f you’re of a certain age, it can feel certifiably impossible to keep up with the ever-expanding lineup of hip-hop’s young hitmakers.
There is one face in the rap crowd, though, that you’ve probably seen creep into your feed more often than any other of late. And it’s got a whole mess of tattoos on it.
With rainbow-colored hair and the third most famous face tattoos this side of Mike Tyson and Lil Wayne, 6ix9ine (aka Tekashi69) has one of the music industry’s most distinctive looks. The controversial, oft-troubled “scream rap” artist has also become one of the industry’s most consistent headline-makers, most recently for an incident at a South Florida gym in which the rapper was attacked and brutally beaten by a group of men and rushed to a hospital.
So who in the world is 6ix9nine, and why does his stage name look like your online banking password? Our explainer, below.
6ix9ine, né Daniel Hernandez, was born in 1986 in Bushwick, Brooklyn to a Mexican mother and Puerto Rican father. He was a star baseball player as a youth, attracting interest from major league scouts. He was raised a devout Christian, though barely knew his birth father, who struggled with a heroin addiction. His stepfather was shot and killed in 2010 just steps from their residence. The killing traumatized Hernandez, who acted out in school and was expelled in eighth grade. His family largely lived in poverty after his stepfather’s death.
Hernandez began rapping in 2012, and releasing music in 2014. His first song release? The expectedly raunchy trap track “69.” Bill and Ted’s favorite number would soon become part of his official stage name because of yes, the sexual position, but also its mirrored ying-yang symbol. Hernandez adopted “Tekashi” as a nod to the popular character in Katsuhiro Otomo’s famed 1988 anime favorite Akira.
Working with the Slovakian label FCK THEM, Tekashi69 drew attention on Soundcloud and social media over the next couple years for his aggressive cadence and colorful appearance.