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Tekashi69 freely uses the "n"-word (he's Hispanic) and disrespects rappers, neighborhoods, and cultures. He's been convicted of three counts of sexual misconduct as well and, judging by the glowing praise levied his way in his recent interview with The Breakfast Club by its three hosts, you'd be forgiven if you thought that he won a Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, aside from a very niche community of serious people who are adamant in making sure that he receives the proper public scorn that he deserves, much of the conversation surrounding him is changing; he's not the outrageous looking young man with the mouth of Deadpool. Now, he's an antihero of sort, even if his industry shenanigans continue to grow wilder and more dangerous. He's been put in this precarious place because he's funny. This is potentially disastrous for hip hop and pop culture as we know it, because if we can't hold him accountable because of a few laughs, we're destined for societal ruin.
6ix9ine seldom posts on Twitter. It's a word-driven platform, even with the inclusion of picture and video; his last post was a concert advertisement for Mexico City on October 17. He prefers to navigate through video space because it affords him the chance to showcase the full extent of the braggadocious asshole brand he pushes. To this end, he's an Instagram and Snapchat aficionado, and those exploits bleed into viral Twitter clips as well; media figure DJ Akademiks keeps the Twitterverse alert on Tekashi's every move. He maintains a constant presence that's largely played for laughs—whether he's cursing out a rapper or popping up in a city that he's definitely not welcome in. There's always a believe-this-at-your-own-risk element to what you're seeing. When he went to Chicago's infamous "O-block" to show the city's rappers that were after his head that he had no fear in his heart, he painted the narrative that he was fearless. But security camera footage revealed that, in all actuality, he stepped there at the safest time imaginable; he wasn't fearless, he was smart.
Trolling for Tekashi isn't just an aspect of his brand, it's all of it. He's quick to remind everyone of the success that he's had on the Billboard charts, but that success wouldn't exist without the spectacle behind it. When he acts out, it's lambasted as yet another instance of 6ix9ine proving his braveness. He recorded his own version of "Plug Walk," called "Blood Walk," with a bunch of cartoonish goons throwing up gang signs because it looked hilarious. He antagonized Chicago's drill artists for the hell of it. He made a video criticizing Ludacris as well, masquerading as an early-aughts fashionista to show the world how silly fashion looked then. Just recently, he decided to breakdance in a circle full of security guards while a trite version of Usher and Lil Jon's "Yeah!" played in the background. These acts bring the laughs, which, in turn, bring the fascination with 6ix9ine to a frenzy point, ultimately meaning that his songs pop because of the noise surrounding the music and not the music itself.
These kinds of viral rappers have existed before, but no one manages to ingrain trolling into their core like 6ix9ine has. Often times, the culture laughs at viral idiots; this initially happened with 6ix9ine, but now the culture is turning his way at large to laugh with him. In his quest to takeover meme culture, he's succeeded where others seldom do. Charlamagne tha God, one of hip hop's harshest critics, was initially antagonistic to Tekashi when The Breakast Club first interviewed him in March due to his overbearing antics. But during their second interview last week, the rapper had managed to win him over, with Charlamagne repeatedly calling him an entertaining guy.
This calculated shtick continues to have him evade the financial repercussions of his more questionable actions. He evades "cancel" culture because he can crack enough jokes to make the world giggle until the heat of the situation's over. He calls people the "n"-word while daring people to test him and because, like he said, no one's going to stop him. He's trolled his way into an impenetrable fortress where nothing, save for federal indictments can touch him.
With 6ix9ine continuing to evade public accountability, is "cancel" culture more of a farce than reality? His ability to garner laughs continues to keep him and his music afloat while simultaneously pushing his less-than-ideal side down into the darkness. His on-and-off beef with Trippie Redd resulted with the latter accusing him of rape. Instead of responding to these claims, 6ix9ine made a suggestive video with Redd's ex-girlfriend. The resulting swarm of laughs washed away any concern over these claims and, once again, positioned Tekashi as meme rap's most alluring name.
The only reasonable conclusion from the chaos surrounding 6ix9ine and his career itself is that meme culture is becoming much too strong. The ability to garner laughs erases the accused of having to deal with the fallout from their actions. Going forward, it needs to be addressed. There's a reason that he talks his shit so much because he knows that if he were to ever slip up, he's a meme-able moment away from reclaiming his position. He may not be the best rapper, but he does command the most attention. It's how he's gotten to where he is without traditional cosigns that other artists typically have. He's figured out the way to effortlessly troll in a manner that continuously bolsters his prestige instead of becoming familiar over time.
But we must look past the shenanigans and critique his character itself, as well as his past actions. It doesn't matter if one or two people hold him accountable if the industry at large embraces the jokes. It's time to put meme culture in check before similarly viral-adjacent artists are able to shirk around accountability. Imagine an industry where the ability to generate attention immunizes troublesome celebrities from being held accountable. In many ways, this sounds like today; it may be too late.
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