On one earth and on two continents, two rappers, rapping in different languages fed the beast of social media while their hands were dirty. Now, they pay with their freedom.
On April 20, 2019, Nigerian news circles swirled with the news that Nigerian singer, and heartthrob to Nigerian Generation Zers shook a bottle of coke and shattered what would have been his lunch.
He attempted to justify internet fraud with slavery. He used a global subject of black pain as cheap validation for illegality. Inevitably, Twitter NG erupted and battered his ignorance with angry threads and vitriol.
Like frustration can split coconut, his opinions split Twitter just like it split Nigerian celebrities. Ideals were questioned. On his actions, some blamed ignorance, some blamed clout-chasing and others blamed immaturity. Others even brazenly alleged Marley’s involvement in crime, and questioned why he was in Nigeria, and not the UK.
Like that was not enough, he made a second video and defiantly cursed all who disagreed with him with the confidence of Socrates. He then gleaned the inadequacies of the government and corruption as validation for internet fraud before he started a back-and-forth with Ruggedman that Davido attempted to settle but couldn’t.
The culmination of this saw Naira Marley channel all the negative energy into a song, ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy?’ In two weeks, a music video for the song has become Nigeria’s most-watched video on YouTube with one million views. The spotlight was on him, he was popping and trending.
He even planned to release another music video for another single, ‘Opotoyi,’ after the Ramadan fasting. Sadly, he was oblivious to what was to happen - he was two planets away from zany jokes now...
In faraway New York City, US, another rapper and serial hitmaker, Tekashi 6ix9ine became the toast of American radio around late 2017 – the time Naira Marley started popping.
This was after the 2015 incident which involved a video of then 17-year-old 6ix9ine appearing to grope a then 13-year-old girl. Instead of facing a potential three-year prison sentence, he took a deal, and was ordered to take his GED, refrain from posting explicit content on social media and not commit an offence for two years.
6ix9ine went from obscurity to the spectacle of American pop culture. His maiden appearance on Power 105.1 radio show, The Breakfast Club became the most-watched video the show ever had – 6ix9ine also obnoxiously predicted this feat during the interview, suggesting that he enjoyed the popularity and virality he was capable of.
His single, ‘Gummo’ became a hit and it then launched his career. But as his music career soared, so did his appetite for controversy at a worse level than Naira Marley’s. On most days between June 2018 to November 2018, the question was, 'What is 6ix9ine going to do?'
He stared feuds with ordinary and gangster rappers. He moved with Bloods and Crips like it was ordinary while confidently issuing a call to America to “test my gangster.” He was a defiant machinery of recklessness and made the conversation about everything else but the music.
Even worse, he reveled in the attention and somewhere, he probably felt like the controversy drove his music. Maybe it did, but that strategy was always doomed for failure. The self-acclaimed 'hottest rapper in New York' was at the time so preoccupied with vanity that his soaring career was suffering and he didn't even notice.
On a show, one of the many veteran rappers who warned 6ix9ine to calm down was Fat Joe. He lectured Tekashi on how American Law enforcement enjoyed making scapegoats of rappers but Tekashi did not listen. By this time, he was allegedly rolling with Nine Trey Gangsters, a violent sect of the Bloods street gang.
Even though he had allegedly cut ties with the sect by the time he got arrested, Federal Law Enforcement found enough evidence to make him complicit throughout the time he was involved with the sect.
He has been incarcerated since November 2018.
Arrest and arraignment
Naira Marley was arrested alongside four others on Friday, May 10, 2019. While the other four were released after five days, Marley was charged to the Federal High Court on alleged credit card fraud. Earlier today, he was arraigned in court where he pled not guilty to all 11 counts of fraud.
His bail hearing was also adjourned till May 30, 2019.
On his part and upon his arrest, 6ix9ine was charged with federal RICO and firearms offences, including conspiracy to murder and armed robbery. He faced up to life in prison. His bail application was denied by the Judge who felt him a danger to the community.
On February 1, 2019, he pled guilty to nine charges and now faces up to 47 years in prison. On February 16, a document revealed the possibility of 6ix9ine being released if he testifies against his gang members.
Brothers in clout-chasing
In both cases lie two young men basking in ignorance and the infectiousness of social media without understanding the power it wields. For both Naira Marley and Tekashi 6ix9ine, social media was their greatest tool and it was also the greatest loudspeaker for the infamy they both perpetrated.
While 6ix9ine’s case is much greater, there are parallels in both cases that point to how both young men ruined themselves with the vanity and clout that only social media can provide. Even worse, they ignorantly kept at their respective actions while their hands were seemingly dirty and while Law enforcement could easily tie both of them to crimes.
On his path, 6ix9ine lost shows and endorsements. He fell from the very top of virality. On his part, Naira Marley seemed an endorsement shoo-in before this madness. Now, no company that values its image in this woke world will touch him with a 100-foot pole, lest it risks a boycott.
The borderline is how clout-chasing and thirst for popularity and virality can wrongly impact you. Naira Marley expected his Instagram post that drew inference between slavery and internet fraud to blow up. I wager that it was a calculated effort to get him back into conversations.
That happened, and like 6ix9ine, he milked it. He created a storm from a harmless situation with singer, Simi. He kept having Instagram Live sessions and unrepentantly stuck to his guns and kept attacking his detractors.
For 6ix9ine, he probably felt he was bringing the 90’s back to Hip-Hop. His video sets were shot up by goons, he was creating problems with gangsters in Houston, Texas. At one point, it became apparent that nobody could be that troublesome, and that he intentionally fed the beast of social media and it came back to bite him.
In this age and era, publicity is good, but you cannot put excessive focus on publicity and clout over your career. It’s good to not get too addicted to keep milking that avenue.
Even worse, they both underestimated the Law and its tendency to scapegoat. Their lives are now a cautionary tale on what to and what not to do.
Like that was not enough, a video of Naira Marley seemingly hanging with his friends has again surfaced on the internet. At a time when attention is on him, why he chose pointless defiance again, over a simple low profile is beyond everyone.
Even if the police gave him time to hang with friends and family, why did a footage of him sending defiant subs to the EFCC end up on social media?
In the end, this is a lesson on the perils on social media, clout-chasing and the addictive nature of it all. The fake adulation from like-minded people will only make clout-chasing worthwhile for a minute, it is not value.
People should learn from Tekashi 6ix9ine and Naira Marley.