Music Features

Tekashi 6ix9ine Is 2020's Greatest Pop Star

The disgraced rapper continues to play us all for a fool.

Tekashi 6ix9ine is the perfect pop star for 2020.

As Donald Trump tells Americans to drink bleach and disregard social distancing, the controversial actions of the loudmouth Brooklyn-based rapper seem to all be in line with the beliefs that make up the Twilight Zone existence of 2020. In the fall of 2019, when 6ix9ine dismantled the New York faction of the Nine Trey Bloods in the most high-profile federal racketeering case of the year, it was announced that 6ix9ine signed a 10 million dollar record deal with his former label while behind bars for his reduced sentence . Later that fall, Showtime, Snapchat, and the rapper 50 Cent all announced they'd each be penning their own separate docuseries focusing on the rise and fall of the Crown Heights emcee. In the public eye, pop culture icons continued to write off the rapper as a fraud, while behind the scenes, 6ix9ine continued to rack up notoriety as music's biggest antagonist. By the end of his sentence this past fall, one couldn't help but wait with bated breath to see what he'd do next.

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Culture News

Tekashi 6ix9ine Is Afraid of Dying from Coronavirus in Prison, and He's Not Alone.

Healthcare professionals say that nonviolent and at-risk prisoners must released from facilities ASAP.

UPDATE: Tekashi 6ix9ine was released from prison this week. He will serve the rest of his sentence on house arrest.

The rapper, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, was incarcerated in December 2019 for involvement in a violent street gang. His lawyer, Lance Lazzarro, has called for his immediate release due to the fact that Hernandez suffers from asthma, a vulnerability that puts him at risk from coronavirus. Hernandez was also hospitalized last year for bronchitis and sinusitis, and he has been suffering from shortness of breath, one of the main symptoms of COVID-19.

"Mr. Hernandez has been complaining to prison officials this week of shortness of breath, but apparently the warden of his facility will not allow Mr. Hernandez to go to the hospital despite the recommendation of the facility's medical director that Mr. Hernandez be treated by a doctor at a hospital," Lazzaro said.

In Britain, Julian Assange's lawyers are also requesting the WikiLeaks founder's release on the basis of health risks. He will make an application for bail on Wednesday.

Tekashi 6ix9ine Isn't the Only Immunocompromised Prisoner—Most Just Don't Have Lawyers

Tekashi 6ix9ine and Julian Assange are a few of the many current prison inmates facing profound risks from coronavirus. Even if you dislike them personally, their desperate pleas should raise the alarm about the state of prisons on the whole in light of our global pandemic.

As the rest of the world self-isolates and as New York City shuts down, inmates remain in close quarters, making prisoners extremely vulnerable to exposure—and most of them don't have access to a lawyer and press coverage.

Prisons and coronavirus is a particularly dangerous combination, one that could lead to disaster. "Jails and prisons are often dirty and have really very little in the way of infection control," said Homer Venters, former chief medical officer at Rikers' Island. "There are lots of people using a small number of bathrooms. Many of the sinks are broken or not in use. You may have access to water, but nothing to wipe your hands off with, or no access to soap."

Inside prisons, it may be nearly impossible to successfully separate sick patients from well patients. Outbreaks are inevitable, and healthcare in prisons is often lacking to begin with.

Because of this, most public health officials are arguing that the best solution to the problem is mass release. According to the Marshall Project, Mark Stern, the former Assistant Secretary for the Washington State Department of Corrections, has suggested "downsizing" prison populations in order to ensure inmate and staff health and safety. Downsizing might involve releasing low-risk prisoners and proposing alternatives to arrest for certain crimes.

David Falthi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, puts it more succinctly. "The only effective response is to reduce the population density by releasing people," Fathi says, "starting with those who are most at risk of severe injury or death if they were to contract the virus." In particular, people who suffer from preexisting health conditions, like Tekashi 6ix9ine, and other vulnerable populations like older people, ought to be sent back to their families where they can isolate and be taken care of.

"Across the U.S. we have built a system of punishment that is traumatic, and this is only increased with the coronavirus," said Becca Fealk, an organizer with the American Friends Service Committee of Arizona. "ADC must do more than just provide soap to reduce the chance of an outbreak. They need to release people, including older/aging adults who can be cared for by their loved ones."

Many prison administrations have insisted that they're complying with the CDC's guidelines with regards to their incarcerated populations, but if prisons aren't providing inmates with basic human rights and living supplies—and if even Tekashi 6ix9ine can't get to a doctor—how can we expect them to take care of people during an outbreak?

Prisons Begin Releasing Inmates—But Is It Enough?

Faced with a public health crisis that could lead to mass deaths, prisons all around the nation and the world are taking note. Alameda County plans to release 250 inmates, per NPR, and Los Angeles jails have also begun releasing nonviolent inmates. In New Jersey, up to 1,000 inmates will be released this Thursday, including those serving for parole violations and those serving municipal court convictions. In some places, prisons and law enforcement are coming together to reduce their inmate population. France has delayed or suspended short-term sentences, reducing daily prison admissions from 200 to 30.

These actions garnered support from Senator Kamala Harris, who tweeted that the Bureau of Prisons should release "all low-risk inmates, including those who are in pretrial detention because they can't afford to make bail."

Some jails are also beginning to waive copays in an effort to make sure their incarcerated populations receive healthcare.

"The state's decision to temporarily suspend the $4 copay — the equivalent of a week's worth of work at the prisoner minimum wage of 10 cents an hour — for people reporting cold and flu-like symptoms is a step in the right direction," said Prison Law Office attorney Corene Kendrick, "but it exposes how counterproductive it is to have such a barrier to seeking care. Unfortunately, prior to the COVID-19 crisis," she added, "We regularly heard from incarcerated people that there were shortages of hygiene supplies such as toilet paper and menstrual products." Many incarcerated people's families wind up paying for their hygiene and healthcare.

The coronavirus crisis is exposing the flaws in many institutions, and mass incarceration is just one of them. All these revelations beg deeper questions about why inmates weren't given these supplies or opportunities in the first place. Activists have been asking these questions for years, and the tragedy of the American carceral system has come to the fore in the case of migrants enclosed on the U.S.-Mexico border and in ICE facilities across the nation.

In three ICE detention centers in New Jersey, prisoners are currently on hunger strike in protest of poor conditions and coronavirus risks. One detainee told Vice that his fellow inmates are being kept in a small room without access to soap or even cleaning supplies.

"They say they are locking us in so we can be protected," said a current hunger striker named Olisa Uzoegwu. "But they don't do anything different. The cells stink. The toilets don't flush. There's never enough soap. They give out soap once a week. One bar of soap a week. How does that make any sense?"

This week, hundreds of doctors and thousands of activist organizations expressed this concern about these issues, flooding ICE with letters demanding that they release their overcrowded detention centers. The only crime committed by inmates in these facilities is usually non-sanctioned entry to the United States. Despite all this, ICE is still making arrests. Agents were spotted tracking down undocumented immigrants in San Francisco the day of the state's lockdown.

A Global Issue and a Gathering Storm: Colombia, France, Iran, and the US Grapple with Prison Risks

But the coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, and prisons all around the world are facing questions about how to handle incarcerated populations and prison employees. In some cases, inmates are taking things into their own hands. In Colombia, a prison riot left 23 inmates dead. Prisoners were rioting in protest of overcrowding and poor health services that they felt left them at an extreme risk. Riots have also broken out in prisons in Brazil and Italy.

The largest prison coronavirus outbreak in the nation is in New York City, with 38 inmates at the Rikers' Island prison testing positive; 20 have been released, and 200 more will be tested today. In As Mayor Bill DeBlasio considers whether to release 200 more people, 551 people serving "city sentences" for minor offenses and another 666 serving for technical parole or probation violations (like missing a drug test or a parole check-in) are trapped in Rikers alone. These are nonviolent offenders who do not deserve to be exposed to a potentially deadly virus. Still, the New York Police Chief has said that his officers will not cease making arrests, even though 70 officers have tested positive for COVID-19.

All across the nation and the world, jails are releasing inmates. Why they—especially nonviolent offenders—were there in the first place begs a different question. For now, the most important thing is to open the jails and let the people go. Short of mass release, prisons should not be arresting new inmates outside of extreme circumstances; they need to take more precautionary measures, institute comprehensive testing and quarantine, and follow protocols like those called for by the Federal Defenders of New York.

"A storm is coming," wrote Ross MacDonald, the chief physician at Rikers. "We have told you who is at risk. Please let as many out as you possibly can."

How to Help

In the meantime, anyone concerned can make a call to their state representative and inquiring about their current efforts; calling airports and prisons using this script from the New Sanctuary Coalition; participating in actions and protests like those being hosted by the Never Again Action, donating to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other similar organizations.



MUSIC

7 Smart Ways for Tekashi 6ix9ine to Spend His Millions

With his new record deal and pending release from prison, the world is his oyster!

From his face tattoos to his Nine Trey Bloods associations, and then his extensive cooperation with law enforcement to snitch on those associates, Tekashi 6ix9ine has made a name for himself by ignoring advice and being as over the top as he can possibly be.

And so far that's worked out great! First he aligned himself with dangerous criminals, then he got kidnapped by one, then he was offered a way out—which he ignored—then he was arrested for racketeering, and immediately flipped on his former associates.

Already, dangerous people who want 6ix9ine dead are being sent away, and more convictions are certain to follow, which is expected to drastically reduce the 47 year minimum sentence 6ix9ine would otherwise be facing. His sentencing is scheduled for December, and there's even speculation that he'll be released then for time served. Meanwhile, the notoriety he's earned has resulted in an unheard of $10 million, two album record deal with 10K Projects. With all this success piling up, what could possibly go wrong?

With that in mind, he can still have a bright future ahead of him, as long as 6ix9ine makes smart purchases with his millions of dollars.

A Brand New Crew


6ix9ine loves hanging out with big tough guys, but his old group of pals probably won't be a good choice anymore. It's time for an upgrade! But where do you go when you need tough guys today? For around a million dollars a year, you can hire tough guys to follow you around everywhere you go, looking tough, and keeping an eye out for the haters.

CULTURE

A Defense of Face Tattoos (and a Few Cautionary Tales)

Face tattoos are far from just SoundCloud trends.

Face tattoos have a pretty bad rap.

We love to make fun of them, laughing at the knowledge that there are people out there who are going to be stuck with a garish numerical figure on their foreheads or a phrase like "Always Tired" under their eyes for the rest of their lives.

Rooster Magazine

On the other hand, tattoos in general have always received harsh criticism. Though every millennial seems to have at least a few fine-line arm tattoos nowadays, all over the world and in many faiths, tattoos are sacrilegious, evidence of Satan's corrupting influence or its many iterations. Thus, tattoos have always been mechanisms of subversion and counterculture, whether as markers of membership in certain groups, or monikers of individuality, or signifiers of devotion to a certain kind of art or person. They've been ways of reclaiming or altering one's physical appearance, ways of taking ownership of a body that, all too often, capitalism and the media try to devour or force to align with some standard.

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MUSIC

Famous Criminals Who Were More Loyal Than Tekashi 6ix9ine

While 6ix9ine sings like a canary on the witness stand, let's take a look at some of the most "loyal" criminals of all time.

As Tekashi snitch-nine wraps up his first day of testimony against former gang members of Nine Trey Bloods, it's important to remember that other major criminals in history have done the same thing but should still be considered more loyal than Tekashi.

The rapper took 2 hours today to snitch out his former affiliates, and he even went as far as to describe the clothes that his fellow gang members were wearing as he rattled off their names. Check out some of history's most loyal criminals below, and let's hope Tekashi will find safety within the witness protection program (but that might be hard, considering all those tattoos).

Henry Hill

A legendary member of the Luccheese crime family between 1955 and 1980, Hill became an FBI informant in 1980, and he helped secure 50 convictions, including those of legendary mobsters Paul Vario and James Burke.

Tekashi's testimony included ratting out two fellow members of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods, Aljermiah "Nuke" Mack and Anthony "Harv" Ellison, as he identified them in court in great detail, not out of a sense of justice but to save himself from a longer prison sentence.

Music Features

A Look At America’s Most Troubled Pop Star

Let's examine the convoluted rise of Tekashi 6ix9ine: the country's most troubled pop star. Despite having all odds stacked against him, he's seemingly not going anywhere.

At this year's Complex Con, Hip-Hop gossip aficionado DJ Akademiks invited attendees to the first ever live taping of On The Sticks, the Internet personality's recurrent YouTube series in which he competes against "one of his celebrity friends" in NBA 2K19.

For this particular segment, the friend was revealed to be Bronx-based rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, the 22-year old artist who critics often credit for rejuvenating the New York Hip-Hop scene. As the game kicked off, Akademiks was quick to ask the musician who he believed to be the "King of New York." While A Boogie didn't discredit his own influence, he passed the title on to Tekashi 6ix9ine, the Brooklyn-based Soundcloud rapper whose seemingly endless legal discord has consumed headlines since his breakout in 2016. "When it comes to the moment right now, [6ix9ine] got it," the rapper said with a wide grin.

Cosmopolitan

Even for those who actively avoid pop culture, chances are everyone has stumbled upon Tekashi 6ix9ine at least once in the last few years. Dubbed by many as the "human meme," his lush rainbow hair and grotesque "69" face tattoos make him the most animated character to emerge in the Hip-Hop industry since Riff Raff, and as much as Rap classicists have discredited his authenticity, the Crown Heights rapper has continued to dominate the Billboard charts. His breakout hit "GUMMO", a loud and disorderly trap anthem backed by thick 808's and violent braggadocio lyrics, amassed over three hundred million views on YouTube and was certified platinum. His debut mixtape DAY69, which The New York Times called "a rough gauntlet of gun and sex talk," was certified gold and produced the gold-certified singles "BILLY" and "KEKE." His latest album, DUMMY BOY, which was released on November 27, was embroiled in a weekend-long legal dispute for the #1 album in the country after a "processing discrepancy" nearly dethroned Travis Scott's Astroworld. The project features contributions from Kanye West, Tory Lanez, Gunna, and Lil Baby, and the album's lead single "FEFE," which featured Nicki Minaj, was certified double platinum earlier this year. So in retrospect, it seems important to examine the convoluted rise of Tekashi 6ix9ine. The country's most troubled pop star, despite having all odds stacked against him, is seemingly not going anywhere.

It all began in October of 2015 when Tekashi — real name Daniel Hernandez — pleaded guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance. According to the details of a criminal complaint which was published by Jezebel in 2017, 6ix9ine was seen in a series of videos "making a thrusting motion with his pelvis" behind a young girl and "smacking her on her buttocks" while she "engaged in oral sexual intercourse" with another man, among other acts. The rapper was granted a plea deal after a drawn-out sentencing period and was told he needed to obtain his GED and complete 300 hours of community service in order to avoid prison time. He was also told to no longer associate with members of the New York Nine Trey Bloods, the gang to which Tekashi has claimed to have strong ties. The heinous charge initiated the first wave of backlash against the artist. Trippie Redd, another popular Soundcloud rapper who previously worked with Tekashi on the track "Poles 1469," dismissed the artist as a pedophile. Prominent California rappers The Game and YG soon followed suit and also dismissed 6ix9ine as fraudulent, with the latter portraying 6ix9ine as a cowardly pedophile in his music video for "Bulletproof."

As criticism reached a boiling point, Tekashi 6ix9ine gave a now widely-circulated interview with DJ Akademiks to help clear the smoke. "I don't know her exact age, I think she was 14 or some shit like that," Tekashi said. He claimed in the video that he was "not touching the girl" and did not engage in any sexual intercourse. "I didn't rape nobody bro," he said, irritated. "The girl wasn't even raped."

XXL Mag

While the interview diluted criticism of the artist, Tekashi's presence in headlines remained ceaseless. He was soon arrested at the start of 2018 for the assault of a 16-year-old fan, then again a few months later for driving with a suspended license, then again for allegedly assaulting the arresting officer. In April 2018, An affiliate of the rapper was also arrested and charged in connection to two shootings in Brooklyn, one which occurred at Barclays Center during the Adrien Broner fight, and another which allegedly occurred hours earlier in the streets of Brooklyn during a music video shoot. In addition, Tekashi was also named by investigators as a "known associate" of a person of interest in another New York shooting that targeted Chicago Drill rapper Chief Keef in Times Square.

In October of 2018, these cumulative arrests and accusations prompted DA officials to revisit 6ix9ine's sexual misconduct case and argue that the arrests violated the terms of his plea deal. "[6ix9ine] has failed to mature into the law-abiding citizen anticipated by the plea agreement which he signed," the DA wrote. The judge agreed to revisit the case and asked Tekashi to return to court. "Your honor, sometimes I feel like I'm behind a closed door trying to convince the world I'm a good man," 6ix9ine said at his sentencing on October 26. "I'm not committing murders, I'm not out there robbing people, and I'm not out there raping people."

Surprisingly, the judge sympathized and offered the artist four years' probation, but he reminded Tekashi it was imperative he dismantle his ties with the Nine Trey Bloods. Later that evening, Tekashi arrived at Phillips Chow on the Upper West Side to meet with the head of his record label to discuss business. Two members of the rapper's gang, Faheem Walter and Zachary Bruce, soon approached the restaurant. They demanded to speak with the rapper, but security was reluctant to let them inside. Walter allegedly left, returned with a chair, and beat the security guard to the ground. The guard opened fire amidst the attack, severely injuring Walter. "They sort of felt [6ix9ine] leaving their grasp," New York Times pop reporter Joe Coscarelli said of the incident. "[Tekashi] is now basically stuck between [following] the law and these gang members who have been his affiliates."

On November 9, supposed affiliates of 6ix9ine opened fire on a Beverly Hills mansion where Tekashi was filming a music video with Kanye West. While no one was injured, West "immediately left," halting production and leaving the crew "shaken up." In an interview with The Breakfast Club, Tekashi said of the incident, "I learned the hard way, that every blood is not your blood." Following the shooting, Tekashi said he had also fired his entire team. "The worst thing in the world is jealousy," he said. "When they look at me they just don't understand it...Treyway isn't even a thing, I invented that."

TMZ / The Source

Ten days later, Tekashi 6ix9ine was arrested on federal racketeering charges and taken into custody along with five of his associates as part of a joint investigation between the NYPD, Homeland Security, and the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives. 6ix9ine was quickly denied bail and charged with six of the group's eight-count indictment that stated he conspired as part of a "criminal organization" to traffic drugs and participate in violence against rival gang members. It was also revealed that in response to Tekashi's appearance on The Breakfast Club and dismissal of the legitimacy of Treyway, two of his former associates, whom he is now incarcerated with, actively plotted to kill him. "Now you have this 22-year-old man indicted alongside the guys who had given him street protection and credibility for the last ten months or a year, and they [now] want to kill him," said Joe Coscarelli of the arrest. As of December 9, Tekashi still remains behind bars and has denied any offerings of a plea deal. Federal authorities are confident they have enough evidence to put 6ix9ine away for life.

Despite all the madness, celebrities from all realms have praised the artist on his charitable spirit. In September 2017 the artist donated to a local school in Bushwick and gave a heartfelt speech to the children about following their dreams. In 2018, he handed out $100 bills to poverty-stricken children in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and later that year he also helped serve food to the homeless in Chicago. On September 1, 2018, Tekashi spent the day with Franklin, a 6-year-old with terminal brain cancer, and he gave his family enough money to pay their rent for a year. "I didn't like 6ix9ine just cause of what I seen," said DJ Envy, host of The Breakfast Club. "But when I got a chance to talk to him, and see him around kids and how humble he is...I realized this kid is a good kid." DJ Akademiks is good friends with the rapper and has repeatedly said, "6ix9ine is for the kids." Before he died, XXXTENTACION came on Instagram live and said he believed "that [6ix9ine] can amount to great things." In a lengthy interview with Angie Martinez, J. Cole also came to the rapper's defense and said, "He's willing to do whatever, say whatever because he wants it that bad and in a way I kind of respect it."

Life Daily

"I guess what I'm hearing is an artist who is not beholden to a particular approach," said New York Times Popcast host Jon Caramanica. On the counterpoint to that maybe it indicates as a personality he's so effective that it's sort of immaterial. His core strength is how he presents, and how he presents in the kind of wild air that's around him. Is his core strength rapping? No, it never was."

Yet shouldn't it be? As the Trumpian whirlwind of Tekashi 6ix9ine continues to sweep through and change the face of New York Hip-Hop, it's frustrating that very little of his influence has anything to do with his music. Pitchfork said, "There's nothing redeeming about DUMMY BOY," while The New York Times called Tekashi "a snoozy lyricist almost wholly uninterested in the narrative, complexity or the basic tenets of rhyme." 6ix9ine's music has always played second fiddle to his image and cartoonish presence online. He thrives as a figure who can seemingly get away with anything — note that DUMMY BOY's album cover features a vibrant cartoon sketch of Tekashi, pissing rainbow colors onto the ground as he grins at the listener — yet, as Tekashi seems to finally face the consequences of his belligerent behavior, how he'll emerge from a seemingly never-ending cascade of charges is anyone's guess. If he somehow escapes these next few months unscathed, the only question left for Daniel Hernandez to answer will be: Who, now, is Tekashi 6ix9ine, and who will he choose to become?


Mackenzie Cummings-Grady A creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area, Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.


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