The rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine had one of the most sordid rise and falls in the history of popular music. His initial fame was less rooted in his repetitive, but catchy trap bangers, than it was in his trolling image. 6ix9ine was known for his garish face tattoos, rainbow coloured hair and his constant feuds with other rappers. At first written off as a viral joke, he enjoyed a sustained run of chart success, putting over ten songs in the Billboard Hot 100. The fascinating new podcast by Spotify and Complex, Infamous: The Tekashi 6ix9ine Story has asserted that Takeshi was living a double life. In 2017, he had joined the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, a gang heavily involved in serious crimes like selling the deadly drug Fentanyl. At this point 6ix9ine already had a concerning criminal record (including involvement in a sexual abuse case). However the rapper seemed to have a desire to enjoy the dubious street credibility which comes with being involved in organised gang activity.
The series, presented by legendary radio host Angie Martinez, shows how the two were brought together by ego and the lust for fame. 6ix9ine (real name Daniel Hernandez), wanted the perceived clout of gang affiliation. Meanwhile, Treyway, and in particular the enforcer Kifano “Shotti” Jackson, saw the musician as a meal ticket and used him to buy drugs and guns. This would prove to be a match made in hell! The gang fuelled Takeshi’s sense of invincibility, acting as his own personal hit squad to deal with his beefs. They even documented many of their crimes on Instagram and in group chats. In one case, 6ix9ine had himself filmed ordering a murder attempt on the rapper Tadoe. For over a year, he combined a burgeoning celebrity career with overt, violent criminality— backed up by a gang of much older and scarier hoodlums.
But all the non-stop gunplay and running the streets, caught the attention of the biggest gang of them all- the government! In a delirious series of events, Takeshi fell out with Treyway, who then attempted to have him killed. However, they were already all under surveillance by the FBI and were arrested on racketeering charges. In prison, 6ix9ine notoriously flipped on the gang and in a shocking trial sang like a canary, outlining extensive details about their inner workings in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Within a few years, he had completed the trajectory from internet agitator to the most notorious, derided snitch in rap history. Infamous digs deep into the details of this bleakly compelling tale, while also dwelling into how social media and the music industry tactility encouraged 6ix9ine’s destructive and abusive behaviour. The series also explores the broader cultural ramifications of this salacious true crime story. What characterised 6ix9ine was not musical talent or creative drive, but a complete lack of shame. The series notes his multiple parallels with Donald Trump, who used hate-filled trolling to grift his way into the presidency. He was willing to do anything to win viral fame, no matter the morality or potential consequences. It is these broader cultural resonances which make Infamous a disturbing cautionary tale for the social media age.