The Lowdown: Tekashi 6ix9ine is an internet meme, a charged child sex offender, and — occasionally — a rapper. But above all he is a testament to the power of a personal brand. Strip away the rainbow hair, the rainbow grill, the tattoos of his own pen name across his face, and you are left with a below average trap rapper who snarls and beats his chest and yells incoherently about money and blowjobs. His legal troubles didn’t end when he pled guilty to involving a 13-year-old child in a sexual performance, and he’s now facing life in prison on firearms and racketeering charges. Careers have been built on lesser felonies, but usually by emcees with more to say. On Dummy Boy, his first studio album, the man born Daniel Hernandez has crossover pop aspirations, and he assembles a formidable list of featured artist who almost all outshine him on his own tracks.
The Good: Tekashi 6ix9ine is something of an admirer of Donald Trump, and, like our current president, he has leveraged publicity into an incredible amount of support from industry professionals. In 6ix9ine’s case, that includes some of the leading producers of the day, such as Murda Beatz, Scott Storch, and Boi-1da. 6ix9ine does have one professional skill, which is his ability to find the pocket of the beats and ride those flows. The musicality of his rhymes shines on songs like “Stoopid”, “Kika”, and “Kanga”, which bites off both Kelis’ “Milkshake” and A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems”. Kanye West and Nicki Minaj show up with C-level punchlines by their own standards, but in this intellectual black hole, they represent shining examples of humor and wit. Bobby Shmurda brings a bit of energy to a verse recorded over a prison phone, and on “Waka”, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie comes close to realizing Dummy Boy’s pop aspirations.
The Bad: The album passes without a single memorable lyric from 6ix9ine himself, and Dummy Boy could work just as well as one long instrumental, scored with grunts instead of words. But the lack of writing that sounds — you know — written would be more tolerable if the album weren’t so repetitive and dull. Even the good features are generally worse than those artists usually manage, as if all the guests were stooping down to the level of their host.
The Verdict: Several of the beats are fun, and the guest verses provide a much needed spark of life. If your first language is, say, Russian or Chinese, then you might enjoy the musicality of some of 6ix9ine’s verses even though they blur together. Unfortunately, Dummy Boy is not improved with a knowledge of English, and indeed that might be an obstacle to enjoying the album.
Essential Tracks: Lol