Hip-Hop And The Fetish Of Hyper-Masculinity

By Sean Lee

Tekashi 6ix9ine’s demeanor was surprisingly tame as he faced federal charges for racketeering and firearm possession. The rainbow haired rapper, real name Daniel Hernandez, faces a conviction of 32 years as his arrest for racketeering occurred during his four year probation period for a sexual misconduct case that was cleared by the judge in October. The question at hand is not whether Hernandez is a criminal or not. The question is in this age of media scrutiny whether there is room for character redemption at all.

Four days prior to his arrest, Hernandez took to Instagram to publicly announce the firing of his whole management team. While the rapper alleges that this was motivated by his discovery that his management was embezzling funds, it seems that this disassociation was rooted in a desire to reclaim his public figure. Four of Hernandez’ associates, ex-manager Kifano Jordan, Faheem Walter, Jensel Butler, and Jamel Jones, are currently facing similar charges to Hernandez on top of drug charges related to the distribution of heroin, fentanyl, MDMA, and marijuana.

This disassociation, combined with the conditions of Hernandez previous bail that he finish 300 hours of community service and earn his GED, seems to show at least a glimmer of redemption. Unfortunately for Hernandez, the monolith of music critique and the Twitter community have already vilified him beyond salvation. Take for example Vice Magazine’s music blog who mentioned that they have intentionally avoided reviewing 6ix9ine and a horde of other young abusive rappers stating “we’ve intentionally avoided these artists—even having weekly debates in our editorial meetings on what would be the best way to discuss their place in hip-hop and culture as a whole."

And the outlet definitely has the right to do so. There is video evidence of 6ix9ine exposing his genitalia to an underage woman strapped to a chair. There is an in depth testimony of XXXTentatcion’s ex-girlfriend who claims abuse so violent it could not have been made up. Rappers Kodak Black and NBA YoungBoy have been criminally charged with sexual battery by a state court. The question is absolutely not whether these young men are criminals. The question is that if we incarcerate these young men, public role models for many adolescent men in the stages of questioning their own developing masculinity, are we as a society already setting these people up for failure?

The problem with the Noisey article “You Don’t Have to Listen to Abusive Rappers” is that they offer no such solution to the problem of hyper masculinity. In fact it seems that the media outlet as well as the music industry thrives off the controversy that surrounds these figures. 6ix9ine has to date landed more than five songs on the Billboard top 10 and his interview on the Breakfast Club was one of the highest viewed interview that the media outlet experienced.

Since his death, XXXTentacion’s sophomore release “?” has broken streaming records set by Taylor Swift. Kodak Black has since broken top 20 teaming up with industry staples Bruno Mars and Gucci Mane for “Wake up in the Sky.” The industry is blatantly catering to these rappers and music journalism outlets are having a field day with the listeners’ inability to reconcile our own moral obligations to the pop music’s auditory spoon feeding.

So what do we do with hyper masculinity in today’s musical world which is so intertwined with the politics of sex? We stop exploiting them. If Noisey really wants us to stop listening to a rapper like Tekashi 6ix9ine they shouldn’t have written a viral article and providing the rapper who thrives on controversy a platform. We need to break away from the rigidity of reputation, everyone has a chance to better themselves and we need to support the artists who actually try. Criminal records are permanent. Character is not.

This piece is by Sean Lee. Follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leee.

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