“69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez,” a new Hulu documentary about the hugely popular and wildly provocative rapper Tekashi69, features interviews with many people close to the subject: his next-door neighbor, his longtime girlfriend, his estranged father, his record producer, even his former chauffeur.
It doesn’t feature an interview with Tekashi69 himself, but that hardly seems important — because the 24-year-old superstar has spent the better part of the last decade exhaustively documenting his own life, broadcasting every passing whim and fancy over YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram Live. The director Vikram Gandhi avails himself of the rapper’s social media output, turning it into source material. So while Tekashi69 declined to participate in this movie, he’s all over it.
The artist came to prominence toward the end of the last decade as part of the musical subgenre SoundCloud rap, named after the music-sharing site. But as the film makes clear, it wasn’t the rapper’s music — an abrasive combination of hip-hop and hard-core — that made him famous. With his long, rainbow-colored hair, extravagant jewelry, and distinctive facial tattoos, Tekashi69 made a strong impression before he even opened his mouth. Or, as one of his former associates puts it, “a lot of his Instagram followers don’t even know his music.”
Tekashi69’s rise to fame was sudden. His fall was faster. Brought up on a slew of federal firearm and racketeering charges and enticed to cooperate to reduce his sentence, Tekashi69 testified against nearly a dozen members of the Brooklyn gang Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. Branded a rat, he’s since become one of the most widely loathed figures in the world of hip-hop.
Gandhi’s insights into Tekashi69’s psyche are limited, and some of his conclusions about the disgraced rapper’s character are bizarre. He admits to a feeling of “deep sympathy” for his subject, but the movie doesn’t mount a particularly compelling defense. Gandhi also proposes that Tekashi69 may be a “cautionary tale” for the relentless pursuit of clout, and that feels closer to the truth — he wanted the attention of the internet so badly that he didn’t notice the likes turning to hate.
69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch on Hulu.
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