6ix9ine, the Rapper Behind the Hit 'Gummo,' Is the Latest in a Line of Viral Stars With Troubling Pasts
Note: This story contains descriptions of a felony sex crime involving an underage person.
In October, 21-year-old Daniel Hernandez, under the rap moniker 6ix9ine, made his first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 with his single "Gummo." The Pi'erre Bourne-produced record debuted at No. 58 and amassed over 29 million views on YouTube in just a month's time. This week, it’s climbed to a new peak, reaching No. 13 on the Hot 100.
As listeners were encountering Hernandez's music for the first time, many were also learning that, in 2015, the Brooklyn rapper known for his face tattoos and infamous WorldStar videos pled guilty to three felony counts in New York Supreme Court for use of a child in a sexual performance, stemming from an incident that occurred that same year with an underage girl.
According to a complaint filed by the unidentified victim’s mother, which was secured by Billboard, in February 2015, she spotted three social media videos of her daughter allegedly "having sexual contact with two adult males." The two men in question were identified as Hernandez and a separately-charged defendant, Tyquan Anderson. The complaint details the alleged victim engaging in "oral sexual intercourse" with Anderson while Hernandez "stood behind the child making a thrusting motion with his pelvis and smacking her on her buttocks" in one video.
Jezebel reported that Hernandez made a statement in March 2015 to police regarding the incident. When he first encountered the alleged victim, he told her he was 18 years old and that he "assumed she was older." “When she came in she asked me how old I was and I told her I was 18 and I assumed she was older. The way she was asking made me think she was older," he said.
Last February, Anderson, the second defendant, pled guilty to possession of a sexual performance by a child and was sentenced to 1.5 to 3 years in prison. Hernandez, despite his guilty plea, has vehemently denied the allegations in interviews with YouTube hip-hop vloggers Adam22 of No Jumper and DJ Akademiks, saying the alleged victim lied about her age, claiming that she was 19 years old at the time of the incident. In an interview with XXL, 6x9ine mocked his detractors about the allegations pinned against him.
"I'm free," he told XXL on Dec. 1. "You're going to wait forever if you want to see me in jail. Keep waiting, go call the cops, call 911, use everything you have. I've been answering so much about legal problems. All I got to say is, tell everyone to hire a lawyer, call every precinct and tell them Daniel Hernandez is in Brooklyn. These false allegations are crazy. It's Internet trolls." Though 6is9ine is free, his legal issues still remain. His next court date is Jan. 30.
This past November marked Hernandez’s first New York City performance at Spotify's RapCaviar Live concert, where he was brought out as a surprise guest by DJ Spin King to perform "Gummo." On the bombastic record, Hernandez delivers the verses in his scream-rap style. The video, which sits at 52 million videos on YouTube at press time, shows 6ix9ine on a block in Brooklyn, often shirtless and wearing a red bandana.
"He was the one that I was worried about that wasn't going to show up out of everybody else, because I had my own special guests with Fat Joe, Casanova and Uncle Murda," Spin King tells Billboard about the show. "He was so shocked by [the crowd's reception]. The energy he gives off, it reminds you of Bobby [Shmurda] and Rowdy [Rebel] when they first came out. Some clubs would be scared to play those records because it's so rowdy, but it's a great energy. I just love it."
Hernandez is the latest in a line of new wave viral rappers gaining steam on the scene, despite disturbing legal controversies. Earlier this year, XXXTentacion caught attention with his breakout song “Look At Me,” which debuted at No. 95 on the Hot 100 last February and eventually reached No. 34. Four months prior, he was arrested in Florida on four felony charges for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment and witness tampering after allegedly beating up this then-pregnant girlfriend.
His ascension was unaffected by these charges and his debut album, 17, landed the No. 2 slot on the Billboard 200 during its opening week last August. Luminaries such as Kendrick Lamar and Erykah Badu have publicly vouched for XXXtentacion’s music on social media, as he awaits his next court date, scheduled for Dec. 15.
As for Hernandez, on Tuesday (Dec. 12) he was spotted in the studio with Fetty Wap working on new music. Last month, he was also seen working on tracks with Ruff Ryders producer Swizz Beatz for an unknown project.
Swizz Beatz and Tekashi 69 working on a new track. Sounding ---- or ----?? pic.twitter.com/v7yY9mpXHM— DJ Akademiks (@IamAkademiks) November 21, 2017
6ix9ine’s abilities won the favor of not only his local peers, but also his current manager, 29-year-old Christian Ehigiator, who he first began working with in June 2017. The two earned a deal with Elliot Grainge’s Strainge Entertainment, which is also home to rising rapper Trippie Redd, who publicly distanced himself from 6ix9ine after his guilty plea came to light in August. Grainge declined to comment on his relationship with 6ix9ine to Billboard.
In spite of that, Hernandez’s popularity is on an upward trajectory. “Gummo” sits at No. 5 on Billboard’s Streaming Songs charts after pulling 28 million streams for the week ending Dec. 7. Earlier this month, 6ix9ine announced his Day 69 Tour. The tour is slated to kick off in Feb. 1 in Canada and conclude in early May, with New York serving as one of the tour’s final stops, according to Ehigiator.
Despite his legal woes, Ehigiator hopes 6ix9ine -- who he considers his “little brother”-- will rebound from his past mistakes.
“He's 21 now. He's been doing music for a while. When he was 17, he shot a music video. An older person, that's probably around my age now, brought a young girl to the music video shoot and the girl was in the video and he uploaded the video. So, he got in trouble for having the young girl in his video shoot. He shouldn't have had the young girl in the video shoot. That shit was wrong.”
Ehigitor says regarding 6ix9ine’s incident with the alleged victim in 2015, "He should have known better. What he did was wrong, but what he did was not molestation. I understand from people's point of view -- they don't know what's what -- but for the people who did -- and I don't wanna drop names -- I feel like that rumor was validated by other rap artists."
Hernandez’s charges are considered a Class C non violent felony in New York State, while Anderson’s charges were labeled a Class E. Class C is considered a higher offense and if convicted, Hernandez can possibly face up to 15 years in prison as the maximum sentence. As for the minimum sentence, Hernandez can avoid jail altogether and receive probation.
New York criminal defense attorney, Kenneth Montgomery -- who has represented Bobby Shmurda and Duck Down Records -- reviewed 6ix9ine’s situation at Billboard’s request. Montgomery -- who is not affiliated with the case -- says that despite Hernandez’s three felony charges, he could avoid jail time.
“I'm thinking it's possible that he may avoid jail,” says Montgomery. “At most, I think the judge will give him the minimum jail time, which is 1-3 [years], which means he'll be home very soon.”
Montgomery adds: “If I'm his lawyer, I'm arguing his age at the time. I'm also arguing that there was no violence. I'm also arguing that where he is now, he's become a productive member in the entertainment business. He was only 18, barely an adult at the time. There's a lot of litigations that I think he has to suggest to a judge that sending him to jail isn't the appropriate answer or response.”
6ix9ine’s second single “Kooda” is also climbing rapidly. The record debuted at No. 28 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts for the week of Dec. 23 and at press time, sits at 6 million streams on SoundCloud.