What Are The Lessons To Be Learned In The Tekashi 69 Saga?

Last week, Tekashi 69 testified against his former Nine Trey Gangsta Blood set associates for three days in New York federal court, detailing the crimes they allegedly committed, and his culpability in some of them. Last November, he was arrested along with the New York-based Blood faction in a sweeping RICO indictment. After just a day in custody, and a realization that his former comrades wanted to “super violate” him, he decided to cooperate with the FBI in an effort to lighten his eventual sentence.

Last week’s testimony was a revelation for those who had not read the case’s previously released court documents. If this was the last act for the self-proclaimed “kid with rainbow hair,” he went out exactly the way he lived over the past 24 months: strangling the social mediasphere and news cycle.

There was hysteria over him supposedly “outing” Cardi B, Jim Jones, and Trippie Redd as gang members — despite all three previously acknowledging their ties. There was intrigue as he divulged the inner workings of the Nine Trey set. People joked about him calling Jim Jones — who just released the well-regarded Capo album — a “retired rapper” and, perhaps accidentally, deeming Blood member Mel Matrix the “grandfather” of Nine Trey before clarifying that he was a “godfather.”

His testimony was a spectacle unlike anything ever experienced in hip-hop history. Being a documented government informant would be career suicide for a rapper once upon a time. But there’s a chance Tekashi could receive a lenient sentence, once again pursue his music career, and become a test case for how career-damaging “snitching” really is in 2019. How will the public receive him? Many people have suggested that his story deserves a documentary, book, or biopic. Maybe that’s true. But more immediately, the circumstance deserves a deep, reflective discussion.

His story wouldn’t be frontpage news without a click-hungry hip-hop media who continuously covered his antics (despite his sexual interaction with an underage girl), the record label who co-signed them, and the gang who enforced them in a scheme that blew up in their faces. If hip-hop fans weren’t captivated by drama and trainwrecks, he would have never achieved the cultural visibility that encouraged the next artists to court drama as a marketing plan.

Revolt published an article entitled “Tekashi 6ix9ine’s rise and fall proves there’s no future in frontin.” But that’s not true. 69 was foolish enough to fall in too deep with the Nine Trey set, but had he maintained a healthier distance from their crimes (like other artists who unabashedly wave red and blue flags), he would still be on Instagram inciting violence all over the country — and almost every hip-hop outlet would still be covering the drama for the clicks and shares to be garnered.

While his plight is being framed as a cautionary tale for young artists, it should also stir editors, writers, and other rap media personalities to be more discerning about what we choose to cover. 69 has repeatedly admitted that he only “trolled” to such an extent because it attracted attention. We didn’t have to give to him, especially since it egged him on to spread radioactive energy in social media-curated conflicts with Chief Keef, YG, Game, and others. I previously wrote about the under-considered toll of rap beef, with entourage members fighting and shooting each other in the throes of ego-based conflict. 69’s case includes repeated shooting incidents involving artists like Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Chief Keef, Casanova, and others. How would we feel if one of those artists was seriously injured behind his madness?

The case transcripts show that the Instagram clips that so many outlets shared of 69 screaming threats and urging people to “test his gangsta” could have easily turned into solemn, contrite coverage of another shooting death in hip-hop. Our complicity in stirring the pot should encourage media members to be more responsible and less opportunistic when it comes to covering drama that doesn’t have anything to do with music. But as the current coverage of Young Thug and YFN Lucci’s rift shows, when it comes to drama, the hip-hop community is always laughing until we’re crying.