Exclusive – Akademiks struck up a friendship with 6ix9ine long before he was rap’s most infamous snitch, but it wasn’t exactly intentional. It was 2017 and 6ix9ine had just dropped his breakout single “GUMMO.” With his rainbow-colored hair and tough guy aesthetic, 6ix9ine was racking up the YouTube views — and Akademiks was paying attention.
“That relationship started when I was listening to his music,” Akademiks tells HipHopDX in a recent phone interview. “Never met him yet, but I’m bumping to the song ‘GUMMO.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, this is fire.’ I was just a general fan. And I put up on my story and said something like, ‘Yo, this is going to be one of the biggest songs since Bobby Shmurda’s ‘Hot N-gga.’
“I got reached out to by some random person. It was a guy with a penguin as a logo. I kid you not. A penguin was the only picture on his page, but he was verified. I said, ‘What the heck is this?’ It was like the illuminati reaching out. He was like, ‘Yo, I’m glad you like 6ix9ine. He’s signed to us. We should talk at one point.'”
Akademiks was co-hosting Everyday Struggle at the time and had flown out to Long Beach for work. The same man reached out again and wanted to meet in-person at Delilah’s in Los Angeles. Somewhat skeptical, Akademiks decided to take the meeting anyway.
“People think because they hear my name a lot that I’m always doing industry stuff, but I really live a very regular life,” he says. “I don’t hang out with industry people because I never really got an opportunity to be helped by them to get into this place where I’m at. So I’m not the person who’s like, ‘Now, I’m in this place. Let me only hang out at y’all’s parties and party with ya’ll.’ I don’t really want to be around you. I like to live very isolated.”
Walking into the restaurant with his entourage, Akademiks saw producer Steve Stoute, Hot 97 radio host Ebro Darden, several industry executives and, of course, the man he was supposed to meet.
“The guy was like, ‘Yo, I’ll buy you and your team a bunch of drinks,'” he explains. “Now you got our attention. And he was like, ‘I’m glad you like the 6ix9ine record.’ I’m like, ‘Why isn’t this popping off already?’ So he tells me a bunch of problems with it. He says, ‘Yo, I want you to help me. I want you to give me advice on how to deal with this on a PR side.” And I said, ‘Well, there’s a couple problems with him.’ And at the time, 6ix9ine, there was a heavy cloud about like his child sexual misconduct, that case.
“I remember saying to the guy, ‘Well, I’m going to just be honest. I don’t know why this song isn’t out officially. That’s one problem. But number two, you can’t really post him on social media. I posted him one time because he looks funky and shit like that. I posted him and Instagram deleted it and it was deleted because of mass reporting. People hate him.'”
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Unsure of what to do next, Akademiks suggested he should schedule an interview for 6ix9ine in an effort to humanize him. He also told him to fix the issues with the song. Two weeks later, Akademiks was back in New York when he got a phone call from the man who tells him, “Yo, we took your advice. Yo, you’re amazing.” The only problem was they could’t find anyone willing to interview 6ix9ine, so Akademiks ended up doing it himself — despite his reservations about it.
Meeting 6ix9ine for the first time, Akademiks was surprised by his humble demeanor and wound up doing multiple interviews that day.
“Really, why the friendship even started was because we did three interviews that day,” he says. “And we did the first one because I had to say, ‘Yo, just speak. Just tell your side and tell your truth.’ And he spoke. His manager ran on afterwards and said, ‘I don’t like that.’ They wanted him to be a little more scripted. They just wanted pretty much something that was just not authentic.”
Akademiks then did a second interview with 6ix9ine and his team still wasn’t happy. He left with three full interviews and only one Akademiks felt would work.
“The last one that I did with them is bullshit,” he admits. “No one would believe that. They’d see through that and be like, ‘Yo, this guy’s a piece of shit who’s reading from a paper.’ I told them you want him to seem as authentic as he could be, and he was authentic in the first interview.”
Two days later, Akademiks got a call from 6ix9ine who’d asked for his number. He wanted him to choose which interview he should publish.
“He says, ‘I want you to be honest with me — which interview should we go with?'” he continues. “And I said, “‘ don’t want to get between what you and your manager probably have decided, but the first one was authentic and you should go with that.’ Right then he said, ‘That’s what I want. I don’t want that other staged shit.’
“And it told me a lot about him, because I realized he was down to be imperfect, even though he already was imperfect, but he was down to give it raw and authentic. A lot of music is really carefully put together and contrived.”
Akademiks is also one of the few who’s met Daniel Hernandez — not the heavily tattooed caricature 6ix9ine, but the real kid behind the image.
“I met Daniel Hernandez one day — and this is when we became friends,” he recalls. “Because when I was at the interview, there was definitely a heightened level of security. There was a bunch of dudes were red rags around. So lot of Bloods, you know what I mean? One day, he pulls up to Complex and I won’t ever forget this.
“I remember walking through the office and nobody wanted anything to do with him. I was pretty much saying, ‘Does anybody want to do an interview?’ And everyone was like, ‘Yo, fuck no. Don’t ever bring him back to the office.'”
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So Akademiks and 6ix9ine end up strolling through Times Square, taking pictures and talking. They eventually wound up at one of his childhood friend’s houses.
“I met Daniel when he said, ‘Yo, I’m going to go to my homie’s crib,'” he says. “And I was like, ‘Whoa, I ain’t with this gang stuff.’ And he was like, ‘No, this is the guy who I grew up with.’ We went to some really hole-in-the-wall, projects type shit where they were living in some crazy conditions.
“But I saw not 6ix9ine but Daniel Hernandez there, where it was just playing around. They had jokes from 10 years ago. Everything was just goofy and it wasn’t about gang shit. It wasn’t about being hard. It was just all about a couple of 20 or 21 year olds just joking around.”
He continues, “I remember saying to him at that point, ‘All that stuff with the gang stuff, that’s not you. This is you.’ And he kind of agreed, even though I think he also would say that’s also him too, just a different persona or a different part of him. But that’s where I saw the authentic person.
“A lot of times, people will judge me based on the rants they’ve seen. They’ll judge me based on the people they think I’ve gotten into it with or some of the content I’ve put out, but you don’t really know someone off that.”
6ix9ine found himself embroiled in a RICO case just months later and would end up testifying against the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods at trial, earning himself the nickname “Snitch9ine” along the way. While he continues to ruffle the feathers of the rap industry, Akademiks has remained cool with the controversial artist — but that doesn’t mean he agrees with everything he does. However, he does find their friendship to be mutually beneficial.
“I always told people, you always need an artist that rocks with you or fucks with you more than everybody else,” he says. “That’s important because you become almost the only access to that artist. Now you’re hoping, if you’re doing sports that you’re LeBron James’ guy, like he’ll only do interviews with you or something like that. It’s going to help you. But the story of 6ix9ine is a little bit different because I do feel like we helped each other.
“I came up a very independent route, but for him, an artist of his stature, by the time I met him, he should have been embraced by a lot of outlets, but he wasn’t. On a business side, he was smart with, ‘Yo, let me be cool with this guy.’ But on a friendship side, that was genuine.”