Written by Hans Barrels.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
“[People] iffy, uh
Blicky got the stiffy, uh
Got the blicky, uh
Drum it holds fifty, uh”
This is the introduction of 6ix9ine’s 2017 breakout hit “GUMMO.” The song itself spurred the creation of memes online making fun of his many 69 tattoos, rainbow hair, and scream-style rap. His appearance, however, is intentional, and the media’s obsession with it allowed him to promote his music and reach the apex of a cutthroat industry. Despite facing ridicule at the end of 2017, 6ix9ine eventually skyrocketed to the top of the rap industry with his song “FEFE” peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Top 100 in 2018. His strategy to reach superstardom is based on one simple principle: trolling. That’s right, if you want to become a successful rapper, then just troll your way to the top.
According to Urban Dictionary, trolling involves making “controversial comments on various internet forums” to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction. Kanye West’s comments on slavery serve as a good example. By claiming that 400 years of slavery was a choice, he instantly received a knee jerk reaction on Twitter and engaged–or shall we say, trolled–outrage culture as a whole. Outrage culture refers to a community both online and offline who “loudly and publicly [complain] about being offended.” Artists like 6ix9ine and Kanye West capitalize on the sensitivity of outrage culture because their controversial antics allow them to be the center of attention, providing an opportunity to promote their music. Ultimately, these trolls live by the mantra, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
6ix9ine’s career differs from that of other commercially successful artists because he uses his outrageous feuds to make up for his lack of lyrical music talent. Take, for example, his beef with Chicago rapper Chief Keef, which garnered a lot of attention on Instagram. 6ix9ine landed in O Block, Chief Keef’s neighborhood, and filmed himself giving back to the homeless and roaming the streets of O Block at night–untouched. In one Instagram video, 6ix9ine clowned this Chicago rapper by standing in a dark street claiming: “O Block right here. They should call this shit NO BLOCK. It’s 10 o’clock. Where y’all…at?” On a personal level, 6ix9ine eventually flew out Chief Keef’s “baby momma”–someone that has your children out-of-wedlock–to New York, gave her expensive gifts, and recorded her trash talking Chief Keef’s ability to provide for his children. 6ix9ine trolled many other artists in the industry, but his feud with Chief Keef captivated millions online. Ultimately, 6ix9ine’s success as an artist boiled down to his ability to troll his enemies and capture the attention of onlookers. J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are renowned for their mastery of the English language–not 6ix9ine. It makes sense: if it weren’t for 6ix9ine’s antics, it would be hard to reach the top of the industry with lines like: “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. I catch a hoe right by her toe.”
Now that 6ix9ine is locked up, the internet has set its sights on another up and coming rapper who has based his career on making bad music: Blueface. This Los Angeles rapper was the butt of many jokes for his voice cracking on a number of songs and his difficulty staying on beat. This is intentional. In his song “Deadlocs” he claims: “I can sit here and talk offbeat. My shit still slaps like a pimp on his worst day. Yeah aight. On the deadlocs.” Blueface acknowledges that he’s offbeat, but it doesn’t matter because he’s following the footsteps of many other trolls by making intentionally bad music. We’ll have to see how long he remains in the spotlight, but until then, I think we’re all going to have to enjoy hearing “Thotiana” on the radio and online.
I want to take this time to say that I actually like troll rappers like Blueface and 6ix9ine. I think their music is creative, catchy, and funny, and I enjoy keeping up with their shenanigans. Ultimately, they prove their naysayers wrong, and I’m willing to say that they get the last laugh when they outsell rappers who have spent almost a decade in the industry–and capture the spotlight every time they log onto Twitter and Instagram.