(December 20, 2019). Let me see if I got this right…
Because rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine wasn’t a gangster in real life – like so many rappers aren’t – but because he sang about that life, he decided he needed to beef up his street cred by becoming one.
And then, when he got caught up in it – and got caught by the feds – he decided the best way to save his own ass was to dime out his fellow gang members, two of whom were convicted of felonies as a result?
I know hip-hop culture gets a bad rap – no pun intended – and that many believe it has led to the downfall of urban society, particularly for us black folks and, to a lesser degree, Latino people.
And I know that some of rap’s biggest players started off as bangers or trappers before they cleaned up their lives and started making their livings honestly.
But rarely has someone started off cleanly in the rap game and then decided to go the other way (I’m not saying it’s never happened before, but it is rare). Tekashi 6ix9ine’s bizarre story is one that’s straight out of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”
The 23-year-old Brooklyn-based rapper, whose legal name is Daniel Hernandez, was sentenced to two years in federal prison Wednesday (the 18th) after pleading guilty to racketeering, weapons and drug charges. In a time-served arrangement, since he’s already been locked up for 13 months, Tekashi 6ix9ine will likely be out of jail by this time next year, followed by five years supervised release – as also ordered by the judge.
Hernandez’s sentence was likely shortened because he testified against fellow members of the Nine Trey Gangstas, a violent sect of the infamous Bloods gang. Two of its highest-ranking members were convicted at trial back in October for their roles in an April 2018 incident involving a robbery of a rival gang member.
During the presiding judge’s deliberations, there was conflicting speculation about whether the rapper would be released from prison, shown leniency with a shortened sentence, or ordered to remain in prison for many years because of his repeated brushes with the law. Hernandez’s testimony was clearly the difference maker, while his involvement with the gang apparently warranted that at least some time be served.
There’s no doubt that 6ix9ine’s most diehard fans will be rocking their “Free Tekashi” t-shirts from now until the rap star is no longer behind bars, but the rapper will likely never truly be free – even when he’s released.
At least not psychologically.
As a very public and colorful figure whose goal, once he’s out, is to resume his once-promising recording career, 6ix9ine will certainly have to watch his back from the time he’s out until, well, forever. That’s because many in the community in which he chose to dwell believe there’s no worse sin than “snitching,” especially on fellow gang members.
It’s a safe bet that members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods will seek retribution in some form or another against the rapper. It’s for that reason that there’s been speculation that the rapper was being considered for a federal witness protection program, and why he’s been given special accommodations while in prison.
I don’t know from personal experience, but how often do we hear about various gang-related acts of violence being instigated by prior transgressions against the perpetrators? It’s the retaliatory mantra of gang life that fuels their members. Surely, they taught 6ix9ine that in Gangsta 101.
It’s that dynamic that leads me to believe that not only has 6ix9ine’s life changed forever, but so has his music career.
When word of his damning testimony first surfaced, even mainstream, high-profile rappers like Snoop Dogg and The Game were among his biggest critics on social media, with the former labeling him a “snitch.”
There are likely a number of people in the industry with whom Tekashi 6ix9ine was previously affiliated who will want to keep their distance now – if not for their own reputations, then maybe for their lives.
Which now poses an interesting dilemma for the rapper whose biggest hits were collaborations with other hip-hop stars. Of 6ix9ine’s fifteen total Hot 100 chart entries (all since 2017), eleven were collaborations with other artists, including Nicki Minaj, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Kanye West, Bobby Shmurda, Fetty Wap, Trippie Redd and others. His biggest hit was the 8-times platinum “FeFe” featuring Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz in 2018.
Who among those rappers will be rocking with 6ix9ine after this? Who will want to be featured on a 6ix9ine track – or invite him to be featured on theirs – when, in their view, he committed the ultimate street sin and sang like a canary while helping the courts clean up the streets of NYC?
Which is sad when you really think about it because, in this blogger’s view, it was the right thing to do and besides, the “crime” of tattling doesn’t even come close in its egregiousness to the one for which he was previously convicted but given extreme leniency by the courts and the rap community.
And this is where the double standard comes into play.
In October 2015, 6ix9ine plead guilty to “using a child in a sexual act,” a crime that occurred when he was 18 and the female victim was barely a teen at 13. His plea deal for that incident included being required to get his GED, being prohibited from posting sexually explicit images of women and children, and not committing another crime for two years – otherwise, he’d have to register as a sex offender.
Despite the blatant hideousness of that crime, the years following that sentencing were very forgiving to the young rapper who, in 2018, enjoyed his biggest singles and a No. 2 debut album – one appropriately titled Dummy Boy. (His mixtape Day69 also peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard chart.). This success came despite his highly publicized legal issues, including the sexual offense involving the young girl.
In the misogynistic culture that pervades hip-hop, not only are rappers’ images not adversely affected by criminal associations and rap sheets, but they’re often enhanced by them. 6ix9ine got that much correct when he chose his associates and course of action two years ago…the ones that led to Wednesday’s sentencing.
But the hip-hop double standard involving one’s penance for turning informant against violent criminals vs. the penance for committing sexual acts against children is palpable. How many of 6ix9ine’s diehard fans either blindly proclaimed his innocence following the child sex allegations, or bestowed upon him some level of street credibility simply because he’d now been through the criminal justice system?
How many fellow rappers considered him to be their ride-or-die despite the mounting evidence against his character?
More interestingly, how many of them will refuse to rock with him now that he’s been branded a “snitch”?
Indeed, some stans and fellow artists are very quick to side with rappers who get caught up in the system. A general distrust of the system itself likely contributes to that outcome.
If not for that one ultimate “sin” that 6ix9ine committed in the courtroom against fellow gang members, he might still be getting lots of love from fans and have a host of hip-hop collaborators lining up to work with him when he gets out.
Instead, the rapper – whose face tattoos and colorful appearance would render any witness protection program in America useless – may want to get out of the rap game and, for that matter, out of public view for a long time.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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