In Defense of 6ix9ine

at 2:28 pm | By

Source: Instagram @6ix9ine_

In today’s hip-hop landscape, there is no other figure as polarizing as 6ix9ine. The rainbow-haired, inked up Latino has amassed a legion of passionate fans in the few short years that he’s been on the music scene, but has no shortage of critics and haters to match that crowd. As a fan of hip-hop, it would be hard not to have an opinion on him at this point in his career, considering his prominence on the charts as well as on social media. If you’re going to have an opinion on 6ix9ine, you may as well make it an informed one, because there’s a lot going on behind his numerous controversies and rainbow grills.

To start, let’s examine 6ix9ine’s origins. 6ix9ine, born Daniel Hernandez, grew up in the middle of the Bushwick and Bed-Stuy neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York with a Mexican mother and Puerto Rican father. In his interviews, 6ix9ine makes it clear that he grew up in a poor household. He recalls nights going to bed on an empty stomach and has talked about how he wore sneakers his mother pulled from the trash that were thrown out by his neighbor. When he was 13 years old, Hernandez’ father was murdered a block away from his home. After blacking out in fits of rage and acting out in school, 6ix9ine was expelled from school in 8th grade.

In his No Jumper interview, 6ix9ine notes that his mother was prevented from being able to work, so he used his time out of school to help bring money into the house. After being fired from his first job as a busboy at the age of 14, 6ix9ine worked brief stints at a series of other jobs in addition to selling weed with his brother.

6ix9ine asserts that he first started going viral before he ever started rapping by going wild on Instagram. While those accounts have since been deleted, a post-turned-meme has been left over of him wearing an outrageous hypebeast fit. After friends of his encouraged him to start rapping, he started releasing music through the Slovakian-based label, FCK Them. Since the first music video released on the channel in 2015, 6ix9ine has been repping SCUM GANG. In an interview with Mass Appeal, 6ix9ine explains the meaning of “SCUM” and what he stands for as an individual.

“I stand out for the kids that can’t stand [up] for themselves, and get bullied, and deal with a whole lotta cyberbullying… Deal with a whole bunch of school bullying… Kids in group homes, kids in detention centers, where they don’t have their parents there looking out for them. Those kids, sometimes they feel alone, and they feel like they’re outcasts, or some type of joke to society… And that’s what SCUM stands for: ‘SCUM’ stands for Society Can’t Understand Me. That’s where SCUM GANG comes into play… I’m the hope for those kids that can’t stand up for themselves. I’ma show them that if I can do it, they can do it.”

Judging from what’s been said so far, one might consider 6ix9ine’s struggle and hustle as reasons to respect him as an artist, regardless whether or not his music’s aesthetic appeals to their taste. In reality, that’s not the case. 6ix9ine’s career has been riddled with controversy, particularly concerning his sexual misconduct charges.

In 2015, Daniel Hernandez plead guilty to one felony account of Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance. The charges stem from an incident that occurred that year, when he and separately charged individual got involved with a 13-year old girl in a sexual manner. Hernandez claims that he never had any sexual contact with the minor, but he’s not entirely innocent. Videos were taken that night that 6ix9ine reposted on social media, allegedly unaware that the girl was underage. The court documents of the case that describe the incident in detail can be viewed here.

Once his case was leaked via Instagram by rapper Zillakami in August 2017, he has been vehemently labeled as a pedophile and rapist by many ever since. Rappers like Trippie Redd and The Game have called him out on it too, and the case has even played a part in the attempts of West Coast figures like OG Spanky to try to ban him from Los Angeles. Even though 6ix9ine has gone on the record to explain the case from his perspective in a DJ Akademiks interview, the damage has already been done to his name.

Aside from his legal issues, 6ix9ine has caught a lot of heat for his apparent gang affiliations as well. Before he blew up, 6ix9ine seemed as though he was repping himself as a member of the Crips gang over social media. However, since he’s blown up, 6ix9ine has been rocking red bandanas, wearing red and addressing people as “blood” freely. This is another reason he has drawn so much hate and criticism, especially from Crips and Bloods across the country. In fact, The Game sparked beef with 6ix9ine over these issues and exposed him having blue bandana bed sheets, throwing up a C, and wearing all blue in pictures he posted on Instagram. 6ix9ine explains in his Breakfast Club interview he was never a gang initiate under either gang and that he had friends in both, but unfortunately for him, that doesn’t automatically grant him forgiveness for perceived disrespect.

The critiques don’t stop there. A lot of people have judged 6ix9ine strictly on his appearance since he started popping off. His long rainbow hair, face tattoos, and rainbow grills doesn’t exactly build an under-the-radar look, and it has a lot of people calling him out as feminine, stupid, or chasing clout. The hate is particularly acute in older generations of hip-hop, as style in the rap game was far less eccentric and daring in past decades.

All these factors stacked up against him haven’t stopped him proclaiming himself as the “King of New York” and as the hottest artist in the city at the moment. Unsurprisingly, this too has caught him a lot of flak in the hip-hop community. With legends like Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas and 50 Cent all past contenders for the throne, 6ix9ine’s claim is incredibly audacious considering he’s only put out one mixtape since he’s been on the scene. In his Breakfast Club interview, 6ix9ine gives props to Cardi B but defends his claim to the throne.

“I’m definitely the hottest artist in the city… Every song I put out makes Billboard top 100; I don’t get no co-signs… I’m self-made… My first project was top-5 Billboard debut… Like I said, shout out Cardi B; I’m the hottest artist in the city… I know I am, and no one can take that from me. That’s why I feel like I’m the most hated. Everyone wants to come for me. How many people came for me? A lot. Why? Because I’m the hottest artist… If I can walk around and say I’m the King of New York, don’t you think somebody would’ve done something by now?”

Not long after this interview, someone did do something… 50 Cent came forward to support 6ix9ine’s claim to the crown. Each of them posted the same photo to their accounts in late March with different captions, with 6ix9ine’s saying “50 told me next time I say I’m the king of New York to say it LOUDER.” A couple videos surfaced as well, which included 50 Cent telling 6ix9ine “tell ‘em what you runnin’!” and him backing up 6ix9ine as a XXL Freshman contender. Even though 6ix9ine had gotten props from artists like Fat Joe and Swizz Beatz in the past, no major artist had given him a proper co-sign until then.

Out of all the criticism 6ix9ine receives, he’s definitely deserving of at least some of it. You’re obviously going to upset people if you say that a Kendrick Lamar freestyle is garbage or claim to be the new Death Row. 6ix9ine probably recognizes that, but the hate often translated into extra publicity, and he’s been able to use to his advantage. The Game, YG, Casanova, and even Adrien Broner have all gone out of their way to take shots at him, which only makes him more of a topic of conversation in hip-hop outlets and social media.

DJ Akademiks has called 6ix9ine a troll in the past, but didn’t seem to use the term in a derogatory way. These days, shock value is an increasingly common tool used among rappers to gain publicity. Just look at Boonk (AKA Boonk Gang). To put it lightly, Boonk’s raps are subpar, but his social media antics helped him form a rap career out of thin air. When 6ix9ine does something like claim to be signing to Birdman or the Illuminati, there may be more strategy behind the foolishness than many people realize. As for the more serious issues people have with 6ix9ine, particularly his sexual misconduct charge and his questionable gang ties, his clout doesn’t automatically merit him getting a pass on them.

Those who take issue with him for his legal case should review the court documents for themselves and consider what 6ix9ine has had to say in his defense before espousing unoriginal perspectives… Even then, court documents and personal defenses can’t ever be guaranteed to be 100% factual and comprehensive, so all available information should be taken with a grain of salt.

If one does in fact decide to oppose 6ix9ine as an artist or an individual, they should be careful to be consistent with their approach and consider all artists with the same level of scrutiny. Hip-hop culture is rife with criminality, and it’s arguably a part of the culture itself. Even though much of that crime is related to hustling as a means of financial gain and security, a lot of hip-hop artists have been charged with more crimes of a more heinous nature. Artists like XXXTentacion and R. Kelly have been accused of doing some pretty terrible things, but again, it would be near impossible to ever get entirely comprehensive and factual understandings of the situations from an outside perspective. Even 2pac was hit with a rape case in his heyday, so be ready to do some homework on your favorite artists if you decide to rebuke 6ix9ine for his charges.

As for his gang ties, 6ix9ine has publicly addressed the issue both personally and on the Breakfast Club by saying that he was never actually part of either gang, but rolls with both because he has friends in each gang. His claims are backed up by his “Kooda” music video, which features both Bloods and Crips together in the same video without any hostility between them. One of his most outspoken critics of his gang affiliations has been The Game, but people should consider that The Game advocated for gang unification a couple years ago at a peaceful march in Los Angeles. Spearheaded by him and Snoop Dogg (a known Crip), the 2016 march included both Crips and Bloods and culminated in a peaceful gathering at the LAPD Headquarters. Instead of taking to Instagram to start beef, The Game could have instead reached out to 6ix9ine to collaborate on bringing about the same change he was pushing for at the rally, considering 6ix9ine’s ability to bring the two gangs together. Even if The Game’s issue was more focused on him switching sides than being friends with both, he may have forgotten a few of his bars on his “Martians vs. Goblins” track on The R.E.D. Album.

I don't know, probably doing what the Crips do<br> But when I'm with my uncle, fuck it! Then I'm a Crip too
― The Game (Ft. Lil Wayne & Tyler, The Creator) – Martians vs. Goblins

And I will Crip Weezy, Crip Jones, and Crip you
― The Game (Ft. Lil Wayne & Tyler, The Creator) – Martians vs. Goblins

At the end of the day, no one’s obligated to love 6ix9ine or his music, but the amount of hate he’s been catching might be a little ridiculous if you take a step back. Maybe he’s not the most humble rapper out now, but he was never trying to be a hero in the first place. In one of his older interviews with Mass Appeal, he explains how the loss of his father changed his disposition towards the world:

“I felt like my pops a superhero. I felt like my pops was invincible, so when they took my pops from me, I felt naked, you know what I’m saying? That made me rebel. It made me angry; I don’t want to be a superhero. I want to be a villain, the villains never die. Superheroes always die. F**k being a superhero. Ain’t tryna save s**t… I’m destroying anything that’s in my way.”

In the same statement, he says that the world is a game, and that it isn’t fair. Maybe that’s why he has a Jigsaw as a face tattoo and chain pendant, because he’s playing the world to his advantage as a villain. Even if that’s true, 6ix9ine has shown that he isn’t entirely heartless. Aside from passing out money at schools and while visiting the Dominican Republic, he has positive messages for his fans sprinkled throughout his interviews and social media accounts. You may love him or hate him, but don’t do either just because of what someone else thinks. Alternatively, you can keep throwing shade on Twitter, or bumping “Gummo” at max volume through your car stereo. We won’t judge.