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Why Tekashi 6ix9ine is a stain on hip-hop

Look at the conversation around ‘GOOBA’; it’s the theater around who he is that’s the draw, not the music

When I look back, I’ll be mad I gave this attention. But this is weighing heavy on my conscience. Word to Aubrey.

Tekashi 6ix9ine, the much embroiled and controversial artist, made his official return to music last weekend: trolling against all odds. First, he hopped on Instagram Live and drew a record 2 million viewers. Then, his ”GOOBA” music video broke the record set by 15-time Grammy-winner Eminem’s “Killshot” for the most views in 24 hours. It seems Tekashi’s as popular now as he’s ever been.

What’s most unsettling is that Tekashi’s return to music came during a truly tragic weekend. It’s never easy to lose a legend, and certainly not three within the span of 72 hours. Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, whose musical fingerprint on ’90s hip-hop and R&B is unparalleled, helping discover legendary acts such as Guy, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G. and, most famously, Sean “Diddy” Combs. And rock ’n’ roll icon Little Richard, who believed, and justifiably so, that he was never given the credit he deserved for helping birth the genre. And R&B soul legend Betty Wright, whose 1971 hit “Clean Up Woman” helped chart the course of Miami funk music, and whose career would ultimately span four decades with deep ties to hip-hop and R&B.

These are three icons who impacted music in a real way and left legacies that’ll speak for generations. So, dedicating energy to an artist who didn’t move me never made sense.

Breaking streaming records does little to validate a musical career already filled with asterisks and disclaimers. His story about participating with federal authorities when he helped take down members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang to avoid a possible life sentence for racketeering charges is, at this point, universally known. Being a snitch is a scarlet letter in hip-hop, and even if he was quasi-warranted in retaliating against those who, as he says, turned on him, it doesn’t erase the people he put in harm’s way long before the federal government came knocking. He wanted to be a gangster. Then it was time to be one. But that isn’t stopping his return; if anything, the drama is fuel. Being a registered sex offender who admitted to a crime that involved a minor — and told police he uploaded the video because “I was doing it for my image” — apparently doesn’t do much to hinder his momentum, either.

Tekashi’s music is a direct complement to the character he is — loud, boisterous, immune and self-indulgent. This isn’t to say a lot of musicians don’t fit the same bill, because they do. But what Tekashi represents as a whole makes him more worthy of a character from Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks. Like “Thugnificent” minus the redeeming qualities and more of a minstrel show. Look at the conversation around “GOOBA”; it’s the theater around who he is that’s the draw, not the lyrics.

Again, I’d rather focus whatever energy I do have on art that matters. Art that’s abundantly significant and rich in cultural sanity. The first time in Billboard history, for example, the top-two slots belonged to female rappers. Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj’s “Say So” took the top spot (also Minaj’s first No. 1) and Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s “Savage (Remix)” grabbed the second slot. The music industry, especially hip-hop, has long been a male-dominated game. Does this mark a changing of the guard? Probably not, but victories are victories nonetheless. Beyoncé once again made history by becoming the first artist with a top 10 record in each decade.

Sadly, Tekashi’s popularity will continue to rise. He’ll parade himself on social media, posing with stacks of money and trolling those who oppose him. But that’s empty. This story won’t end well for anyone involved. And no amount of Billboard placements or shallow YouTube records he breaks adds anything to the culture. It only stains hip-hop.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.