Nicki Minaj’s recent collaboration and upcoming tour with 6ix9ine, the controversial rapper who infamously pleaded guilty to “use of a child in a sexual performance,” has fans wondering just how low Minaj will go for some Soundcloud rapper clout.
While teaming up with Tekashi 6ix9ine is a decent enough way to garner YouTube hits and headlines, Minaj is facing serious backlash. Even diehard Barbies are taking to social media to say that they won’t financially support a rapper who was convicted of spanking a 13-year-old on camera—and that Nicki shouldn’t either.
This isn’t the first time Nicki, who loves to champion women in theory, has had her feminist credentials questioned. But it is one of the more egregious examples of an artist sacrificing principles for profit. It would have been one thing if Minaj was simply enlisting 6ix9ine as an opener, and banking on his debatable talents to appeal to an audience who may not have traditionally turned up for a Nicki tour. But Minaj, who could collaborate with anyone, has chosen to release a single with 6ix9ine. When the queen of rap picks out a 22-year-old to collaborate with, she’s bringing that artist to a new level; and in this case, legitimizing a man who’s legally copped to—while continuing to lie about—some pretty vile behavior.
In the official music video for “FEFE,” Nicki and Tekashi’s new track, the duo cavorts in Candyland. The sugar-high-gone-horribly-wrong visuals take kiddie props and sexualize them to an uncomfortable extreme. 6ix9ine and Minaj play hand games and have fun with water guns. They snack on an assortment of summer camp treats in a very NSFW way—lollipops, popsicles, and melting ice cream cones covered in rainbow sprinkles. Noisey writer Kristin Corry called the “childlike” aesthetic an “ill-fitting choice for 6ix9ine,” who is frequently referred to as a pedophile by feuding rappers and Twitter users alike. Corry concluded that the video “read like an endorsement of his behavior just for the sake of being provocative.”
Having suffered through the single and its accompanying video, Minaj’s fans weren’t shocked when she announced on Instagram that 6ix9ine would be joining her and fellow rapper Future on their upcoming NICKIHNDRXX tour. Still, they’re disappointed as hell. Comments on a picture Nicki posted with Tekashi include, “Ur giving rap a bad name making music with him lol just stop,” “It is disgusting that you would make music with this monster,” and “are we just gunna act like he didn’t molest a child.”
On Oct. 20, 2015, Daniel Hernandez (aka 6ix9ine) pleaded guilty to the felony count. The rapper addressed the incident in a 2017 interview with DJ Akademiks. Jezebel’s Rich Juzwiak compared and contrasted that 22 minute-long clip with the criminal complaint against Hernandez and found that the rapper’s testimony didn’t quite match up. Hernandez began the interview by stating that the incident with the underage girl happened “three to four years ago,” when legal documents specify that it occurred in February 2015.
According to the criminal complaint, videos of the 13-year-old “victim” were shared on social media. In one video, “the child engages in oral sexual intercourse with the separately charged defendant Taquan Anderson, while the defendant, Daniel Hernandez, stands behind the child making a thrusting motion with his pelvis and smacking her on her buttocks. The child is nude in the video.” In another, “the child is completely nude and is sitting across the laps of the defendant and the separately charged defendant Taquan Anderson. The separately charged defendant touches the child across her legs and vagina with his hand.”
Hernandez told Akademiks that he was just 17 at the time, even going so far as to call himself “a baby.” But as Juzwiak pointed out, according to the complaint, Hernandez was actually 18 when the incident occurred. The rapper defended himself by insisting, “I’m not touching the girl, I’m not having sexual intercourse with the girl, I’m not doing nothing, she just nude in some type of way,” directly contradicting the descriptions offered in the criminal complaint. He continued, “When I saw Genius post the story, I thought they was gonna say all the details of the case, like, ‘He was just there, he was just talking into the camera, he didn’t touch the girl, no sexual performance with the camera…I didn’t rape nobody, bro, the girl wasn’t even raped…No one had sex with the girl.”
Later, he whined, “I was charged with a charge simply because I was there.”
In the criminal complaint, Detective Maureen Sheehan wrote that Hernandez “stated in substance to me”: “THAT IS ME ON ALL THE VIDEOS. THIS HAPPENED IN HARLEM ON THE NIGHT OF FEBRUARY 21, 2015 GOING INTO THE MORNING OF FEBRUARY 22, 2015. I WAS TAGGED ON INSTAGRAM AND THEN I REPOSTED THE VIDEOS USING THE REPOST WHIZ APP. MY INSTAGRAM NAME IS TEKASHIIII69.”
Additionally, Juzwiak reported, “In the Akademiks interview, 6ix9ine claimed she told him she was 19; in his statement taken March 5, 2015 at the address of 221 E. 123rd St. (NYPD PSA 5), 6ix9ine said, ‘When she came in she asked me how old I was and I told her I was 18 and I assumed she was older. The way she was asking made me think she was older.’”
The rapper’s plea agreement detailed terms that, if followed, would grant Hernandez three years-probation instead of jail time. Those conditions included one year of interim probation, obtaining his GED, and not committing another crime for two years. Tekashi’s sentencing has repeatedly been adjourned; According to The Mercury News, “Ahead of a pending court hearing in April, Tekashi teased fans by suggesting he had already been locked up for violating the terms of his probation. In reality, his court hearing on the matter had been postponed — and Tekashi jetted off to Europe.”
Meanwhile, the rapper’s legal troubles have mounted. In early July, he was arrested on an outstanding misdemeanor assault warrant; he’s accused of choking a 16-year-old in a Houston mall. He’s also facing misdemeanor assault charges for allegedly grabbing a Brooklyn cop by the hand, causing “pain and swelling.”
The question of whether an up-and-coming artist can overcome sexual misconduct allegations or criminal charges is being answered in real-time—yes, they can, and with the support of established entertainers who are willing to overlook any crime in order to associate themselves with the latest clout creator.
The fact that it’s Minaj, who’s long preached female empowerment and the gospel of boss bitches, doing the co-signing, sends a particularly disturbing message to survivors and to fans who were betting on Minaj to practice what she preaches. And while she has the right to bring anyone she wants on tour, Minaj should be cognizant of the kind of environment she’s creating if she wants to keep selling tickets. Tekashi’s had a number of shows cancelled due to safety concerns. Twitter commentators have already starting speaking out about Tekashi’s potentially toxic fans, with tweets like, “All the homophobic people and abusers are gonna be at nicki’s tour and I’m terrified.”
“No but fr, yall be careful at Nicki's tour because those concerts are most-likely not gonna be an lgbt-safe space,” one tweet read. Another Twitter user commented, “Sometimes I really sit back & think does Nicki know her fanbase is Predominately LGBT ???”
Given her fan base and her go-girls attitude, it makes sense that Minaj is being held to a higher standard than her co-headliner. Although it does bear mentioning that Future, with his army of anti-Ciara bros, has his own reputation for toxic fandom.
In addition to seriously pissing off her most devoted fans—and giving a sex criminal a massive platform and all of the legitimacy and support that comes with it—Minaj’s decision to work with 6ix9ine is also a bad look that hits way too close to home. In 2017 Minaj’s brother, Jelani Maraj, was found guilty of predatory sexual assault on a child younger than 13 years old. According to People, “Prosecutors alleged at trial that Maraj started abusing the victim when she was 11, and raped her repeatedly between April and November 2015 while her mother was working.” Minaj has not commented publicly on the case, but his $100,000 bail was reportedly backed by two of Minaj’s properties.
Social media users aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to invoking Maraj in this latest scandal, painting her as a pedophile supporter and a hypocrite who refuses to champion women when it matters most. Given her personal history and the brother she doubtlessly doesn’t want to bring up, it’s even more confounding that Minaj would align herself with 6ix9ine and risk the backlash.
At the end of the day, Nicki isn’t responsible for these men’s actions, but she is responsible for who she works with. In collaborating with 6ix9ine, Nicki made a choice—and it seems like a decent number of her fans are choosing to take their affection, and their money, elsewhere.