Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber have defended themselves after a marginal Brooklyn rapper with a history of provocation accused the pop stars of manipulating sales of their new No. 1 hit Stuck With U. The aggrieved rapper, Tekashi 6ix9ine, also charged chart-compiler Billboard magazine with discounting video streams of his own song Gooba, leading to it finishing in third place this week.
Billboard, in an extraordinary measure, published a point-by-point rebuttal to 6ix9ine’s accusations on Monday.
Grande and Bieber also denied claims they had improperly boosted sales numbers of their duet. Grande fired back on Instagram at 6ix9ine. “I ask u to take a moment to humble yourself," she wrote. Bieber called the rapper’s accusations a "lie” in an Instagram story post.
To help clear the smoke that surrounds the feud, we break down the accusations and the accounting.
Who is Tekashi 6ix9ine, and what is his beef?
He is Daniel Hernandez, known professionally as Tekashi 6ix9ine (usually reduced to 6ix9ine, pronounced “six nine”). His music is written from an aggrieved perspective, marked by coarse, juvenile lyrics. Having taken issue with everyone from fellow rapper Chief Keef to actor Tom Hanks’s son Chet, he has shown himself to be indiscriminate when it comes to feud partners. The American, who has a long rap sheet, was recently released from prison after serving less than his two-year sentence related to conspiracy to murder and armed robbery.
On May 8, 6ix9ine released the filthy rap tune Gooba, his first post-prison song. Monitoring the track’s streaming and sales numbers along with those of other singles competing for the No. 1 chart position, he detected what he thought were suspicious chart manipulations by Billboard. He then posted multiple Instagram videos in which he laid out an Oliver-Stone-worthy conspiracy involving six credit cards and mass purchases of the Bieber-Grande duet. “You’re a lie and corrupt,” he accused Billboard. “You got caught cheating, and the world will know.”
Grande and Bieber respond
After the Billboard Hot 100 chart was released on Monday, pop singer Grande responded to 6ix9ine and defended Stuck With U’s top position: “I don’t give my energy to drama or strange accusations normally but this has gone a little too far,” she wrote on Instagram. “My fans bought the song. Justin’s fans bought the song. Our fans bought this song.”
In his own post, Bieber did not defend Grande or vouch for the sanctity of Billboard’s methodology. Rather, he expressed concern that his role in the feud was a diminished one. “If you gonna say [Grande’s] name, make sure you say mine because it’s our song,” the Baby singer wrote, seemingly taking offence over 6ix9ine’s lack of respect toward him.
On Monday, addressing the controversy in the “interest of transparency,” the venerable music-trade magazine explained its tabulating system while specifically shooting down 6ix9ine’s notions as to how his Gooba had unfairly come in at No. 3.
For example, the rapper had pointed to a discrepancy between YouTube’s visible play count for the song (more than 180 million) and the number of streams Billboard had counted for it this week (55.3 million). Counts for a video on its YouTube page represent global views, Billboard responded, while the magazine only counts U.S.-based plays for its charts.
Addressing the late 24-hour sales spike for Stuck With U identified by 6ix9ine, Billboard explained that the surge was likely the result of the sales on May 14 – the final day of the tracking week – when signed copies of Stuck With U were put up for sale in the web stores of Grande and Bieber.
The retro doo-wop ballad Stuck With U landed atop this week’s Hot 100 listing, with all net proceeds from the track to be donated to the First Responders Children’s Foundation. The fifth No. 1 single for Bieber and third for Grande, it represents both artists’ third track to make its debut at the top spot. The 6ix9ine comeback single Gooba, a rant against “haters” and those who chase “clout,” appeared at No. 3 in its first week, one spot ahead of Say So, last week’s No. 1 from Doja Cat featuring Nicki Minaj. The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights dropped from No. 3 to No. 4; Drake’s Toosie Slide slid from No. 4 to No. 6.
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