Stream It Or Skip It: ‘69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez’ on Hulu, Tracking The Turbulent Times Of Tekashi 6ix9ine (2024)

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69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez

  • Stream It Or Skip It: ‘69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez’ on Hulu, Tracking The Turbulent Times Of Tekashi 6ix9ine (1)

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In 69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez (Hulu), director Vikram Gandhi takes his subject from the tough streets of Brooklyn, to the hair salon for his rainbow hairdo, and onward to life as a memeworthy rap star and maker of questionable life decisions in the second decade of the twentieth century. The documentary’s promotional materials lay out the vibe. “Danny Hernandez wanted to be famous so badly that he was devoured by his avatar, Tekashi69.”


The Gist: An aerial shot shows us where our story comes from. As Manhattan’s gleam looms on the horizon six miles away, we dip down into Bushwick, Brooklyn. Police sirens wail, the elevated train clatters on by, and down here at street level, people in the neighborhood go about their hustle, whatever it is. And Danny Hernandez’s hustle? As Vikram Gandhi, the New York-based director of 69 tells us, it was to build a catapult to fame from the corner of Myrtle and Broadway. Gandhi traces the story from Hernandez’s formative years, living with his mom and brother in a tiny railroad apartment, working at the bodega, catching on with a local crew of rappers, producers, and graffiti writers, and indulging in the first fruits of his creativity with outlandish, deliberately offensive T-shirt designs. When Hernandez saw the love that crowds lavished on rappers at underground shows, forays into rocking the mic were the most natural evolution. And the delivery boy from the bodega molted into Tekashi 6ix9ine.

Interviews with the mother of his young daughter, friends, and former collaborators portray Daniel Hernandez as a young man bent on being famous as a means of validating how he wishes for society to see him. By 2014, 6ix9ine was making tracks, shooting videos, and posting it all to social media. But it was when he dyed his long hair into rainbow bright tresses and acquired a drip fang grill that the transformation was complete. 6ix9ine found his first real celebrity outside the block in the short-form video bursts of Vine, and notice from hip-hop blogs and industry heavy-hitters followed. “The sh*t he was doing was mad weird,” Spanish Harlem-based rapper Bodega Bamz tells Gandhi. “But his talent was…you had to respect it as a creator.”

As much as it chronicles one young rapper’s rise to fame, 69 also illuminates the chaotic, even manic pathways that millennial stardom follows. 6ix9ine nimbly platform-hops from the short-lived Vine to rising power Instagram, and tracks his likes and clickthroughs with scientific gusto. When he notices an uptick in clicks originating from Slovakia in his YouTube analytics, he callabos with the Bratislava-based rap crew leading that charge, and ends up mounting an Eastern European tour. And when SoundCloud rap rises up like a snapping king cobra in 2017, Tekashi 6ix9ine, his iridescent locks, and his growing garden of face tattoos become the final boss of SoundCloud rap memes. Crazed form of contemporary fame level: unlocked.

With cash and clout, the trouble mounts. Unseemly behavior in Hernandez’s personal life (that he nevertheless used for social media grist) leads to legal woe, and 6ix9ine finds a new, more aggressive crew in his association with an East Coast set of longtime Los Angeles street gang the Bloods. As violent imagery invades his music, beefs increasingly dominate his feeds, and actual real world violence becomes the norm, Daniel Hernandez and Tekashi 6ix9ine collapse into one frame, and the feds make the young rapper an offer that he can’t refuse.

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez’ on Hulu, Tracking The Turbulent Times Of Tekashi 6ix9ine (2)

What Movies Will It Remind You Of? Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything (Netflix) sketches the meteoric rise and tragic fall of a 6ix9ine SoundCloud rap contemporary, while Charlie Ahearn’s hip-hop opus Wild Style also drops the viewer into the boiling water of a contemporary creative scene as it informs youth culture, albeit in 1982. (See also the 1983 documentary on graffiti writing and rapping, Style Wars.) Salima Koroma’s 2016 documentary Bad Rap concerns the lives and struggles of four Korean-American rappers, including Awkwafina. Also of note from Netflix, Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly.

Performance Worth Watching: Gandhi’s interviews with Sara Molina, the disillusioned mother of Hernandez’s young daughter Saraiyah, offer a certain amount of poignance, and temper the rapid-fire, strobe light-on-high feeling of 6ix9ine’s life in the Internet hip-hop maelstrom.

Memorable Dialogue: “I got a call, and my manager’s like ‘Yo, you wanna come meet this kid?” Seqo Billy of Tr3way Entertainment tells 69 director Vikram Gandhi about 6ix9ine in an interview. “I pull up, he played his stuff, I liked the videos. And that’s how he was presented to us, through videos. He told us hisself his music was trash. ‘My music is trash, my video fire.'”

“What did you think about when you heard that?”

“I thought it was genius.”

Sex and Skin: Clips appearing from 6ix9ine’s music videos and social media feeds are rife with sex acts and garish displays of female nudity.

Our Take: While we learn early on of the mainstream’s interest in Tekashi69 — “I love 6ix9ine,” future collaborator Kanye West says in a montage — it’s how he ferried himself from the kid at the 24-hour bodega chopping it up with neighborhood types to the “Mexican Blood Rainbow-Haired Gangsta” (as Chanel, aka Ms. Tr3way, puts it in the doc) that’s the crux of 69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez. Billboard Hot 100 hits and a certified-Platinum album (2018’s Dummy Boy) are no joke. But this film finds its heart in its interviews with people who knew him personally, away from the eventual fame, outside of the eventual violence. We find out, from the people who saw it happen, how a sweet city kid was consumed by his quest for stardom and adulation inside the crucible of the contemporary social media landscape, no matter the cost in face tats.

It’s not like Hernandez himself wasn’t asked to participate. 6ix9ine’s management rebuffed Gandhi’s efforts to book an interview and let him tell his side of the story. But it’s precisely because 6ix9ine has lived his public life on these platforms that his story doesn’t need a first-person narrative. The doc’s structure is built out of the ever-increasing hearts and likes, the frenzy of online consumption, and how profoundly that constructed world informs a young artist’s decisions. Was Danny Hernandez fighting to break out of poverty, break into fame, or simply break away from his hardscrabble reality? Gandhi ably traces that narrative, skipping from the streets of Bushwick to recording studios and stages, to the fleeting, anonymous worlds of social media screens, and ultimately to real world violence and courtroom confessions. 69 is best when it illustrates the formless, foundation-less life of contemporary stardom. For as many stacks of hard cash Hernandez throws around, it’s his weird online beefs and vulgar Snapchat blather that have the most currency. This doc is a window into a new form of celebrity.

Our Call: STREAM IT. 69 has its underpinnings in the hip-hop stories that defined New York City over the last 40 years, but tells a furiously contemporary tale in the memes, madness, and body morphing that make a rap star in the Millennial age.

Should you stream or skip #69TheSagaOfDannyHernandez on @hulu? #SIOSI

— Decider (@decider) November 17, 2020

Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges

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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez’ on Hulu, Tracking The Turbulent Times Of Tekashi 6ix9ine (2024)


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