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6ix9ine’s RICO Rap: How Tekashi’s Federal Case Compares To Others, Past And Present

6ix9ine follows a lineage of ballsy rappers toeing the line with their federal crimes.

By now, you’re already aware of 6ix9ine’s arrest and so is just about everyone else. Few stories in rap this year have garnered the kind of wall-to-wall coverage that this one has in a matter of days. As revealed on Monday, the New York rapper born Daniel Hernandez faces federal charges related to racketeering and weapons for his alleged role in the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, as do a number of other apparent members and associates, including some recently fired members of his music management team. If found guilty of even some of the six counts against him, he stands to spend a significant number of years behind bars.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, just two of the firearms charges amount to 32 total years worth of mandatory minimums, with maximum penalties of life imprisonment on the table for either. The remaining four run between three to 20 years apiece max. Apart from some key tabloids and even less scrupulous rap blogs, most of 6ix9ine’s prior antics and legal woes have rarely warranted much attention in reputable publications. Save for the exceptionally fine reporting done at Jezebel, several music and non-music outlets have seemingly shied away from positive or even neutral coverage since his 2017 come up with the viral single “Gummo.” Some of that reluctance has to do with the revelations surrounding a 2015 conviction and plea agreement in which he, a legal adult, admitted to three felony counts related to the sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl. During a long-delayed sentencing last month— which against the prosecution’s wishes ended with probation for 6ix9ine rather than imprisonment and sex offender registration—even more unsettling facts came to light about his participation in these crimes, which he’d shared video of the statutory rape of this minor to social media.

Conversely, new details about 6ix9ine’s emerging RICO case appear to come every few hours, with major national news outlets that previously wouldn’t deign to cover him now sharing every morsel of information to a wider audience. From official actions like U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman denying him bail on Tuesday to juicier speculation about his current general population status in a Brooklyn jail, the stories keep coming. Some of this, assuredly, comes from 6ix9ine’s lawyer Lance Lazzaro advocating on behalf of his client, no doubt well aware of the attention his arrest continues to generate, while further particulars stem from law enforcement. No matter the source, the reportage at least marks a step up from a rap music industry that regularly treats DJ Akademiks and other such news-adjacent personalities’ glorified gossip as gospel.

For those who kept up with his often social media-centered beefs, 6ix9ine insisted repeatedly that he was about that life. Despite his lawyer’s assertions at last month’s sentencing that the rapper was putting on an act for entertainment’s sake, real-life violence has been an incontrovertible constant in the stories surrounding him this year, with gunfire ringing out at video shoots and outside restaurants. We still lack clarity as to what really happened this past July, when he claimed he was assaulted, kidnapped, and robbed in Brooklyn, though the feds could very well know. As such, no one ought to express anything remotely resembling shock that he caught a case like this.

From convicted tax dodgers DMX and Fat Joe to currently pending organized crime drug charges against Atlanta’s Ralo and Philadelphia’s AR-Ab, rappers running afoul of federal law enforcement is the stuff of hip-hop legend and lore. Distinct from criminal cases on the state level, of which scores of artists in this genre have intimate experience with, the ones stemming from branches of the U.S. Attorney’s Office carry relatively more heft. While rappers such as Beanie Sigel have successfully fought in court for their freedom, over the years the feds have secured sentences against some notable names in hip-hop history, including B.G., Gucci Mane, Lil Kim, and, well, Beanie Sigel.

In 2007, while enjoying a high point in his career, T.I. found himself arrested on federal weapons charges, mere hours before a scheduled BET Awards performance. Roughly a year and a half later, much of that time spent on house arrest while facing down some serious prison time, he was sentenced to one year and one day based on a plea agreement that also included a six-figure fine. A big factor in the leniency shown had to do with community service performed prior to the sentencing, no small amount of which involved the rapper speaking and mentoring at schools, boys and girls clubs, and hospitals, among other such locations.

Tip’s demonstrated desire to be a positive force undeniably aided the outcome of his case. Though the following years had some rocky moments like his 2010 probation violating drug arrest, he’s since found success both inside and outside of music. That said, 6ix9ine likely won’t have the same opportunity. His social media presence in the lead-up to his New York sentencing last month in the child sex case was peppered with apparent good deeds, a rather unsubtle attempt to soften his image ahead of that court appearance. Yet if his legal representation continues to fail to secure his bail ahead of trial, that simply won’t be repeatable. And given the severity of the charges against him compared to those levied against T.I. over a decade ago, it stands to reason that he’ll remain locked up until his proverbial day in court.

Simply put, 6ix9ine’s case isn’t enough like T.I.’s but more akin to Bobby Shmurda’s, albeit while currently incarcerated under New York state law rather than federal bears more of a semblance to the circumstances facing his fellow Brooklynite. (Ironically, the two rappers also appear on a track together, “Stoopid,” which peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.) In the wake of 2014’s breakout hit “Hot Ni**a,” he signed with Epic Records and appeared poised to represent his renowned city in a big way, bringing affiliates like Rowdy Rebel and his infectious street single “Computers” into the spotlight as well. By mid-December, both rappers were under arrest, as well as roughly a dozen others in their circle, with police accusing their GS9 Entertainment of being a front for an assortment of criminal activities. Among the charges faced by then-20-year-old Shmurda and his alleged G Stone Crips associates were murder, attempted murder, drug dealing, and firearms possession. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to two weapons charges and accepted a seven-year sentence.

While Shmurda may have been the highest profile member of GS9, the case wasn’t solely about him. It took down multiple men, much like the federal charges against 6ix9ine. Though legal wrangling and a certain amount of back-and-forth can be expected, there are too many people involved for the feds not to be cutting deals eventually, perhaps in exchange for further information or intel to use against Nine Trey members. 6ix9ine seems a likely target for both scenarios, given reports that some of his simultaneously indicted and now estranged co-conspirators sought to “super violate” him, an unseemly metaphor that leaves little to the imagination. Indeed, even if he remains mum, there’s no guarantee others won’t snitch on him both as revenge and to lessen their sentences.

The circumstances facing 6ix9ine and Nine Trey also mirrors other ongoing RICO cases related to rap. Unsealed a month ago, indictments against AR-Ab and another eight of his purported gang members show federal charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy. A joint investigation between the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department purports that since at least March of last year these men, led by the Meek Mill rival and erstwhile Cash Money Records signee, dealt considerable weight in cocaine, crack, heroin, and methamphetamine. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, three members of the Jimmy Wopo associated 11 Hunnit gang were indicted in August by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, and drug trafficking over a three year period. Had it not been for his drive-by shooting death two months prior, the rising rapper would definitely have been charged alongside these men.

All three pending RICO cases share a common trait, alleged criminal enterprises with rappers in positions of prominence. By now, there’s little doubt that the FBI and law enforcement have closely monitored this overlap, exploiting weaknesses and errors revealed by often young participants, parsing interviews, music videos, and even lyrics for evidence. Building RICO cases like these is no small feat, but rappers like 6ix9ine seem to make it easier with every social media post.

 

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Pretty much any coverage of 6ix9ine regrettably fuels his notoriety, again a problematic consequence when considering his prior status as an admitted felon with regard to sexual activity involving a barely teenaged girl. Of course, morality within hip-hop has never been as cut and dry as outside of it. A reflection of the longstanding issues facing people of color in this country that are systematically exacerbated by law enforcement, criminality is something regularly celebrated and admired in rap lyrics and, in turn, in rapper lifestyles. Disproportionate policing and abuses of power both directly and indirectly impact black and Latinx communities across America in negative ways, which has led to the lionization of countless artists in the genre who dare to speak on the realities of urban life while hustling to thrive or even just survive.

Nonetheless, there’s scarcely been much leeway in hip-hop afforded to those who do harm to children, something assuredly verifiable by those who’ve served time alongside convicted sex offenders. While these federal charges bear no obvious relation to 6ix9ine’s aforementioned prior felonies in New York, his character remains forever defined by them, no matter how many times Kanye or Nicki hop on a track with him or otherwise attempt to normalize him. Even if he cops a plea that keeps him from life in prison, that doesn’t change much even if it makes him another hip-hop hashtag hero. This explains why, despite his unfortunate and frustrating popularity, so many people seem to be taking such joy this week in his potential downfall. And given the feds’ track record in taking down rappers, particularly via RICO indictments, 6ix9ine’s undoing seems likely.

READ MORE: Rise To Fame: A Timeline Of Tekashi 6ix9ine’s Controversial Moments

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Beyonce, Jay-Z and Blue Ivy Carter attends the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City.
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An Ode To Jay-Z, The Ultimate Rap Dad

Rap, throughout its history, has always referenced parenthood in some form. Most often, it was to extol single mothers for their goodness while deadbeat fathers were berated and called out for going ghost. In recent years, as the social media landscape has blown open the avenues of communication, famous rap dads, in particular, have become increasingly transparent about their lives as family men. Where years ago there seemed to be endless bars mourning the demise of the father, artists are now using their platform to balance the scales. They’re showing themselves to be present and intentional.

Few albums make me think more about the concept of parenthood, and legacy, than Jay-Z’s 13th studio album, 4:44. It’s a stark and blistering work of memoir, heavy on confession and self-examination. When 4:44 finally dropped, I, like many others, was filled with wonder. How was it that Jay had managed to so fluidly deconstruct everything I’d been wrestling with for the last few years? Though the specifics of our experiences differed greatly, the central ideas dissected on 4:44, especially those concerning fatherhood and family life, had been swimming around my brain for some time.

***

Hip-hop saved my life. And it was fatherhood that set it on fire. This bears explaining.

What hip-hop has done for me, is what it has done for millions of fatherless and heart-wounded kids—it provided, at the very least, the shading of a better life. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, and the value I ascribed to it, it would be impossible to know just how far I’d have settled into the more lamentable aspects of my environment. Forasmuch of a goon as I was growing up, something always kept me from becoming too emotionally invested in harsh crime. I dabbled in mischief like an amateur chef knowing he would only go so far. I saw in hip-hop, in the art of it, something worth pursuing with tenacity; something like a healthy distraction. So I committed to finding my lane.

Though there were brief stints dedicated to developing my modest graffiti skills and footwork, it was the words that flowed and came without struggle. The school cyphers sharpened my wits and compelled me to feed my vocabulary daily. Only my wordplay could save me from getting ripped to shreds in a lunchroom battle. I read books and scoured the dictionary for ammunition, I listened to stand-up comics who fearlessly engaged the crowd and proved quick on the draw. It seemed fruitless to know a billion words if I couldn’t convert them into brutal attacks. I had to break the competition down and render them defenseless, stammering for a rebuttal. There could be no confusion as to my superiority. So instead of joining the stickup kids or depositing all of my energy into intramural sports, I put my soul and mind into the task of taking down all manner of wack MCs. That’s why I say that hip-hop saved me.

But fatherhood was its own saving grace. It showed me that the world did not revolve, nor would it ever revolve, around my passions. Fatherhood put an extra battery behind my back as a creative, sure. But it’s more about being a consistent presence at home than chasing any dream.

***

As an artist and writer, I cannot so much as think about fatherhood without considering some of the material that deals with feelings comparable to those I felt after I became a father. Songs that contextualize very specific emotions over the drums.

In his 2012 track “Glory,” Jay-Z, someone who had long been vocal about his strained relationship with his father, reflects on the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy, his first child with wife Beyoncé. Produced by the Neptunes, “Glory” was released on January 9, just two days after Blue was born. From start to finish, it carries a sort of gleeful melancholy that resonates on multiple levels. While it is, in essence, a comment on the exuberant joy attached with welcoming a child, “Glory” is also a note on death and mourning.

Before Blue came along and flipped the script, Beyoncé had suffered a miscarriage. The pain the couple experienced left them fearful of not being able to conceive. The dual purpose of “Glory” is made clear from the outset, and with blazing transparency. “False alarms and false starts,” offers Jay, laying the groundwork for what immediately follows: “All made better by the sound of your heart.” The second half of the couplet establishes what was, as we come to learn, the most pivotal moment in the rap mogul’s life up until then. The moment where all is made right, where the sting of loss is eclipsed by the possibility of new birth. Jay continues in this mode, shining light on the redeeming gift that is Blue and, also, how the child is a composite of her mother and father, yet more still.

The opening bars of the following verse are equally striking as Jay, addressing Blue, touches on the death of his father from liver failure. Jay is signaling here, leading us somewhere but with the intent to shift gears. Instead of dwelling on his father’s shortcomings like one might expect him to, Jay breaks left, resolving that deep down his father was a good man. What begins as an indictment of a cheat who walked out on his obligations, ends with a declaration of forgiveness and generosity. But Jay soon directs the focus back to his blessing and how hard it is not to spoil her rotten as she is the child of his destiny. It becomes apparent that this is a man at his most self-actualized. A few more welcome digressions and “Glory” closes the same way that it begins, with the final line of the hook: “My greatest creation was you.” This points to something that I, too, came to know as fact. That no matter what I do, and regardless of what I might attain—power, wealth, the esteem of my peers—nothing is quite comparable to the happiness and the terror that comes with siring a child. “Glory” succeeds as it casts aside any traces of bluster and bravado, making room for Jay to unearth lessons that were hard-won yet central to his maturation. And what is the purpose of making art if not to bust open your soul and watch it spill over? Shout out to the rap dads raising babies and doing the work to shift the narrative.

Juan Vidal is a writer, critic, and author of Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture That Shaped a Generation.

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Mike Coppola

The Cast Of 'SHAFT' Talk Family Traditions, Power And The Film's Legacy

Back in 1971, Richard Roundtree became the face of the legendary crime/blaxploitation film SHAFT. His influence in the role paved the way for a new generation of black detectives filled with a gluttonous amount of swag, clever one-liners, and action-packed scenes. Samuel L. Jackson followed suit in the franchise’s 2000 installment as he took over the streets of Uptown Manhattan and Harlem filling in for Roundtree’s original character.

Fast forward to 2019, and SHAFT’s legacy has risen to higher heights, incorporating Roundtree and Jackson together with an extension of their detective prowess. Director Tim Story created a familial driven movie centered around three different generations of SHAFT men. Roundtree plays the grandfather; Jackson plays the dad—and Jessie T. Usher plays the son. All three embark on a mission that’s laced with dirty politics, Islamophobia, and highflying action in efforts to solve a seemingly homicidal death.

The dynamics between all three are hilarious and dotted with lessons learned from past paternal influences. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon at Harlem's Red Rooster, the trio shared some of the traditions and virtues the paternal figures in real life have taught them. Most of the influence passed down to them was centered on working hard.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you work so much?’” Jackson said. “Well, all the grown people went to work every day when I got up. I figured that’s what we’re supposed to be doing—get up, pay a bill, and take care of everything that’s supposed to be taken care of.”

“For my family, it was cleanliness and masculinity,” Usher added. “The guys in my family were always well put together, very responsible especially my dad.”

In spite of the SHAFT men's power, the film's story wouldn’t be what it is without Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp’s characters. They both play strong women caught in the middle of the mayhem created by the men they care about. Both are conscious of the power they exhibit as black women off and on screen, yet are aware of the dichotomy of how that strength is perceived in the world.

“It’s very interesting because I think a lot of times as powerful black women we are seen as angry black women,” Shipp says. “So it’s hard to have that voice and that opinion because a lot of times when we voice it; it becomes a negative rather than a positive. In order to hold that power, it has to be poised. It has to be with grace, I think there is strength in a strong but graceful black woman.”

“People have an idea of what strength is and how you do it and sometimes it’s the subtleties,” Regina adds. “Sometimes our influence is so powerful and it doesn’t always have to be loud I think a lot of times how we navigate is with conviction and patience.”

VIBE chatted with the cast of SHAFT about holding power, their red flags when it comes to dating, and why the SHAFT legacy continues to live on. Watch the interviews below.

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Sony Music

Meet Zhavia, The Musician Who Refuses To Be Boxed In

If you haven’t heard of Zhavia before, that will likely change very, very soon.

The 18-year-old Columbia Records signee is readying her first major EP 17, which is scheduled for June 14. A native of the Golden State, Zhavia catapulted to national consciousness after making it to the top four of the inaugural season of FOX’s singing competition, The Four, which features Diddy and DJ Khaled as judges. Since then, she continues to rise and tantalize audiences with her powerful, chill-inducing vocals.

The singer-songwriter—who tells VIBE she’s hopeful that her forthcoming EP will be “inspiring” to her ever-growing fanbase—dropped the project’s latest single “17” on May 31. Produced by hip-hop hitmaker Hit-Boy and co-written by RØMANS, Zhavia explains that the retrospective song is more personal than her previously-released tracks, such as the trap-tickled “100 Ways” and “Candlelight,” the stand-out single that showcases the vocal prowess of the petite blonde ingenue.

"’17’ is a song that I wrote about my life story, and how I got to where I am right now,” she says. The track details hardships such as a lack of resources to thrive in her childhood home and staying in a motel in order to accomplish her musical goals. “I just wanted it to be something that [fans] can relate to, whatever it is that they're going through.”

“I saw it in my dreams, I knew that life would change for me,” she croons on the new single. “This is reality, look at me now.”

Zhavia’s humble beginnings start in Norwalk, Calif., as a daughter of two musicians who introduced her to numerous genres. In fact, her mother was a member of a metal band called Xenoterra, and Zhavia’s impressively-versatile vocal range could be attributed to this Chex Mix bag of sonic stylings.

“From doo-wop to punk to R&B, metal, rock...” she says, listing of the types of music she was brought up on, which helped her in honing a unique style. Her own tunes feature an R&B and hip-hop flair and sprinkles touches of other genres throughout, in order for her to remain true to her roots.

“I feel like for the most part, [my music will] always have that R&B feel to it, but I'm always gonna have a lot of different vibes for people to pick and choose what they like,” she explains.

Zhavia's urban-tinged musical affinity was palpable during her time on The Four, where she put her spin on hits such as French Montana and Swae Lee’s “Unforgettable” and Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” Although she was unanimously selected by the show’s four celebrity judges to advance after a stellar first-round performance of Khalid’s “Location,” she admits she initially wasn’t planning to compete.

“When I was younger, I had wanted to go on a [singing] show, but I had made up my mind. ‘I'm gonna try to do it myself,’” she chuckles. “But, the people that were having auditions, they happened to be at the studio that I was recording at when I was making my own songs. My manager told me, 'Just go sing for them.'”

After showing off her impressive pipes, she was convinced to join the show, and was further influenced to compete after discovering that The Four appeared to focus on R&B and hip-hop-leaning artists.

“I was like, 'Okay, that sounds like me, they'll probably accept the style of music that I do,'” she continues. “I feel like on other singing shows, it's a little more pop, or towards the pop genre. Also, the panel that they had [DJ Khaled, Diddy, Meghan Trainor and Charlie Walk] seemed really relevant, and I could tell it was legit. I figured I'd just try it out, and it led me to where I am now.”

Since placing fourth on the show, Zhavia has proven that her star power was built to last longer than 15 minutes. Other than her forthcoming EP’s release, her gifts have found her among the company of some big names. She can be heard on the soundtrack for Deadpool 2 in the song “Welcome To The Party” with Diplo, French Montana and Lil Pump. Recently, moviegoers were treated to her rendition of the Disney classic “A Whole New World” with Zayn Malik, for the live-action version of Aladdin, which plays during the film’s end credits.

“I think it's been amazing, and it's definitely a lot of exposure that comes in a unique way,” she says of working on big projects with even bigger industry names. She continues by stating that she’s had a blast “putting her own twist” on songs she didn’t pen and doing material “totally different from what [she] would normally do.”

The pressures of Hollywood and the entertainment industry could be difficult on anyone, however, young stars under the U.S. legal age in the limelight may find themselves succumbing to various pressures, temptations and burnout. For Zhavia, she makes sure to keep a level head and a positive attitude in order to persevere in the industry as she matures.

“I feel like it's not that hard to stay focused, because I've wanted to do this my whole life,” she says affirmatively. “It's what I live for. For me, one of my number one priorities besides my family is music. I don't really go out, I don't party, I don't do none of that. I just work! [Laughs] I think for me, it's just focusing on myself and what I wanna do, and what I wanna get done.” She’s also hoping to keep surprising people throughout her career by coming up with genre-bending songs that show off her style, personality and abilities. Let her do her, and watch her as she goes.

“I'm not gonna be put in a box to do just one type of music or one style of song,” Zhavia affirms. “I don't want people to get used to one thing, you know? That's kind of a hard thing to express to the world. I feel like it comes with me coming up with more music, and to keep creating music for people to listen to and get to know me.”

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