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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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P Diddy promotes his new Diddy Dirty Money single 'Coming Home' and his headphones DiddyBeats at HMV, Oxford Street on January 20, 2011 in London, England.
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'The Last Train To Paris' Turns 10: Revisit Diddy's Aug./Sept. 2010 VIBE Cover Story

YOU EVER WATCH a control freak mellow out? It’s fascinating. When said micromanager is Sean “Puffy” Combs, it’s an enlightening ordeal altogether. Sitting at trendy Asian eatery Philippe Chow in New York City, two days before LeBron James announces that he’s taking his show to South Beach, Combs has talking points: impact and legacy. “This ain’t a regular run,” says Combs of his two-decade laundry list of accomplishments. “I’m saying that in the most humble way possible. I’m me and I’m seeing it. Most times the impact of what you do you don’t even live to see it.”

He’s the only patron seated for the evening, lounging at a table that comfortably seats eight. This is clearly a Sean John zone. His voice remains even, but the arrogance skyrockets. “It trickles over into sports. It goes into the way the free agent negotiations are going. [Athletes] have that belief. But that level of confidence as Black businessmen wasn’t really there. Unforgivable swagger. That shit wasn’t there.”

Translation: Sean believes that his ambition has been infectious. In his “humble” opinion, his drive has taught the have-nots that not only can they have, but they can be gluttonous and acquire wealth rather than riches. Will it ruin his day if people don’t agree? Not really. But he’d still like the legacy to be accurately documented. His reactionary reflexes have given way to him thinking long term, which could be why he’s unfazed by trivial shots like 50 Cent’s claims of having nude pictures of his artist Cassie. He’s more interested in guiding careers—Rick Ross, Red Cafe and Dirty Money, among them. And really, he’d like to do square biz and have your kids’ kids respect him like his contemporaries admire Warren Buffet. That would truly be money in the bank. In the meantime, he wants to mellow with a plate of chicken satay and talk Diddy legacy.

VIBE: You have said that rap’s heavyweight class consisted of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Drake. Do you still believe that?

Diddy: Definitely. I feel like Drake is somebody that entered professionally in the heavyweight division. He didn’t come in as a middleweight, he didn’t come in as a light heavyweight, he came in as a heavyweight. He’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with for a while. He is the definition of a new age musical rapper . . . going forward a lot of rap artists are going to have [singing and rapping] in their repertoire.

What’s the ranking in that heavyweight division?

Jay, Kanye, Wayne, and Drake.

Jay still No. 1?

Hands down as far as worldwide impact and due to this last album [The Blueprint 3]. He’s moved up in the rankings.

People don’t realize that you two are friends and not just industry acquaintances.

Over the years as we’ve grown, Jay and I have needed each other. We’ve needed to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody that can understand what each other was going through. We needed each other to motivate each other; we needed each other to push each other. We needed each other to support each other and also to challenge each other. He’s definitely been a great friend to me. There’s never been anything that I’ve asked him to do or he’s asked me to do that we really haven’t done for each other.

Give an example of when you had to pick up the phone and call Jay for assistance.

I wanted to do something game-changing with Sean John. And I just picked his brain. I did [a fashion line] before him but I think that business-wise he did a lot of things better than me. He picked the right time to get out and get his check, to sell his company. We sat on the phone and talked about itŃput our egos in our pockets. I didn’t see Sean John versus Roc-A-Wear. I just saw that my man over here is doing it [and I had] a couple of offers for Sean John. It was a beautiful conversation, ‘cause we’re sitting down at this restaurant and we’re talking about apparel. We’re not talking about music. It was a beautiful moment. Two quarter-of-a-billion dollar companies—just getting advice from your competitor. It was something that you heard rich White boys do.

Dr. Dre said that the last beat that floored him was “All About the Benjamins.” How does that make you feel?

It’s humbling. I was in the studio with Dre the other day. He started working on a record for me. Watching him as a producer is watching greatness. We had a lot of similar traits. It was like looking in the mirror. He would ask questions like, “How you feel about this?” People don’t really understand true producers want to know how you feel about things. We are some of the most observant people on the planet.

You’re a lot more into the music now than the last time we spoke.

I was waiting to get a lot of inspiration from the outside and it just wasn’t coming. And I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle that’s out there. I just come from musical history that musically people gave more of themselves . . . I was able to go back and listen to all the great records that I made. I ain’t do it on purpose. Like sometimes I’d be in a club and the DJ was just throwing tributes and would go deep in the crates. I would be like, “Damn, I forgot that I made that one.” It just gave me a deep connection and another level of confidence for me to do me.

Are you feeling more comfortable writing on your own?

Yeah. I learned a lot more. I feel a lot more confident and free. On this album, I wrote like maybe two or three records by myself. But I still like writing with somebody. It helps me. Not using it as a crutch, but I get better results from co-writing; having my own feelings and thoughts, and, you know, getting some help with it. I love the feeling of collaboration, community in the studio. I don’t like being the mad scientist and being in the room by myself.

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Desus & Mero Bless A Bronx Bodega With A Year's Worth of Rent

You know them as the hosts of the hit Showtime series Desus & Mero, aka "the greatest show in late-night history, featuring only illustrious guests." These days you might catch them chatting with President Obama, but  Bronx natives Desus Nice and The Kid Mero have never lost touch with their roots as the Bodega Boys.

"On our first podcast me and Mero used to have to ride the train back afterward," recalls Desus. "And basically our conversation on the train sounded exactly like the podcast. And somebody was like, 'Yo, they sound like two guys you hear in the bodega.' Which was true, because when you hear guys in the bodega, they talk very passionately about things. They may not have all the facts, but they're talking with their hearts."

"Their confidence is strong!" adds Mero with a laugh.

"That's just us," says Desus. "We're raised in bodegas. Probably 90 percent of the food we grew up eating was either our mother's cooking or chopped cheese sandwiches."

"Facts," Mero confirms.

Ever since the pandemic hit, New York City's community bodegas have served as a lifeline by providing New Yorkers with daily necessities, especially in neighborhoods where door-to-door gourmet food delivery is not an option. But staying open hasn't been easy—the daily risks of doing business under threat from a deadly virus—not to mention a spike in robberies and violence—has made running a bodega very challenging, to say the least. But day in day out, in good times and bad, they find a way to keep their doors open.

"If your block is the solar system, the bodega is the sun," says Mero. "The hood orbits the bodega."

So when the makers of Pepsi cola decided to give back on the bodega owners who provide life-giving sustenance and ice-cold soda to NYC's five boroughs, they reached out to the Bodega Boys as their official goodwill ambassadors. Today Desus & Mero appear in a short film called The Bodega Giveback, which highlights the way one Bronx bodega overcame extreme hardship—and the way Pepsi is helping them keep going after 2020 comes to an end.

For Juan Valerio and his son Jefferson, the proprietors of JJN Corp Deli & Grocery in the Bronx, 2020 has been a horrible year. Juan still remembers when he came to America with his father in 1990. "To buy a bodega at that time was well over $100,000," Juan recalls in the short film, which you can watch above. "It was a dream that seemed unreachable. I never thought I would achieve it. And now this is what I do. My whole life is here."

Then in April 2020, tragedy struck when Juan's father lost his life to COVID 19. For the first time in three decades, the bodega had to close its doors down briefly. "It’s something very powerful to lose what you love the most in a split second," Juan recalls with emotion as his son comforts him with a hug. "Life goes on. And I decided to come back because he always taught me to work. To stay closed was disrespectful to him."

"He had to shut down for a little bit," says Desus. "But then he reopened cause the community needed him. Cause the lockdown a lot of stores closed down. And in the Bronx, you can't really get stuff delivered. And he's the hub. We heard stories of what he did, so we were like, how can we give back to him? Shout out to Pepsi with the Bodega Giveback. And just giving him a year's rent—that's the most amazing thing you can give a bodega owner. Shout out to Juan and his son. The look on their face when they really get it—you see the appreciation."

"It really hit home," said Mero. "Cause it's like, we're children of immigrants. So that could have been us—if we didn't get seen by the right people and put in the right positions, we coulda been workin' alongside our dad at a bodega. And then watchin' your grandfather pass away and then comin' back because you know how important you are to the community. Like, that's really selfless. It's just a dope story. And those stories occur all over the place, it's just people don't see them. Cause they don't get exposed on a national level. But a brand like Pepsi can put that on a national stage and be like,  "Yo, look—this is a mom and pop establishment for real. And these are the small businesses that you supposed to be supporting."

The release of The Bodega Giveback kicks off a larger holiday giveback from Pepsi this season that includes cash gifts to bodega owners and consumers across NYC's five boroughs.  “Pepsi has so many longstanding bodega partners in New York City,” said Umi Patel, CMO of North Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America. “They are not only pillars of the community, but they have gone above and beyond to take care of their loyal customers during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have worked around the clock to stay open, filling shelves to ensure their customers, friends, and family have the essentials they need to stay home and stay safe. They have even shifted their businesses to meet the needs of the community, offering new delivery options, adding crucial items like masks and gloves, and more, all while dealing with their own personal challenges of the pandemic. We are proud to do our part in giving back to these unsung heroes.”

From now until December 20, Pepsi will also be surprising customers at local bodegas across the five boroughs by gifting pre-paid credit cards of up to $100.00 per customer.

As Juan says in the film, "one hand washes the other, and with both, we wash our face."

Check out our full convo with Desus & Mero above and the short film, The Bodega Giveback.

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Courtesy of Level.com

Level Announces Their 'Best Man 2020 Awards' Featuring Entertainment Elite to Everyday Kings

It is a hard feat for media brands to survive the content landscape these days. To pull off the incredible undertaking of informing an audience as a new publication in the digital space is damn near impossible, yet the team at Medium's Level has done just that. To celebrate making their mark as a one-stop information shop for black men with their one-year anniversary this week, the team of bright and witty editors has launched their first annual Best Man Awards 2020.

The plan to honor the brand that started in December of 2019, focused on the interests of African-American males, has expanded into encompassing the efforts of a few good men during this mess of a year that is 2020. In doing so, those that broke through barriers of personal pain, new business frontiers, and support of others are highlighted and given the rightful pedestals to gain well-deserved props.

Of the 12 awards, esteemed gents like Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and D-Nice are saluted as Quarantine Kings for their Verzuz and Club Quarantine (respectively) social media music creations that entertained the masses during the dogged days of our universal shut-down. There is also a heroic soul of a man who protected a black woman and her family from the surrounding presence of racist neighbors on his own time and dime. They have an award for Father of the Year, where former NBA all-star and champion, Dwyane Wade shines as a glowing example of understanding and ushering in new ways of parenting in today's society.

With the awards being a noble move towards giving Black men some much-needed praise in 2020, Level made sure to round up the last 365 days with themes on "The State of Black and Brown Men" as well. Essays that cover the realms of political ideology, coping with covid among Blacks health care workers,  how Black men fell short of protecting Black women, and exploring what Black men see when they look in the mirror (a piece that is a user-generated content driver/audience-led convo). All hard topics that need to be detailed, yet are rarely in a space for deep-dive convo.

Helmed by former VIBE editor-in-chief, Jermaine Hall, Level's editors explain their thoughts on the special coverage and celebration of their one year old brand:

“With the Best Man Awards, we wanted to lean into people who are doing incredible things to support society and publicly thank them. Anthony Herron, Jr is a hero. He stepped up to protect someone he didn’t know because, as he saw it, harassment is unacceptable. LEVEL wanted to make sure he received a nod for his heroics. But there are also several celebrities who are doing things outside of their jobs. D-Nice, Swizz, and Timbaland helped us cope through music. And it wasn’t a paid gig for any of them. They responded because people needed help healing so they provided care. That’s a strong attribute of the LEVEL man. It’s certainly is the definition of men being their best selves."

Click here to read about these individuals and learn more about the Best Man Awards 2020. Excelsior to Level.


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