Photo by Paolo Fortades
In the horror film “As Above So Below”, the cosmic formula - where the relationship between the macrocosm (universe) and microcosm (the individual) is explored - is a constant theme. Many occultic circles believe that a near perfect understanding of self (the most basicmicrocosm) can achieve insight into spiritual or ultimate reality.
The general message and lessons from the film are not dissimilar to an overall, important aspect of life that folks tend not to grasp; the importance of self-awareness, the ability to know thyself. To have a mindset strong enough to achieve the goals you set for yourself. To be as functional and productive as you can be. Without this, your choices and decisions will reverberate throughout your life (and likely for the worst). Which brings us to 6ix9ine, the multicolored Bushwick, New York native.
Born Daniel Hernandez, to a Puerto Rican father and Mexican mother, he had an early disadvantage coming from a fractured neighborhood. This led to the Church becoming a sanctuary for him and his family. Daniel himself was an avid speaker during mass, with his favorite passage being Psalm 121.
His future seemed bright, being a premier athlete in both baseball and football (sorry Americans, we can’t call it soccer around this side of the pond). But due to understandable overprotection by his mother, a potential MLS opportunity would be lost. The decision not to convince his mother of this blessing correlates with the cosmic formula from As Above So Below, something his rap music moniker would later allude to. Meanwhile, his father struggled with heroin addiction and was eventually arrested for drug distribution. An all-too-common curse for minorities in the United States of America, with another father-son relationship abruptly interrupted.
In an interview, his father alluded to Daniel’s stepfather, alleging that he was a roadblock in their overall relationship. His stepfather was murdered in 2010, resulting in a severe eating disorder from the heavy trauma Daniel suffered during this time, no sooner than a year after his father had served his five-year stretch for drug distribution. Make of that what you will.
To get through these extremely difficult low points, compounded by being expelled from school and treatment for PTSD, Daniel would turn to anime and music. His moniker of “Tekashi” was allegedly influenced by the anime “Highschool Of The Dead”. The main protagonist being a hero that feels inadequate of the admiration received from his peers; a sentiment shared by 6ix9ine himself.
His perceived insecurities would have a hold on him from the earliest points of his career, culminating in feuds with Righteous P and ZillaKami. They would make a successful play to drop to 6ix9ine upon signing with Epic Records. A lack of control, stolen instrumentals and growing child misconduct allegations would push them towards this decision. This is standard music industry practice, where control and power are everything. Once you lose them, you will not last long; a valuable lesson that changed the trajectory of 6ix9ine’s career. The metamorphosis from a timid, unassuming rapper to a viral, chaotic clout chaser was taking shape.
Around the mid-2010s, World Star Hip-Hop began generating traffic of the likes we had never seen from arts/entertainment websites and other media outlets. This was perfect timing for 6ix9ine, with the video “Gummo” reaching iconic status in a short space of time. This single would reach the 12th spot on the Billboard Hot 100, being certified platinum by the RIAA on February , 2018.
Filmed on a block of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, his affiliation with the “Nine Trey Gangsters” gave him the “legitimacy” he needed to be taken seriously within the industry. He would always claim the set to garner respect from his peers and the community of Hip-Hop. Surfing this tidal wave of attention and exposure, he would announce his first mixtape “Day69: Graduation Day”. Debuting at number 4 on Billboard 200, 55,000 album-equivalent units and 20,00 pure sales, he could not have imagined this level of success and the subsequent weight of expectation that would be placed on his shoulders. 6ix9ine had Arrived, becoming an alumnus of the SoundCloud sound, which was and still is the foundation for most of the new-age hip-hop artists.
For the first time in his young life, he had found what he was looking for; validation, and a means to take care of his family. But amid this, the very nature of hip-hop (and, to an extent, black culture overall) deemed the energy he was emitting to lack balance. The shadow of his Nine Trey affiliation would rear its ugly head in an incident involving a perceived rival in “Casanova 2x” at the Barclays Centre.
This inevitably resulted in losing out on his headphone deal with Tunes Audio. The situation was a hot topic of conversation, with fans and peers questioning the validity of the scenes and whether 6ix9ine was a genuine gang member.
Logical critiques lead to rumours of fraudulence and collaboration with the police, a cardinal sin in the hip-hop community. Certain rules and regulations have been placed in the urban sphere to allow those less fortunate to make a living in the harsh reality that is the “American Dream”. Breaking these “laws” is akin to treason in the eyes of many, and this would eventually lead to the social demise of the character played by Daniel Hernandez Jr.
On November 16th 2018, Hernandez made his second appearance on The BreakfastClub radio show, in which he notably stated: “There’s only one thing I fear in life. No, two things. I fear God and I fear the FBI”. As you can assume, this did not go down well. Listeners were perplexed by the sheer audacity on display. One could argue this was a subconscious effort to show his true nature, that of an underprivileged boy and a prisoner of his environment. However, perception is reality. The image he was portraying to the world was the same as many other impressionable boys feel they need to show in order to get anywhere in this life. Previous rumours of government interference had become cemented, and his respect had taken a huge hit. A few days later, his arrest, alongside Kifano “Shotti” Jordan and three other associates did not aid matters. Daniel would plead guilty to nine charges and was due to be sentenced. A mandatory 47 years in federal prison was on the table.
But he had other ideas. A plea deal document would surface which proposed a reduced amount of jail time that he would receive. He took the offer and testified against fellow Nine Trey gang members. He could finally be honest in a realm where perception is reality, eventually being true to himself.
Short letter to the judge:
A lot of young men join gang culture on a whim. They are not made to deal with the life and what comes with it. He alleged to have been kidnapped by members of the Nine Trey and would use this situation to justify the choices he made during the RICO trial.
From this point on, he was enemy of the ever-powerful state – the internet. Many have tried to wiggle their way out of its baying judgement, but apart from a very few select individuals with high levels of influence and leverage, the internet remained undefeated in this bout. Even those outside of the hip-hop community made their two cents known on blog pages and social media. He would finish serving his reduced sentence at home, with the federal government fearing for his safety. He had broken the cardinal rule of hip-hop, and this would be perceived as career suicide. But 6ix9ine remained defiant. Yes, the internet is undefeatable, but it giveth and it taketh in equal measure. It can work in both ways, and 6ix9ine has shown repeatedly in the past that he knows how to work with it.
His release of “GOOBA” broke the YouTube record for most viewed hip-hop video in a 24-hour span, hitting 38.9 million views on its inaugural day. His return was akin to a cyber whirlwind, with everyone caught up in the drama. This was unprecedented. No one has had the unmitigated gall to rebound from a proverbial “death sentence” and achieve this feat. No such thing as bad publicity, right?
The community was divided in its opinion of 6ix9ines return, with some saying his testimony was justified based on a statement Hernandez made on his first Instagram live post-sentence:
The other half were more unforgiving, attempting to disclose personal information about Hernandez and his family. Even after “ratting” out his comrades, he tried to appear unphased, posting videos of him counting money or walking the streets of New York in public. Staying true to the villain moniker he titled himself with, he kept up the bravado to salvage his hip-hop career that was hanging by a thread. “TattleTales” was released later that year, with 6ix9ine doubling down on the unspeakable actions and choices he had taken from earlier in his stardom. Scheduled to sell 150k first week, it seemed that 6ix9ine may miraculously turn his dire situation around. Yet, major platforms like Spotify and AppleMusic refused to display the release based on his cooperation with the federal police. He would eventually sell a third of the projected number, with plenty of blame to go around.
Recent controversy involving 6ix9ine, Wack100 and the viral YouTube star Hassan Campbell further supports the theme of this piece. In a heated discussion on DJ Akademiks’ podcast, the trio discussed self-responsibility, with particular focus on the “black community as a whole”, and who is to blame for the self-destructive nature of the black community. 6ix9ine detailed how a gang member he helped incarcerate called him to help his family financially. This raises the question of why he would do this, given his own oath to the streets and the general ostracizing of informants. The others were puzzled by this, with 6ix9ine asking them why “Ish” would ask him for his help whilst the NineTrey members on the outside should have provided support themselves.
This overall situation highlights the bigger issue around “keeping it real”. Using the harsh reality of the streets to gain credibility and notoriety is a double-edge sword. The intertwined relationship between the music, the content, the persona of the artist and law enforcement. It seems most, if not all rappers, don’t practice what they preach. The content that they are advised to produce by the labels is a twisted form of entertainment. His life has been threatened multiple times, and he is still here. His latest album was proclaimed a flop by friends and foes alike, yet he manages to stay relevant. What does this tell us? That this theme can go both ways. Some of those that claim to be serious about the street lifestyle, that claim to be on smoke, are no different to 6ix9ne. Brash. Arrogant. Prisoners of their environment.
Written by: @Arriv3r
Edited by: @Whosaria