The tale of Tekashi 6ix9ine is a complicated one, to say the least. The rapper, born Daniel Hernandez, infiltrated the world of hip-hop by becoming the clown prince of rap. He leveraged his polarizing persona (and ability to troll other artists) to become a constant topic of conversation. 6ix9ine’s ascent was paused, however, when he was arrested on racketeering, weapons, and drugs charges in 2018, due to his affiliation with the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods.
6ix9ine’s subsequent escape from a life sentence (in part, by snitching on his fellow Nine Trey gang members) is a story that’s just as chaotic as his rap career, and trying to make sense of it all is a daunting task. That’s where Shawn Setaro comes in. The journalist, podcaster, and author of the new book, Complex Presents Dummy Boy: Tekashi 6ix9ine and The Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, began reporting on the rapper long before the racketeering charges were brought up against him. Despite having never written a book before, Setaro says Dummy Boy was born out of a realization that after covering 6ix9ine extensively through editorial articles and his podcast, Infamous: The Tekashi 6ix9ine Story, the next logical step was to put all of this information into one cohesive story.
“I didn’t even really think about a book until I was approached by the guy who is now my agent, William LoTurco,” he says. “He hit me up during the trial. He said, ‘I’ve seen your coverage and I think there’s something here. I think we could do a book.’ And I was intimidated, but I thought, ‘You know what, for whatever combination of reasons, I know this material better than anyone else in the world. If I’m ever going to write a first book, it’s going to be about this. And if someone else does it, I’m going to be mad, so let me just try it and see how it goes.’”
Dummy Boy encapsulates the rise and fall of the New York rapper in detail, through first-hand reporting from the courtroom of his racketeering case and interviews from 6ix9ine’s producers, friends, Nine Trey affiliates, and more. The story goes much deeper than just the case and the social media buzz, though, including numerous claims of domestic abuse and a 2015 case where the rapper pleaded guilty to using a child in a sexual performance.
At this point, everyone has an opinion about 6ix9ine, but Setaro attempted to tell the story as objectively as possible. He focused on the facts instead of injecting too many of his own personal thoughts (although he admits “there are little digs that maybe make it clear how I feel about some things”).
To Setaro, 6ix9ine’s career arc represents much larger trends about society today, which is what makes the whole thing so compelling. “I think it’s honestly the hip-hop story of the decade,” he says of 6ix9ine’s rise and fall. “I just don’t know what else compares to it in terms of scope and how we live now and how we’re all in this attention economy. Tekashi is the ultimate example of this, but we’re all guilty of needing that hit of oxytocin when we pick up our phones. ‘Did enough people like my funny observation on Twitter? Did enough people buy my book?’ We’re all caught in this, so it’s really an example of the real cost of this attention economy.”
Now, 6ix9ine has disappeared again, and his Instagram account hasn’t been active since May 2021. So the question now is the same one it’s always been: What will Tekashi 6ix9ine do next? With Dummy Boy available to purchase now, we talked with Shawn Setaro to get that answer, discuss some of the most intense moments in the courtroom during 6ix9ine’s racketeering case, the process of writing the book, and more.