It’s ironic how integral Instagram has become for musicians in 2019 — especially rappers. The platform, designed primarily as a sort of online photo album to share pictures and videos, has become the foremost item in the rap promotion toolbox. More and more rappers rely on the app to promote their music and build their fan bases than ever; some rappers owe their entire careers to Instagram, which gave them a space to showcase their personalities way before they were able to show off their talents.
However, as Instagram adds features to help artists connect with fans, there is one aspect of the app which is as likely to blow them up for the wrong reasons than the right ones: Instagram Live. On the surface, the live-chat function seems like it‘d be the perfect promotional tool, giving stars the means to respond to fan queries in real time and showcase their more intimate, behind-the-scenes moments, unfiltered and improvised. The problem is, it’s those off-the-cuff moments that have become rappers’ worst nightmares.
For some artists, the problem with sharing so many candid moments can be legal. Of course, the biggest example is Tekashi 69, the Brooklyn rapper who rose to fame by playing the outrageous provocateur, only to end up paying the piper with a potential 20-year sentence in federal prison. Tekashi lived his life through livestreams, opening the curtain for fans to see into his debaucherous existence and leering into his phone’s camera to taunt and cajole critics, rivals, and anyone else he thought would bring him a little more fame.
It was this constant jostling for attention that eventually set him up to take the ultimate fall, as fans watched him trade threats with Chief Keef, Casanova, and members of gang sets all across the United States. This propensity for constantly documenting his experiences in real time only made prosecutors’ jobs that much easier; as they slapped him with multiple charges of racketeering including firearms violations for separate violent incidents in which members of his Nine Trey set shot at Casanova’s crew and Chief Keef’s cousin on his orders, all the evidence they needed was right there on Tekashi’s Instagram.
Even when admissions of wrongdoing don’t lead to charges, they can wreak havoc on an artist’s public image, as Cardi B found out when an old Live chat resurfaced along with an inflated outrage at the implication that she was “as bad as Bill Cosby” for drugging and robbing clients during her stripper days (just for the record, no she isn’t “as bad as Bill Cosby” for robbing clients, although she definitely broke the law). Once upon a time, Cardi’s gift of gab and glowing personality on her live fan chats helped make her a star. Now, she openly laments about having to self-censor, since anything she says can be used against her.