Controversy sets background to ‘DUMMY BOY’
“Colorful hair, don’t care,” Nicki Minaj raps on 6ix9ine’s Top-10 hit “FEFE,” the Murda Beatz-produced banger that dropped in mid-summer. While the queen is right that the rapper’s hair stylings aren’t of much consequence, a series of damning charges facing the Brooklyn native with a potential life sentence might be.
6ix9ine, born Daniel Hernandez, was jailed shortly before his new album “DUMMY BOY” was set to drop on Friday, Nov. 23, for various infractions, including allegations of racketeering. After a brief delay, the project arrived ubiquitously on Tueday, Nov. 27, following a tweet from DJ Akademiks announcing that it was dropping for “fans to enjoy.” A more astute reading might suggest that the rapper’s legal fate looks tenuous.
The album was leaked over the Thanksgiving weekend, but this didn’t seem to alleviate demand: Its proper release sported a swift climb to the top of the iTunes sales charts, undoubtedly the result of fervent public interest.
However strong a start, a singular question remains: Is the album good? Given the problematic history of its curator, the self-proclaimed “King of New York,” this is a loaded question. While few can get behind the man himself, the music still has a propensity to be occasionally decent, as was the case with “FEFE.” By any account, “DUMMY BOY” is certainly the best album you could’ve expected from the rapper at this point in his career. Why? He yells less.
Among other things, 6ix9ine has a delivery that can be soundly described as “unique.” It’s a biting, astoundingly angry growl hurled at top volume with an ensuing train of expletives. Take the single “STOOPID,” for instance: The likelihood that some violent act will be committed by the song’s end seems a given. Such a style sets him apart from his peers – if the flamboyant hair and matching grill didn’t already.
Even though his career thus far has been built on songs with this penchant for yelling, 6ix9ine manages to tone things down quite a bit on about half of “DUMMY BOY,” opting instead to deliver lines in a monotone ramble over brooding basslines and catchy hooks. This more streamlined approach to rap will undoubtedly prove advantageous from a sales perspective.
The number of artists recruited for this album reads as long as one of Lil Pump’s Gucci receipts. With the sole exception of “WONDO,” every track features newcomers and A-listers alike, including Kanye West, Lil Baby, Gunna and the aforementioned Minaj. Unsurprisingly, it’s on these tracks that the artist really excels.
The album’s standout is “KIKA,” which features a wonderous, simmering steel drum loop coupled with Tory Lanez’s auto-tune crooning handily driving the chorus. 6ix9ine is still angry here, but it seems to be a reined in sense of anger – a targeted, rifle-like delivery. The song’s end features a bit of wry humor when Lanez gives a shout-out to “Tr3yway,” the name of the gang that has recently gotten the rapper into such hot water. Recognizing this, Lanez falters halfway through its utterance, instead shouting other “t” words, including “Trojan” and “Target.” It’s amusing, if nothing else.
“MAMA,” the West and Minaj-featuring cut, is sure to draw the most attention for its name recognition alone. West is rather stingy about featuring, so his appearance here is particularly noteworthy, as is his selective endorsement of rap’s new wave. Minaj, to her credit, is always a welcome presence in the booth and more than delivers on her verse that some argue could be subbing Cardi B. Song aside, though, it’s singularly interesting to behold two of rap’s gatekeepers co-signing with such an unconventional and truly wild younger artist.
6ix9ine remains as problematic as when he first entered the industry, though his music is showing gradual signs of improvement. While his character is dubious at best, it’s likely the album will move a massive amount of units. Like Lil Wayne and T.I. before him, 6ix9ine should have more than adequate success selling records from behind bars. The problem is, though, that it might be his last opportunity to do so.