. It’s more of a known symbol so people can take it from the iPhone emoji kit and put it on anything they need . If we manipulate it an excessive amount of , it’s not gonna travel also .’” This, he says, is a component of the rationale that ‘GOOBA’ was such a huge hit on TikTok.

Like Iandoli and KSI, Comer says that 6ix9ine trades on the chaotic narrative around his own life, though the creative director calls this “cultural sculpture” and claims that the rapper understands “the social landscape”. He says: “That’s what 6ix9ine really gets. That’s what he’s best at. That’s more of his artistry than the other a part of it: understanding relevance; the way to generate and manufacture it. He’s super-smart in his own way. that ought to never be mistaken. Understanding the importance and combination of visuals – some people have it and other people some don’t. Most don’t.”

Part of this brilliance, Comer claims, has been 6ix9ine’s owning of our specific period in history: “In 10 or 20 years people are going to be like, ‘Remember once we were in COVID?’ this is often one among the top moments in popular culture from that moment.” Kathy Iandoli is more sceptical: she concedes that “everyone is love-watching and hate-watching” ‘GOOBA’, but ascribes this to pandemic-induced boredom.

“At the top of the day, the numbers don’t lie” – Zane Comer, who worked on the ‘GOOBA’ video

Morbid curiosity is probably also a factor: as Comer points out, informing on a gang “could get him killed”. 6ix9ine emerged on SoundCloud, which gave rise to disadvantaged and painfully young rappers preoccupied with death and depression, like Lil Peep and Juice WRLD, who were then dead by 21. What Comer calls “bravery” – flaunting being a ‘rat’– may very well be SoundCloud rap’s no-tomorrow fatalism taken to its logical conclusion. If the fastest thanks to achieve wealth and success is to get outrage and entertain death – well, why not? Nothing matters anyway.

As for 6ix9ine’s fandom: lonely people perhaps see themselves during a celebrity who is vilified by the press, on social media and in their own community – during this case hip-hop – and it seems that stans will always find how to form excuses for his or her heroes. Daniel Hernandez could be the brilliant creative mind that Zane Comer makes him bent be (which isn’t an equivalent as saying he’s an honest one that makes a worthwhile contribution), but attention spans are short in 2020, and this doesn’t necessarily mean the 24-year-old’s career can outlast his period of notoriety.

“He’s having a flash ,” says Kathy Iandoli. “If we’re still having this conversation next year, which may be a drag.”

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