Criminal or Controversial Marketing Mastermind? Who is Teka$hi 6ix9ine?

Written by Daniele Saccardi

He is the latest hyped rapper facing jail time, but who is the real 6ix9ine?

Much like Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask, rapper Daniel Hernandez gained power and fame through his brightly coloured alter ego Teka$hi 6ix9ine – an enigmatic, chaotic and exciting act. He’s a real life Mask. But over the course of his career, Daniel Hernandez has continually claimed to judges that he is not a real criminal – suggesting that Teka$hi 6ix9ine is the marketing persona of the artist Daniel Hernandez. But over the last year, he has been repeatedly filmed and affiliated with violent criminal gang Blood Treys. He insists he is playing the criminal as an artist and entertainer. Is it reasonable to believe that this is all part of the act? Spoiler: Probably not.

Audiences have enjoyed and moaned at the young man’s counter-cultural attitude which propelled him towards and beyond the American Dream, at the age of 22. The last two years have driven him from working several low paid jobs to becoming a multimillionaire and one of the most important rappers in New York. Using Soundcloud, some elbow grease, and gang related connections, he has secured features from Nikki Minaj and supported acts such as Cardi-B and Jay-Z. But his short career has been tumultuous, to say the least, and is likely to be cut off early as he faces a series of legal charges that could see him spending life in prison.

Teka$hi has been involved in a plethora of criminal incidents, ranging from being at a shooting at the Barclay’s Centre, Brooklyn, to being present in a video featuring sexual misconduct with a minor. Whether you like it or not, media reports like this give him gang credibility, a story, something to talk about – he is any content marketers' dream (even this article is fuelling the fire). There’s always something newsworthy surrounding him, even if it is morally reprehensible. Daniel Hernandez knows how to create marketing collateral, or at the very least, knows how to use it to his advantage; over the last two years, Teka$hi has pulled in millions upon millions of streams across platforms. Teka$hi 6ix9ine continues to grow at a rapid rate, with 24 million monthly listeners and over 2.7 million direct Spotify followers. The latter statistic has grown by over 80,000 in the past 7 days alone (Instrumental Music Scouting Platform). Following the likes of Tay Kay, Gucci Mane and Skinnyfromthe9, 6ix9ine is the latest hyped rapper facing jail time because of the controversial and illegal activity, which has been pivotal to his success. Like it or not, people’s attention is drawn to controversy; and 6ix9ine, with his mask of tattoos, has benefited from that.

It is without a doubt that Teka$hi’s rapid rise to the top can be in-part explained by ties to controversial activity. Correlation doesn’t mean causation of course, but it’s something to think about. Back in July, he was violently attacked the day he released FEFE with Nikki Minaj, which generated high media attention. FEFE is now his most streamed song with close to 320 million streams on Spotify alone. Unfortunately for him, when controversy becomes illegality, it is only a matter of time before it catches up with you. This current legal battle has spelt the pull of his album, the day before it’s release.

A lot of artists face political and legal pressure when they rise to fame; legends like 2pac and NWA are proof of this. The Daniel Hernandez we see in the courtroom states that his controversial affiliations are part of the act. But the facts don’t lie; and he has been involved in serious crimes over the last two years. Crimes he most certainly can’t walk away from. We probably won’t find out who the real man behind the tattoos and bravado is – and it should go without saying that he should not receive any special treatment because he is in the public eye.

So who is the real Teka$hi 6ix9ine? Even if we cannot decipher the authenticity of our 2018 Stanley Ipkiss, we can definitely say it’s time for current King of the NY rap game to be dethroned. As he awaits trial in Brooklyn’s General Population Detention Centre, with threats for his life being made, he’ll definitely have time to think up an answer.

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