The entire Tekashi 6ix9ine saga reads like a movie treatment (something for the Safdie Brothers, or maybe even Scorsese). The public discourse could be splashed across the cover of a tabloid. When you get past the big names, the subtle shade, the bright hair, and the face tattoos, though, Tekashi 6ix9ine’s testimony this week was as grave as it was lurid.
Facing a 47-year prison sentence, the 23-year-old SoundCloud phenom—whose real name is Daniel Hernandez—testified about his involvement with the Nine Trey Bloods. Much of his account was previously known in some form or other (6ix9ine’s story is a gleaming, ugly whirlwind that’s been covered exhaustively this year). Hernandez, for instance, recounted joining the Nine Trey gang for clout, getting in over his head, and his troubles culminating in a fateful July 2018 night during which he claimed to have been abducted and robbed at gunpoint by fellow gang members.
It’s easy to forget that the trial was not meant to be an appraisal of 6ix9nine, or, for that matter a hip-hop soap; it was actually all part of a broad racketeering and firearms case against the Nine Trey gang, dating back to last November. In court, 6ix9ine listed the gang’s leadership by name and detailed attacks they carried out. It was serious stuff; if he ever gets out of prison, he’ll likely need to be put into witness protection.
And yet. The details, the names, the backhanded disses—it was all unavoidably scandalous, enthralling, a closely-followed event that created bits of pop culture just as it defined others. Here are some things that stood out, for better or worse.
Let the record show… that trolling “can mean a lot of things.”
To 6ix9ine? “It means antagonizing, mocking.”
While he was on the stand on Thursday, Hernandez was asked by a defendant’s lawyer about his history as a troll. In the process, he defined the term—just as he would several other bits of slang (“blicky” = “gun”; “Billy” = shorthand for “Nine Trey”).
The questioning, in that particular instance, was aimed at calling into question the account of the robbery and kidnapping that Hernandez gave on Angie Martinez’s radio show not long after the incident. He admitted it was embellished, but also rejected the premise. “Did you tell [Martinez] you were a troll?” a lawyer asked. “I tell everyone I’m a troll,” Hernandez replied.
Speaking of Legal Definitions...
Jim Jones may have dropped an album this year, but when asked—under oath, mind you—who Jim Jones was, 6ix9ine responded, simply, “He’s a retired rapper.”
A purposeful taunt or not, it managed to overshadow what that round of questioning was leading to: When asked if Jones was a member of the Nine Trey gang, Hernandez said he was.
And What Was That About Cardi?
The highlight of the trial, at least in entertainment circles, was the mention of Cardi B. Headlines about the trial have proclaimed things like, “All Hell Breaks Loose After Tekashi 6ix9ine Outs Cardi B...” and “Tekashi 6ix9ine Throws Cardi B Under the Bus...” The bit of questioning in which Cardi’s name was invoked contributed to the notion that 6ix9ine was a snitch (some have been calling him “Tekashi Snitch Nine”).
In reality, though, the mention of Cardi B was not that flagrant—and actually feels like something 6ix9ine seems to have tried to avoid. Hernandez denied knowing of anyone else who associated with the Bloods to advance their career. When Cardi’s name was brought up by a questioning lawyer, he acknowledged she had been a member of the gang (something Cardi talked about in this very magazine last year) and that she had made music videos with the gang’s members, but added that he “didn’t pay attention” to her work.
A Cryptic Social Media Dialogue
Rather than issue legal statements or sharing their thoughts with reporters, many celebrities—named in the trial, or not—responded in the Internet's lingua franca: GIFs, memes, and emojis. There was Snoop Dogg adding an emoji caption (“🐀 👮♀️ 🚔 👨⚖️”) to a screenshot of a TMZ story (along with his picture, it had the headline: “Tekashi 6ix9ine is Safe & Secure In Jail Unit With Other Snitches”). And other rappers, like Meek Mill and 50 Cent, either responded with their own emojis or posted separate cartoons and memes.
And then there was Cardi, who responded by posting a popular GIF in which Hustlers star Keke Palmer says “I don’t know who this man is.” If it hasn’t happened already, at some point the courts will surely have to decide to what extent memes and GIFs are speech. (Cardi also specified, in a now-deleted tweet, that she was associated with the Brim Bloods, not the Nine Treys.)
A few Genius annotations were corroborated through 6ix9ine’s testimony this week. Besides defining terms like “Blicky” and “Billy,” which show up in his single “GUMMO” (the one that features gang members in its music video), 6ix9ine gave an interpretation for the song. “It’s a song toward, like, somebody who I didn’t get along with,” he said. “I don’t know. I thought it was cool at the time.”
A Lasting Image
Photographs, of course, were not allowed in court. But one image is making the rounds: the court illustration of Tekashi on the stand. It’s striking, perhaps because it’s essentially a cartoon of a cartoon.
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Originally Appeared on GQ