‘69: The Saga Of Daniel Hernandez’ review: the rise and fall of Tekashi 6ix9ine

A compelling but flawed look at the life of modern rap's most controversial figure

Hulu’s new documentary about contentious rap figure Tekashi 6ix9ine was made in secret and, from its very first scene, it’s clear why. Filmmaker Vikram Gandhi is on the street where the star – real name Daniel Hernandez – grew up in Brooklyn, New York, interviewing one of his former neighbours, when other residents start harassing them and trying to halt filming. If the documentary arrived with huge fanfare, Gandhi might have to contend with some more sinister threats from 6ix9ine’s wider orbit.

It’s not hard to see why someone would want to make a documentary about 6ix9ine’s story so far. He’s risen from a boy in the city’s most deprived area to one of the biggest rappers in the world, via jail time for sex crimes against a minor and a very public ratting out of an East Coast faction of the notorious LA Bloods gang. His music is lurid and loud, relying on outdated tropes, and he’s managed to remain successful despite being accused of domestic violence.

69: The Saga Of Daniel Hernandez charts the whole journey, from Hernandez working in a bodega shop as a kid to his troubles with the law. People from throughout his life appear – ex-girlfriend Sara Molina, his tattoo artist, his former driver, even his estranged biological father – offering insight into a young man corrupted by his thirst for attention and celebrity. As different parts of his persona are broken down (Danny the bodega boy, the Mexican Blood and rainbow-haired rapper, the troll), these talking heads reflect on what went wrong.

Without an interview from the rapper himself, there’s little here that feels new to those who’ve been following Tekashi’s story. To those who haven’t, it’s a solid explainer – and a compelling 90-minute look at why he morphed into this cartoon-like caricature in the first place. While much of the focus is on that extreme personality – playing up to whatever he thought would make him a success – the doc rightfully anchors itself by detailing his abhorrent actions. 6ix9ine’s brief imprisonment for filming and distributing videos of a sexual nature of a 13-year-old is mentioned, while Molina is given time to talk about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Hernandez. In a film that wants to get under his skin, these moments still feel too fleeting.

The making of 69 might make perfect sense, but its existence leaves some bigger questions. Does this person deserve to be immortalised in this way? Is this not just playing into Hernandez’s hands, further feeding the troll? Gandhi struggles with that himself at the end of the film. Sharing his unsuccessful attempts to reach the star’s team to get interview access, he wonders if what he hoped would be “a cautionary tale” is really just giving the Hernandez the attention he thrives on. With his latest album ‘Tattletales’ selling only 50,000 copies, perhaps this documentary is one last shot of fame before the bubble finally bursts.

Details

  • Director: Vikram Gandhi
  • Starring: Tekashi 6ix9ine, Sara Molina
  • Release date: November 17 (Hulu, US; UK release TBC)
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