Tekashi 6ix9ine, newly out of prison, is already back on social media. And he has new music coming. But there are still endless questions about how the rainbow-haired rapper who captured the world’s attention in 2018 will adjust to a music and media landscape that is very different than when he first went behind bars. Will people still care about Tekashi? And what are the best ways for him to stay in the public eye—and stay out of trouble?
When news broke that 6ix9ine is now in home confinement, Complex spoke with his first producer; his spiritual advisor; a good friend of his former manager and Nine Trey Bloods “big homie” Kifano “Shotti” Jordan; a media personality who gave him his first big break; and a veteran gang cop who has watched the saga from afar.
Producer Jordan Granados discovered Tekashi 6ix9ine early on, years before “Gummo” made him into a star. He made the beats for some of 6ix9ine’s earliest tracks, and even acted as a publicist, sending emails to publications Complex (“17 Year Old Hispanis [sic] Rapper From Bushwick, Brooklyn,” reads one 2014 message).
Granados thinks that the world being stuck inside will give 6ix9ine an opportunity to show his true strength as an online personality. Rather than releasing music, the producer suggests that his old friend should try Twitch streaming, IG Live, or anything else that would allow him to talk unfettered. And the sooner the better.
“The fans have been foaming at the mouth for him to come back,” Granados explains. “Now that everyone's quarantined, they can finally enjoy him.” He says also that instead of hopping on songs with Young Thug and Nicki Minaj like he used to, 6ix9ine should collab with YouTubers like KSI and Logan Paul.
When the time comes to make music, the producer also recommends that Tekashi, who is contracted to do a Spanish-language album, should spend most of his time in that lane.
“I wouldn't suggest he make the same kind of music because the fans are going to be like, ‘Oh yeah you can't make that gang shit anymore,’” Granados says. “He should focus on Spanish music. Why? Because it's going to be hard for him to do shows in America. I would want him to do Latin music and just dominate that market. He can pull it off. I don't think he saw it as a lane when he first started his career, but it definitely grew into that.”
Ultimately, Granados feels that the current climate, quarantine and all, is perfect for Tekashi.
“He's made for the online world. If I was him, I’d focus on releasing singles, build that TikTok, do streams, and he'll be bigger than anybody.”
Adam22 isn’t quite so sure. The No Jumper host came across 6ix9ine early, featuring him in a wild March 2017 video that also included the rapper Schlosser. Like Granados, Adam acknowledges that 6ix9ine’s history as a cooperating witness in a federal case means that he can no longer shout out gangs in his songs.
“Nobody is going to want to hear about how gangster you are,” he writes via email. “We all know you’re a pussy. You snitched. You gotta wear that for life.”
But, Adam continues, 6ix9ine will live a different life than many cooperators.
“Before, 6ix9ine’s value proposition was that he was crazy, fearless and seemingly invincible. The question is, does the world give a f*ck about a 6ix9ine who can’t act hard anymore?”
“I know people in his position who can never come home,” he adds. “Dudes in L.A. who snitched and now they gotta go live with some family members in a flyover state because if they pop up in the hood again somebody is gonna kill them, and even if that doesn't happen, nobody in their hood has any respect for them anymore so they wouldn't want to come back. 6ix9ine's got money and fame which will ultimately insulate him from a lot of the stuff that normally happens to snitches.”
Adam brings up the biggest question of all. What’s the appeal of a 6ix9ine who can no longer afford to be reckless?
“Before, 6ix9ine’s value proposition was that he was crazy, fearless and seemingly invincible. The question is, does the world give a fuck about a 6ix9ine who can’t act hard anymore?”
There’s at least one person who’s more concerned with 6ix9ine’s spiritual outcome than his commercial one. Bishop Lamor Whitehead is a Brooklyn spiritual leader who connected with 6ix9ine in 2018. He had the rapper speak at his church, and has even showed up at court to support him.
Whitehead says he doesn’t expect 6ix9ine to pull a Kanye and stop making secular music (“You can't just jump off the building and start to be a gospel rapper unless that's your calling,” he tells Complex.) But Whitehead does think, for the sake of both his spiritual and physical well-being, that 6ix9ine needs to turn over a “complete new leaf” both personally and professionally.
“He needs to religious-ize his entire life, because that’s the only way there’s going to be a turnaround. If he goes any other way, he’s going to be in danger,” the bishop says. “I believe his music has to change. I'll be looking for him to change his characteristics, change his lifestyle. Everything has to change. He has to have tunnel vision and believe that God has something greater for his life.”
Edwin Santana has more earthly concerns. Santana is a veteran gang cop and a chapter president of the East Coast Gang Investigators Assocation. He thinks the “lucky devil” attention-seeking rapper should do something uncharacteristic—stay out of the spotlight, since members of the Blood set he betrayed are going to want revenge. “A lot of people are going to be hunting,” he says, frankly.
Using Instagram and other social media? Not a good idea, Santana cautions. There’s always a chance that a video could reveal a street sign or a landmark that would reveal 6ix9ine’s now-secret location.
“Everyone’s going to be tracking him,” the gang cop concludes. “The good guys and the bad guys and the fans.”
Well, not everyone. Naji Grampus, the host of the hip-hop interview show Cigar Talk, is more ambivalent. Grampus is close to 6ix9ine’s former manager Kifano “Shotti” Jordan, who is currently locked up until 2031 for crimes that he committed to promote his former protegé’s career. Naji says that, as someone in hip-hop media, he’s bound to see 6ix9ine’s exploits. But because he’s seen the human cost of the rapper’s cooperation up close, he has a different opinion than most.
“I can’t say I’m particularly looking to see anything from him, to be honest,” Grampus says. “Where I stand, I feel like he knew the game that he was participating in. And I just don’t respect the actions.”
For more about Tekashi 6ix9ine, check out the Complex/Spotify podcast 'Infamous: The Tekashi 6ix9ine Story,' narrated by Angie Martinez.