“The world is a game”
SPOILERS for anyone who hasn’t seen all three episodes of Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6ix9ine. (But even so, if you read through this whole article, there’s still so, so much more to be seen.)
If you like a story where a genuinely villainous person gets exactly what they deserve in the end, this may not be the documentary for you. But if you like watching a truly reprehensible guy with no moral filter shout his way to superstardom and salt the earth behind him then friend, pull up a seat and get comfortable because we’re about to dive into Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 6ix9ine.
Billed as an “unauthorized documentary,” this three-part docu-series gets intimate with Daniel Hernandez, a smiling, egoless high school bodega cashier and follows his rapid transformation into the violent, brash, gun-toting rapper, Tekashi 6ix9ine. It’s a fascinating journey through the mind of a man who is called a genius and a menace in almost equal measure.
The story is told through videos and pictures taken almost exclusively from social media. Outside of a few interviews and a voiceover to keep the narrative on track, a large majority of the footage appears to be either found online or supplied by people who were there.
Now, social media can be an amazing tool. It has, quite literally, brought the entire world together on a more or less equal platform. Given a voice to the unheard. But therein lies the rub. A platform that wide can be used for ill instead of for good. For instance, there’s this story about a guy who filmed himself cutting off his buddy’s penis in the hopes the video would go viral.
Nothing like genital mutilation for the sweet, sweet likes.
And after all, posting things online about yourself is narcissistic behavior. And someone with nefarious intentions using a worldwide bullhorn for nefarious deeds… well, that’s just villainous.
The big theme running through this doc is the effect social media can have on someone’s stardom. Anyone with a smartphone and a limitless ego already has everything they need to build a stairway to fame and fortune. Tekashi 6ix9ine doesn’t exist without social media.
But you can’t just put yourself out there to the world as is because the world doesn’t get excited for Daniel Hernandez. They want Tekashi 6ix9ine. So, if he wants to take over the world, first he needs to build a persona.
Comedian Marc Maron, on his podcast WTF, refers to creating your comedy persona as “building your clown.” Even though Marc Maron performs as “Marc Maron” whenever he does stand up, the man on stage is a whole different beast from the man in reality. That’s the way it is with most entertainers, they have a stage persona, a clown. And Tekashi 6ix9ine is no exception. So, who was Daniel Hernandez before Tekashi 6ix9ine?
We meet Daniel Hernandez through an interview with Sara Molina, billed as Daniel’s “first girlfriend.” She paints the picture of a sweet, loving young man. People on the block where Daniel grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn say he was polite and had “no ego.”
So, what happened?
“Everything I do is for a reason.”
Daniel’s father becomes a heroin addict and is kicked out of the house, leaving Daniel and his mother to fend for themselves. Often they go to sleep crying and hungry. His mother eventually remarries and Daniel begins to see his stepfather like a “superhero.” They go to movies together and it starts to seem like things are looking up. Sadly, the picture posted above says “trauma” and not “hope.”
In 2010, when Daniel is thirteen, his stepfather is murdered going on a trip to the supermarket. Things started to change for Daniel. He realizes superheroes could die. That’s when he decides to become a villain.
“We live in an attention economy.”
– Adam 22, journalist and podcast host of No Jumper
Being a supervillain is all about having a look. One that strikes terror into the hearts and minds of the public at large. Tekashi references the Joker at one point, putting the clown prince of crime on a pedestal, saying that though we know he’s a villain, we’re still somehow drawn to him, unable to pull away.
Tekashi didn’t grow up listening to rap. He doesn’t know the history. At the end of the series, one of the gang members interviewed is asked if Tekashi had contributed anything to the culture of rap and without hesitation, the answer is, “Nothing. At all.”
But apparently, that doesn’t matter. Neither does the fact that Tekashi, by his own admission, is a shit rapper. Per one of his collaborators, 6ix9ine referred to his own music and lyrics as “dirt” and “trash.” Plus, he was more into punk and metal growing up. So why rap?
Because he knew rap had a bigger platform, a better launching pad to superstardom. He wants to be known no matter what. But how can he stand out in an overly crowded rap landscape when he, by his own admission, sucks?
He’s going to make his appearance unforgettable. With rainbow hair, face tattoos, and explosively colorful attire to match, one can’t help but be taken aback by his look. It reminds me of the scene in Cape Fear where the detective investigating Robert DeNiro’s character says, “I don’t know whether to look at him or to read him.” When asked by his local barber why he has so many tattoos, the reported response from Tekashi was, “It will make me famous.”
And thus, Daniel Hernandez finds his clown.
“It’s like he goes into character, you know. He goes into Tekashi 6ix9ine.”
– Billy Ado, Nine Trey Blood Member
Now that he has an appearance, he needs to burst onto the scene in a big way. For that, we come back around to social media. While Tekashi’s lyrics and music may be garbage (I’m paraphrasing), everyone agrees that his videos are “fire.” Because of that, Tekashi is introduced to another rap artist and CEO of Treyway Records, Seqo Billy. Seqo Billy sees the potential in Tekashi’s videos and decides to join forces. That collaboration results in a Tekashi music video for a song called Gummo.
At the time of this writing, that video’s been watched by over 383 million people.
But the collaboration with Seqo Billy gives Tekashi something else. See, Seqo Billy is part of the Nine Trey Gangsters, a subsect of the Bloods. So, when it comes time to shoot Tekashi’s video, Seqo brings a few dozen of his Nine Trey buddies to stand behind Tekashi and dance and wave red bandanas and flash guns. This gives Tekashi something much more desirable to him than just the music video…it gives him a brand. And a big one. With the Bloods behind him, he now has clout and a realness so that the rap community HAS to sit up and take notice.
“That’s fucking Danny? The bodega boy?”
– Adam Lucas, graffiti artist, aka Hanksy
Every villain has a weapon. While talk of gangs might bring up images of guns and knives, it’s something far more powerful that Tekashi uses.
The cell phone.
Rarely is Tekashi seen without his phone in his hand, filming himself either in an expletive, n-word riddled tirade against his haters or hanging with the Nine Trey Bloods, flashing gang signs, and hyping up the Treyway record label.
It’s social media. It’s the likes. It’s giving cocaine to a mouse and then watching it hit the button for more over and over and over again while its brain melts out of its ears. And remember, supervillains all have a mission. And for Tekashi, his mission is only focused on one thing.
Attention. Tekashi is sometimes called (and calls himself) King of the Trolls. He’s unafraid to call out anyone on social media, using his favorite phrase, “Suck my dick.” It’s not because he has any real beef with anyone, it’s just because he wants the attention. He wants the eyes on him so he can make his next move, inch his agenda forward.
“In a way, he’s like a little mad-ass genius.”
– Seqo Billy, CEO Treway Records, Nine Trey Blood Member
The question you may be asking is if Tekashi 6ix9ine is such a bad guy, why don’t places stop reporting on him and stop playing his music? Because it wouldn’t matter. Tekashi already has his own platform…and here comes that damn phrase again…social media. Tekashi has a direct pipeline straight into the brains of millions of kids around the world. And they all take whatever he says to be gospel, whether it’s true or not. Even when it emerges that Tekashi was arrested and given four years probation for sexual misconduct with a minor, it doesn’t even cast a shadow on him in the eyes of his fans. He lies about it and they believe him.
You can’t have a successful agenda without enablers. And Tekashi is lucky enough to have millions of them. And while the quality of his music can certainly be called into question, the one thing that can’t be denied is that the guy has a lot of “charisma and star-factor.” The sold out shows back this up. That’s a massive army carrying out his message.
“I mean, it seems like he’s really willingly embracing being a piece of shit.”
-Adam 22, journalist and podcast host of No Jumper
As stated in the documentary’s voiceover narration, done by Giancarlo Esposito, villains love being villains. Tekashi shows up with some of the Nine Trey Blood members in LA and as they come out to the curb at LAX, a fight breaks out. And TMZ is there to get the whole thing on tape and plaster it all over social media.
There it is, right before our eyes, Tekashi in a street brawl with known blood gang members for all the world to see. When stepped to, he doesn’t back down. Now he’s got street cred. He’s got clout. He’s got notoriety.
And that’s when Tekashi 6ix9ine is kidnapped.
He’s kidnapped in order to relieve him of a bunch of his jewelry he has back at his house. Problem is, this was an inside job. The guy kidnapping and robbing him is a fellow member of the Nine Trey Bloods. Seems like Tekashi hadn’t been paying this guy the way he thought he needed to be paid.
After that, Tekashi starts to get paranoid about the people hanging around him and he cuts bait with a lot of them. The circle around him gets smaller and smaller. Tekashi becomes more paranoid and even has a moment of reflection about whether or not “the game” is more important than family, than having a tomorrow. We’re made to believe he really is considering hanging everything up.
But then, they play a show at Jay-Z’s Made in America festival and they bring down the house, so there goes that idea.
“He put the pillows over my face so I wouldn’t scream.”
-Sara Molina, mother of Tekashi’s child
But the paranoia doesn’t end there, because while Tekashi’s out of the country on his tour, the FBI raid his house and find an automatic rifle. One that belongs to his new number two, a guy who goes by the name Shotti. Is it a setup?
Not only that, but Shotti’s been getting close with Tekashi’s baby mama, Sara Molina. So, you add paranoia, endless money, lack of consequences, the ignorance of youth, a massive ego, and now jealousy into the same pot and stir it up. The outcome can never be good. This time it’s no exception. We listen to a harrowing story from Sara as she recalls a disgustingly atrocious account of domestic violence committed by Tekashi.
So then, Tekashi fires everybody on his team. He even goes so far as to say “Fuck Treyway,” which is the worst thing he could possibly do. According to Tekashi’s DJ, DJ Pvnch, “When you say ‘Fuck Treyway,’ you just dissed a thousand people.” And if that many people are mad at you, you better believe retribution is coming.
Now, I casually glossed over mentioning the FBI a couple times. But it should be noted, this is the case they were working on —
Kind of a big deal. And after publicly dissing Treyway on social media, Tekashi gets taken into custody by the FBI. They get him on RICO and firearms charges along with conspiring to commit drug deals, armed robberies, and shootings. Two of those charges come with a maximum penalty of life in prison. And thus ends the story of Tekashi 6ix9ine. He keeps his mouth shut and does his time like a good soldier.
Jk, jk, he rats everybody out.
“He might be the most famous cooperator and snitch to ever walk the face of the earth.”
– DJ Pvnch, 6ix9ine’s DJ
Not only does Tekashi rat out eleven of his former gang members, he agrees to cooperate after only twenty-four hours in prison. The range of time his snitchees get is between four and a half and twenty-four years.
Tekashi gets 8 months.
After which, he decides to turn his life around and — haha, no, he’s back on his bullshit.
Tekashi now spends his days in a heavily guarded suburban safe house, shouting the same trolling videos to his haters and showing just how much money he has. And he has all of that because of the fans. They enable him to keep going. Social media feeds his ego and thirst for more. The second single Tekashi releases from house arrest goes number one on the billboard charts.
But, one week later, it drops to number thirty-four. His next album sells seventy-five percent less than projected. As No Jumper podcast host Adam 22 states, “The appetite [of the fans] is more for authenticity and talent over, sort of, sensationalism.”
It appears Tekashi’s come to the end of his bag of tricks.
“He’s a product of the time.”
– Brendan Klinkenberg, Senior Editor, Rolling Stone
Giancarlo Esposito narrates, “Supervillains are a reflection of the society that creates them.” Brendan Klinkenberg from Rolling Stone magazine predicts it’s only a matter of time before there are more people like Tekashi who rise to fame on a rapidly accelerated timeline due to the power of social media.
And as the series closes, with Tekashi in the infinity pool, in an expensive house, with an amazing view of the city, he leaves one last message to his haters, those people who might be trying to look for him, people who may want to hurt him, who want retribution for what he’s done.
“By the time I upload this (video), I’m already gone.”
And we go out on the echoing laughter that only a supervillain can provide.