Music

There Is More Musicality to Be Found on 'Dummy Boy' Than Previous 6ix9ine Projects

There are no quotables to be found on 6ix9ine's Dummy Boy; no multisyllabic rhyme schemes, piquant punchlines or elegiac tales of struggle; this is rudimentary rap, to be consumed loudly and disposed of quietly.

Dummy Boy
6ix9ine

ScumGang / Create Music

27 November 2018

Hubris has been an integral part of the competitive braggery that has defined hip-hop lyricism for the best part of 40 years. Whether internalised by its espouser or merely rhetoric for the role, pomposity is part and parcel of a rapper's repertoire. However, the kind of aplomb possessed by Daniel Hernandez, known professionally as Tekashi 6ix9ine, or simply 6ix9ine, is atypically divisive.

Hernandez didn't want to be a rapper and readily admits he's not even very good at it. He makes light of his miserly penmanship in videos and interviews and shows no interest in improving. Hip-hop has, in its essence, enduringly provided a voice for the disenfranchised. 6ix9ine, however, raised in poverty, who witnessed his father being murdered at 13, sees the genre not as an avenue to express his poeticism, but a financial means to end.

In tune with his social media generation, Hernandez's steadfast belief in himself and the appeal of branding, became 6ix9ine, a rainbow haired, egregiously tattooed scream rapper, who he'd probably best compare to Sticky Fingaz - if he knew who he was. The hair, tattoos, self deprecating videos and inflammatory statements are intended wholly to draw attention - and pecuniary views. Music, for all intent and purpose, is merely a byproduct of Tekashi's industry.

His problematic language, insipid content, and noxious behavior vexed many hip-hop purists, who sought to write him off as a passing fad. Consequently, his 10 schismatic singles have raised as much chagrin as they have success, each surprisingly charting on the Billboard Top 100, one after the other. With a generation of Champion hoodie heads stamping their Timbs in disbelief, Tekashi's hollow, energetic, almost-rhymes and relentless self assurity have won him legions of fans across the globe, one "Tr3yway" at a time. With each video, his popularity burgeoned, baffling his critics and fueling his defiance at being misjudged.

Dummy Boy is a celebration of this hustle. Its release itself a testament to a rapper who is certain his endeavour alone merits his place atop rap's hottest - if not best - acts. Takeshi isn't in the market for classics or compliments. Dummy Boy, with his animated likeness flagrantly urinating colour on a black and white floor on its cover, is about defiance - an obstinate ode to acting up. There are no quotables to be found here; no multisyllabic rhyme schemes, piquant punchlines or elegiac tales of struggle; this is rudimentary rap, to be consumed loudly and disposed of quietly.

Despite a dearth of lyrical content, there is more musicality to be found on Dummy Boy than previous 6ix9ine projects. Album opener "Stoopid", featuring a prison sent verse from the incarcerated Bobby Shmurda finds Tekashi waxing lyrical on sex, money, and murder, the three objects that ultimately define Dummy Boy's mentation. Over a rousing Tay Keith riddim, 6ix9ine sends shots at his enemies, in particular at Hot 97's Ebro, perhaps his most concerted critic. Hernandez's abject writing is lent a much needed hand from Nicki Minaj on the platinum "FEFE", his highest charting single to date. Minaj wistfully commandeers the track with 16 expendable bars herself, that still rank among the best on the album.

To 6ix9ine's credit, or perhaps his limitations, all but two of Dummy Boy's 13 tracks run less than three minutes, with five of them barely breaking 120 seconds. Anything longer would be asking too much of its listeners. Lil Baby gives Tekashi a run for his money in rotten rhymes on "Tic Toc", which manages to be one of the album's more agreeable tracks. All but one of Dummy Boy's songs contain a featured performer, most of whom surpass 6ix9ine's efforts. The album standout "KIKA", produced by a restored Scott Storch is comfortably the best song of Tekashi's fledgling career. Tory Lanez laces Storch's steelpan banger with a silver-toned hook, humorously comparing his ability to stunt to Jackie Chan's, while 6ix9ine's drops the type of hardcore verses that chartered his ascent with "GUMMO" and "BILLY".

Celebrated straw man Kanye West makes one of two throwaway appearances on "MAMA" alongside Nicki Minaj, who's hook again steals the limelight from her male counterparts, while the murderous "WAKA" might well end up as prosecutory evidence in 6ix9ine's eventual racketeering trial. Dummy Boy takes a drastic and welcome detour midway as Trapeton star Anuel AA joins 6ix9ine for some autotuned crooning on "BEBE" and "MALA", for seven minutes of Latin trap that provides the album some much needed melody, before West rejoins 6ix9ine on 'KANGA' in hip-hop's most unpopular pairing since Nelly and Tim McGraw. The song, a musical hybrid of ASAP Rocky's "Fuckin' Problems" and Kelis' "Milkshake" - while boundlessly worse of an effort than both - showcases a rare musicality in Tekashi's rhymes.

There is a futility to 6ix9ine's raps, even in his most boisterous of barks. These are rhymes for rhymes' sake. His can-do pragmatism towards gaining YouTube views and streams may come at the cost of quality music, but have ultimately paid dividends financially, and Dummy Boy follows this same formula to its close. While "FEEFA" sees 6ix9ine reflect on the outcome of his legal complications and being separated from his family, it's a fleeting moment of sentiment before the album closes out with two unavailing trap tracks "TATI" and "WONDO", which find Tekashi in his snarling comfort zone.

What Dummy Boy lacks in maturity and creativity it makes up for in energy and vitriol - equivalently bankable features in 2018. While it won't feature in any end of year 'Best Of' lists, nor will it stand the test of time, it will sell profusely, for now. 6ix9ine's by any means necessary ascent to mainstream recognition was permeated with shock tactics and scandal. When attempts to influence fashion didn't present itself as viable career path, his Instagram instead played host to a sexual performance with a 13-year-old girl. Raising enough ire and attention that a prominent set of Brooklyn Bloods believed there was money to made from his antics, 6ix9ine seized on the opportunity to challenge anyone in earshot to "test his gangsta". His ensuing feuds with fellow hip-hop artists YG, Trippie Redd, and Chief Keef, which resulted in multiple shootings in either direction, fatefully ignited the FBI's interest into his activities.

Despite warning, he continued to bait his antagonists and was kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint in July. His refusal to yield to better judgement however, only served to further his steadfast following, who took his ignorance for gumption. Three court dates over the course of four days in October for assaulting a police officer, assaulting a minor and the aforementioned use of child in a sexual performance followed, before he finally disavowed his gang ties. A credible threat on his life a few days later and he was promptly arrested on racketeering charges, along with other members of the gang he had so fiercely toted in his songs. As Dummy Boy predictably climbs the charts, 6ix9ine currently awaits trial behind bars for charges that well may send him to prison for life. You can't help but wonder if it was a pyrrhic victory for Daniel Hernandez.

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