When Cardi B delivers her final flourish, he returns briefly, but by the end of the video, the soundstage is occupied by only the women. Adam Levine is to a rock star as a rock star is to a rapper. At least in this moment, he leaves the pocket T-shirt on, keeps the guitar in the closet and hands the mic to the long-suffering women who have chosen to support him.
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For the first time, maybe ever, he flashes some legit star-power potency. What in the world happened here? I was only gone for an hour! Some elements were familiar a crew of guys in front of a brownstone, drinking and mugging for the camera , and some were menacing the number of red bandannas and guns on display , but it was the man at the center of the video who startled me most; he seemed almost precision-engineered to make people feel old. In an era when most young rappers have a couple of face tattoos, 6ix9ine had the number 69 inked above his right eye in point type.
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He had the same number spelled out in cursive over his left eye. It was everywhere on his body. Within about a year, he would be in federal custody, a year-old facing life in prison for a number of charges, including racketeering and attempted murder. Normally this sort of arrest leads to an outcry about literal-minded police overreach. Not this time. People generally seemed pleased to see the rapper in cuffs. This was partly because 6ix9ine was universally reviled by music critics and journalists, on account of a crime he committed before he became famous: In , he pleaded guilty to the use of a minor in a sexual performance, for having filmed and shared on social media a video of a girl performing oral sex on his friend.
But it was also because he had spent the past year living the life of a Looney Tunes character: courting danger, narrowly escaping it, then taunting his foes. This genuinely incredible run netted him more than stories on TMZ: gang members in San Antonio threatening his life; a shootout at the Barclays Center; shots fired at a video shoot in Brooklyn; more shots fired at a Beverly Hills video set. Through it all, he posted on Instagram, usually wearing red, often handling bricks of cash, sometimes clutching extremely illegal-looking guns, but never betraying an ounce of concern for his well-being.
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Cultivating this sort of personal mythology is not at all new; it dates back to the earliest days of gangsta rap. Ever since Eazy-E bankrolled NWA with drug money, a certain proximity to criminality has been expected of certain rappers. Not long ago, rappers had just a few limited channels through which to prove that they did: lyrics, album art and, if they were famous enough, music videos.
Like Old Testament gods, they willed whole universes into being through their words. Now they have social media. This sort of online mythmaking is second nature to SoundCloud rappers, so called for the streaming service that birthed the scene. SoundCloud rap is not characterized by a particular sound so much as its anarchic energy — the face tattoos, the prescription drugs, the orthographically complex handles. The problem, for 6ix9ine, was that a big part of his adopted persona, both on Instagram and in his music, involved being a member of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.
According to a Rolling Stone profile that came out after his arrest in November, this was essentially an act: Danny Hernandez, in the years leading up to his fame, had been a trollish and goofy Bushwick deli employee; his industry blacklisting had pushed him into the hands of an apparently gang-affiliated manager, who also provided him with a new edge. Maybe the whole thing really was a put-on, but also, he really did it.
The Rolling Stone article recounts how, at his arraignment, the presiding judge asked the prosecution how it knew Hernandez was at real-life crime scenes. A liminal space has always existed between rappers and their personas. The gap between 6ix9ine and Danny Hernandez was considerably wider, but he snapped it shut with his phone, merging fantasy with reality through a front-facing camera.
It was reported in February that 6ix9ine, who pleaded guilty, agreed to help prosecutors in their case against his co-defendants, hoping for leniency: a reduced sentence and possibly witness protection. But helping 6ix9ine disappear into some corner of America might prove difficult, and not just because of the tattoos.
In , the Swedish singer-songwriter Robyn turned 14 and finished middle school; then she signed a record deal. A feeling of healing from sadness and wanting to share that with the world and with myself — a sense of self-love, excitement, some kind of peace of mind.
Like when your strength is coming back. Intimacy, definitely, but it could be with yourself.
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Any experience you have that will give you a new point in your scale of emotions will make any other experience richer because you have a new point of reference. Not reserving that deep pleasure for a sexual sensation, but something you could experience day to day. Intimacy in every little thing. I feel like I have to work for it every day. You get it going and then you can use it and tend to it and start it back up again.
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Is your fire well tended? Not at all. I maybe need to go back and listen to some of my songs myself to figure this out. Your songs are known for intermingling sadness and euphoria. I used to believe it would all make sense if you just powered through. Post-recession capitalism has glorified the hustle so much. But you can actually use a story that relates to something more real than buying yourself out of anxiety.
Definitely: Pop at the moment is depressing. Hip-hop is really dark. The music kids are listening to is heavy! Is the industry set up for artists to be able to share their pain but protect themselves? People want you to be vulnerable. You turn 40 this June. I think it can be that, for sure. It was hard to tell how many people in the club liked flamenco, an art form not much associated with young people anymore.
Some of the younger girls even twerked.
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She sounds and feels cosmopolitan, cool in a sophisticated and almost foreign way. Her own aesthetic is polished, globally recognizable, informed by hip-hop and trap music. Maybe this is the price of success in a culture that looks askance at overt displays of ambition or self-actualization, especially by women. The local fascination tended to focus less on her art and more on her as a phenomenon, on the extraordinary speed of her rise to stardom. It would spark arguments too, about cultural appropriation and the Romany community, who have always been closely associated with flamenco.
A woman gets married to a man who later grows jealous and imprisons her. What sort of place were you at in your life when you wrote this song? Obviously I was working a lot. I had already toured Europe and the U. I wanted to make a banger to play live — I just picked up my microphone and started talking.
The song came out in a funny way, but the undertone is serious. Whatever you do, whatever amount of energy you put into something, you have to do it for yourself and not to please others. Not to build this facade or this persona or achievement. Do you think people base too much of their self-worth on their work? We live in a society that is based on work — goals, achievement, money. Of course! But I think you become a much more useful person if you learn how to love yourself. It would be hard to know.
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It looks really fun and glamorous. And it is, sometimes, for a few hours. I wish I had your life. Do you think I woke up one morning and became who I am? People think of the dance floor as this freeing space. For me, at least, it is. It used to be different. When I was 16 and I started going out in Montreal, going to underground parties and raves and clubs, it was magical.
I was going there for fun. Even if I was playing, it was special. That space is now a work space for me.
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