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