The First Interview with Abraham Tekabo, Founder of 6ixBuzz
What started as a Toronto Instagram account is now a big player in the Canadian music industry, with the power to build hip-hop careers. With rumours swirling online, the elusive founder tells the story in his own words.
6ixBuzz has a major influence on Toronto’s hip-hop culture, even if they don’t always get the credit for it.
In 2022, 6ixBuzz was nominated for a Juno Award. But you wouldn’t have known it looking at the nominations. “What I Like,” a song featuring Toronto-based artists Anders and FRVRFRIDAY, was recognized in the Rap Single of the Year category. But Abraham Tekabo noticed a key name missing from the nomination: 6ixBuzz.
“If you’re really going to disrespect the Toronto culture, don’t nominate us,” says Tekabo. “I got [Junos President] Allan [Reid’s] number through DMing someone who knew him and asked him ‘why are you disrespecting my work by not including [6ixBuzz] on there?' When they [finally] announced it, they titled us ‘infamous.’"
Abraham Tekabo doesn’t shy away from getting what he wants.
While still living in his childhood home around Weston Road and Pelham Park, Tekabo founded 6ixBuzz on Instagram in 2017. Then a frustrated 19-year-old business student at George Brown College in Toronto with a part-time job at Bulk Barn, he was looking at his prospects and wondering how to gain experience when even every entry-level job he was seeing required five years of it. So, inspired by the rise of Toronto hip-hop on the world stage, he started something himself. He saw 6ixBuzz’s followers balloon from about 60,000 to half a million when Drake started following and liking posts.
He's now 25 with a content empire based on Toronto culture. What began as an account that shared memes, fights and funny videos soon became an undeniable career-builder for Canadian hip-hop artists. Soon, it also became an online publication, while Tekabo’s right-hand man, Sarman Esagholian, handled the social media accounts.
That’s no small job. With more than 2.4 million followers on Instagram and half a million more on TikTok, Facebook and X, the platform has garnered attention (good and bad) from Drake to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Since 2018, 6ixBuzz has produced three compilation albums featuring artists including Pressa, Houdini, Yung Tory and Killy. Their first album, 6ixUpsideDowncharted on Billboard Canadian Albums at No. 87 and received two JUNO nominations. 6ixBuzz is nominated again this year for Rap Single of the Year for “Alejandro Sosa” with Pengz. This time, 6ixBuzz’s name is not left out.
Now, Tekabo and 6ixBuzz have a deal with Warner Music Canada, releasing tracks like “VV” featuring Killy and Houdini, and their third compilation album Canada’s Most Wanted. They’ve gone gold multiple times in Canada, a very rare feat especially for records featuring local rappers.
Tekabo has been working with major industry players and hearing from celebrities and political figures, but despite growth and attention, the bigger fear of sharing his identity was prevalent.
“I’d hear kids yelling 6ixBuzz filming a video or I'd be in the store and then hear people talking about 6ixBuzz,” says Tekabo. “At one time it was overwhelming to me. But it was more overwhelming because it was more of a secret. My own family didn’t know. My immediate family didn't know. ”
But they found out by 2021 after media reports started leaking out about 6ixBuzz, published without Tekabo’s participation. At the same time, 6ixBuzz was put on trial in the court of public opinion for their past and present controversies. A flurry of articles and podcasts came out pointing to 6ixBuzz’s platforming of anti-vaxxers and association with conservative politicians like Doug Ford and Pierre Pollievre, who have all shared 6ixBuzz content.
“[The media] just decided to just put whatever they want on there, then they kind of put the narrative out there,” says Tekabo. “This is why I was like, why not just address everything?”
Abraham Tekabo, founder of 6ixBuzzPhotographer: Lane Dorsey/Billboard Canada. Styling by Aliecia Brisette. Makeup & Hair by Franceline Graham.
Though he still doesn’t show his face, for the first time Tekabo is sitting down for a full interview under his own name. Speaking with Billboard Canada, Tekabo talks about his upbringing, how 6ixBuzz blew up and why Canadian hip-hop needs more support.
How did 6ixBuzz start?
Halfway into the year [at George Brown], I was just like, “hey, I'm going to start this internet blog situation.” There was a little pocket for that to be open. That summer, I promised myself I was going to create an Instagram blog page and to see where it goes. I started that summer, which would have been 2017. I started a blog page called NorthboundBuzz. It was me and a friend. We were going to go 50/50 on the shares and start it.
But then I realized, I can't grow a company with somebody that doesn't really have the same vision as me. I had 250 bucks in my bank account…I bought a spare Instagram account with like 1000 followers. I went from no followers to pretty much like 10,000 followers pretty instantly… [After it grew to 500,000] I just kept going, kept going and then I started trying to connect with Americans that are really big and trying to show them what's going on, going into different meetings and different labels and starting meeting up with different people. And it was all a blur from there actually.
You’ve been working with some big players in Canada, especially in your deal with Warner Music Canada. How does it feel being the youngest person in the room?
The Warner situation was a blessing. They gave me a really big opportunity. What’s put there on the internet is that [6ixBuzz] and Warner have a joint venture situation, but it wasn’t that. It was only an artist deal for two projects. It wasn’t a joint venture situation where I could bring any artist and sign them. I need a real partner at the end of the day. Not that Warner Music Canada wasn’t, they just really weren’t efficient enough for what I needed to do. At the end of the day, I’m looking for that situation in the States. A lot of people that I work with, whether they're fresh out of jail or dealing with a tough situation in the city…[they] have to be very careful in Toronto.
Do you think there's a lack of labels and artists within hip-hop in Canada that prioritize Canadian artists or sounds?
I’m not impressed with [Canadian labels]. I understand they're not in the business of losing money, but at least make a splash, do something big. We know that they do nothing for the community. We just have to look at what's going on in the offices, and see who’s in the departments that matter when it comes to hip-hop. Because if we have people who really care, we’d see more fair attempts. Why don’t you find a kid from Scarborough, offer them a 30/70 distribution split? The jobs of these labels should be turning up the city.
Do you feel you have an unrecognized influence when it comes to the city's music and culture?
I know we do just because I know how my life has been the last five years. When one of these up-and-coming artists has a problem, it's almost my problem to some degree. I’ve developed a relationship with some of these guys over the last four or five years. For example, I can pull up my 10 fingers and name how many people I know in Toronto, back from when they started. I’ve seen like 10 people become millionaires in the Toronto hip-hop space.
How did 6ixBuzz first transition from a social media page to expanding into a media platform and music company?
Honestly, it grew with the audience. A lot of people who follow 6ixBuzz started when they were in high school, a lot of people didn’t as well and started following it when it was more established already. Say they were kids in high school, like four or five years ago, now these kids are adults in university. I'm not going to keep the same bullshit they’re used to. If I want to cater to the audience, I’d rather create a whole new blog for them. We're going to become a digital media agency and digital media company, instead of before when we were just an Instagram blog.
Who are some of the artists who you've helped throughout their career through 6ixBuzz?
The list goes on, it’s a lot of people.
For example, me and Smiley grew up in the same neighbourhood going to the same after-school programs. If you were to ask me 15 years ago if Smiley would've been around or even when I started 6ixBuzz, I would have told you you’re lying to me. If you’d have told me he’d have a song with Drake, I’d be like, what, how did this even happen? How did we go from here, chilling on St. Clair to being with Drake now? Or going from parties in our area to parties at Drake's house? It’s stuff like that.
As it’s grown, 6ixBuzz has been putting out a lot more news and especially political content. What led to that?
I’m not going to give people what they don’t like. Couple years ago, all people could talk about was COVID-19, so we covered it. COVID is kind of what switched us to cover a lot of news, and become this certified news company.
Some media have called 6ixBuzz a home for a right-wing community, citing posts about the trucker convoy or comments about LGBTQ issues. Do you find that the page has or appeals to any political view?
When I was a kid growing up, my favourite politician was Jack Layton. I like everything about him. Other than that, after that, I couldn’t care less who was Prime Minister or who wasn’t. Personally, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just posting. I don’t want to give my opinion on who’s right or who’s wrong.
Our comments bully Justin Trudeau, and we kind of enable them to in a way. He has the hardest job in the world. It can’t be easy, but you sign up for it at the end of the day.
Why have you decided to keep your identity anonymous when it comes to 6ixBuzz and not show your face?
I still plan on not showing my face for a while. But as far as my identity and being out there, like Abraham, people knowing, I feel like it's just been kind of exposed for a while already. And a lot of misinformation has been out there…I made a lot of mistakes, but I also made a lot of good choices. At the end of the day, it’s still been 100 percent Black-owned from the very start and that's what I wanted the whole time.