Monday afternoon, America’s most manic snitch sat down in a stairwell at his new undisclosed address to upload an Instagram video about the music industry’s supposed latest mega-scam. “So listen, I want the world to know that Billboard is a lie,” said Tekashi 6ix9ine, or Daniel Hernandez, who was recently released from federal custody, where he was serving out a sentence for nine charges including conspiracy to murder and armed robbery. “You can buy No. 1s on Billboard. I want that to register in your head: You can buy No. 1s on Billboard.”
The conspiracy he was talking about involved the latest Billboard chart rankings, which put Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s quarantine single, “Stuck with U,” at No. 1, while 6ix9ine’s first hit post-prison, “GOOBA,” an undeniable monster of a track with an uncharacteristically corny music video, languished in third. Specifically, he claimed that, at the end of last week, “Stuck with U” suddenly acquired an additional 60,000 units, a metric combining sales and streaming numbers across platforms, and that 30,000 of those units were purchased with the same six credit cards.
“We have an on-going investigation right now,” 6ix9ine said, wearing an almost all-white outfit, topped with a pink satin bonnet. “Last Thursday, Ariana with ‘Stuck with U’ submitted 60,000 units last second. With the investigation we found this: they purchased half of those things with six credit cards. When we asked, ‘Where do those credit cards link to?’ Billboard said, ‘We can’t disclose that information.’ They bought 30,000 or so units with six credit cards. Six credit cards!”
At the same time, 6ix9ine claimed, Billboard had miscalculated “GOOBA’s” streams, attributing just 31 million units to his single when he alleged it had 50 million streams. In 6ix9ine’s view, they had “illegally disqualified” 20 million streams. “Billboard was number one, but now we know, it’s all manipulated, it’s fabricated, this is what artists do,” he said. “I want you to see this: ‘GOOBA’ streamed 50 million streams and this is what they’re counting…they only counted 31 million. Billboard illegally disqualified 20 million streams so they can drop down, so the people who bought No. 1, which was ‘Stuck with U,’ go to No. 1.”
To illustrate, the music industry’s agent of chaos indulged in an extended simile. “It’s like looking at an apple. An apple is most likely red. There’s green apples sometimes, but get this, there’s apples that are red, right? And you’re looking at an apple—and this is what we did with Billboard: if there’s 50 million streams on ‘GOOBA,’ why only count 31 million? It’s like looking at an apple—and I’m obviously looking at you and you’re red—but you’re not, you’re telling us that it’s not red. You got caught cheating red handed, right?
(Billboard and Nielsen did not immediately respond to requests for comment. This article may be updated with their statements).
Within hours, Grande and Bieber responded to the claims. On an Instagram story, Bieber posted a screenshot of his iPhone notes, arguing that 6ix9ine had misunderstood the rankings calculations. “He says his streams don’t count. Yes they do but he is counting his global streams and this is a domestic chart so only domestic streams count [sic],” Bieber claimed, “60,000 units came because we don’t disclose our number until end of week. That’s called strategy.”
The allegation that 30,000 units were purchased with six credit cards, Bieber said, was “a lie.” There are limits on how many sales a single credit card can buy. “The rules are clear,” Bieber said. “One credit card can buy max 4 copies. Anything over that the entire amount gets thrown out. Nielsen company checks this and found all our sales are legit because our fans are amazing and bought them [sic].”
“i ask u to take a moment to humble yourself. be grateful you’re even here. that people want to listen to u at all…”
Grande’s response took a more roundabout approach. In the caption of an Instagram post of the rankings, she thanked her supporters, adding that “anyone who knows me or has followed me for a while knows that numbers aren’t the driving force in anything i do [sic].” Grande claimed her fans and Bieber’s fans had bought the song, pointing out that track sales weigh heavier in the calculation than streams.
“i ask u to take a moment to humble yourself. be grateful you’re even here. that people want to listen to u at all,” Grande concluded, subtweeting 6ix9ine. “i’ve had a lot of ‘almost number ones’ in my career and i never said a goddamn thing because I FEEL GRATEFUL TO EVEN BE HERE. TO WANT TO BE HEARD AT ALL …. and you should feel that way too. congratulations to all my talented ass peers in the top ten this week. even number 3.”
Tekashi quickly followed up with a second video, clarifying that his anger lay more with Billboard than his artist peers. “I’m making this video to address Ariana,” 6ix9ine said. “I don’t want you to think that I’m coming at you—not saying that you’re not talented, not saying that you can’t sing. You’re a beautiful singer. You just don’t understand my pain. My frustration is from Billboard.”
If 6ix9ine’s first video veered deep into tin-hat territory, the second made a subtler point about the music industry and class. “I speak for the millions of kids that come from nothing,” 6ix9ine said, addressing the Florida-born child star, whose mom is the CEO of a safety equipment company, and whose dad owns a graphic-design firm. “Let me show you something.” The video cut to a clip of him touring the apartment where he spent his childhood with his mom and brother, and later, his brother’s girlfriend, his own girlfriend, and his daughter. In the footage, he shows off the first computer he bought where he learned to edit videos. “I spent my last couple of dollars on it,” he tells the cameraman.
When the video cuts back to Tekashi, he elaborates. “I want you to understand that I come from a different, different background than you,” Tekashi says. “My mom used to collect cans on the street. I used to bus tables, be a dishwasher.” He cuts to a montage of a red-haired Ariana in the Nickelodeon series Victorious, where she played Cat Valentine for three years, starting at the age of 17, launching her into the spotlight where she’s stayed for over 10 years.
The execution was on-brand for the gleeful antagonist who went “pee pee man” on his last album cover and rarely turns down a chance to troll (his Instagram bio reads “I’M BACK AND THEY MAD.”) The thrust was clear: even if it didn’t go down as he described, money had still played a role.