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How Tekashi 69 Went From Hip-Hop to Facing a Life Sentence (Podcast)

Young rapper pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and eight other charges

If you’d never heard of Tekashi 69 before the news last week that he could get life in prison, buckle in for a hell of an origin story. We talked about the wild life of Tekashi (aka Tekashi 6ix9ine) in a recent “Shoot This Now” podcast you can listen to on Apple or right here:

As the New York Times reported Friday, Tekashi (who was born Daniel Hernandez) pleaded guilty in late January to racketeering conspiracy and eight other charges, and could face a minimum of 47 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Tekashi, 22, admitted to being a member of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. His ex-girlfriend Sara Molina, the mother of his 3-year-old daughter, has said she fears for her and her child’s safety if Tekashi 6ix9ine’s speaks out against fellow members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.

How did Tekashi get in this situation? In December, New York Times reporters Joe Coscarelli and Ali Watkins, who wrote the definitive account of Tekashi’s career, told us how he went from a sweet kid working in bodega into a “human meme” — and a gangster.

They likened him to a “human meme” because of his gift for capturing online attention with everything from his tattoos (including dozens of the number 69) to videos filled with Bloods imagery to apparent references to Harmony Korine.

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.

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

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

At a federal court hearing on Jan. 23, he said he had helped other gang members rob people at gunpoint, and at one point “helped members of Nine Trey attempt to kill a rival gang member.”

He also apologized to the judge and “to anyone who was hurt, to my family, friends and fans for what I have done and who I have let down.”