How Tekashi 6ix9ine Became a ‘Human Meme’ (Podcast)

Inside Daniel Hernandez’s journey from a nice kid in a bodega to a wildly successful rapper now facing RICO charges

Last Updated: December 8, 2018 @ 9:05 AM

How did rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine go from a nice kid working in a New York bodega to a rainbow-headed, face-tatted “human meme” to a defendant in a RICO case? We try to make sense of it in the latest episode of the “Shoot This Now” podcast, which you can listen to on Apple or right here:

This week, our guests are New York Times reporters Joe Coscarelli and Ali Watkins, who wrote the definitive account of Tekashi’s short, intense career.

He was born Daniel Hernandez, and raised, in part, by the Internet. They call him a “human meme” because of his gift for capturing online attention with everything from his tattoos (including at least dozens of the number 69) to videos filled with Bloods imagery to apparent references to Harmony Korine.

Coscarelli and Watkins wrote: “His first viral ‘moment,’ he recalled, was an Instagram photo of himself on a city street, wearing a robelike sweatshirt emblazoned with racial and sexual slurs.”

Is it art? Provocation? Does he care?

His career has somehow survived the kind of sex charges that could easily have ended his career and sent him to prison.

Tekashi has pleaded guilty to a charge of using a child in a sexual performance because of a 2015 video with a 13-year-old girl — posted to his Instagram — in which other men had sex with the girl while he touched her and mugged for his audience.

He told police he believed the girl was 19, and that he only did it “for my image,” Coscarelli and Watkins reported.

Soon after, he entered into a business relationship with Kifano Jordan, also known as Shotti, or Shottie.

“6ix9ine needed the street cred and security that Mr. Jordan and his friends could offer; for Mr. Jordan, 6ix9ine represented a rainbow-headed cash cow,” Coscarelli and Watkins wrote.

The bid for street cred included the video for “Gummo,” in which 6ix9ine and friends wear red bandanas like those of the Bloods. It scored more than 300 million views on YouTube.

Soon, he had 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. But he also fell out with Jordan.

Now, he faces prison, thanks to federal racketeering charges, along with several former associates. He has pleaded not guilty, and said his “scumbag persona is just for shock value.”

There’s much more to the story, both in the podcast and in Coscarelli and Watkins’ full story, which you can read in its entirety here.