Bronx rapper Lil Tjay discusses his debut album, True 2 Myself
It’s always intriguing to see a young artist come out of nowhere and transform into what seems like an overnight success story.
Way back in 2017, South Bronx rapper Lil Tjay—just sixteen at the time—started to gain an incredible amount of buzz on social media with his SoundCloud-released singles, “Resume” and “Brothers.” The records quickly spread like wildfire and at this point—the beginning of December 2019—they sit at an impressive 75.4 million streams and 29.2 million streams, respectively.
Heavily influenced by his upbringing in the South Bronx borough of New York City, Lil Tjay’s singing is seemingly infused with a touch of Spanish even though the young artist doesn’t actually speak the language fluently. His verses are combined with infectious flows and catchy hooks that are easily ingrained in your head, and complemented by a touch of Auto-Tune. Although he’s a unique talent in his own right, he’s occasionally compared to fellow New York City rapper, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, who also hails from the Bronx.
“Don’t give up, never give up, anything is possible. If you want it just know there’s never going to be any handouts, you gotta really work.” – Lil Tjay
Tjay, who listed Drake and Meek Mill as his biggest musical influences in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, credits a portion of his success to the year he spent in a youth detention centre. That’s where the now 18-year-old artist claims he made the decision to pursue a career in music, and where his songwriting skills were able to develop exponentially.
In 2017, upon his release from the detention centre, Tjay doubled down on making music—using a phone and computer—and began to post tracks on SoundCloud. Tracks like the aforementioned “Brothers” and “Resume,” as well as other fan favourites including “No Escape,” the CashMoneyAP-produced “None of Your Love,” and “Leaked.”
After releasing his debut EP, No Comparison, in 2018, Tjay pulled the trigger on his highly-anticipated album debut, True 2 Myself, which was released through Columbia Records on Oct. 11. 2019 and lead by the single, “Hold On.” The supporting video for “Hold On” has been viewed over 14.3 million timers since premiering in mid-October.
True 2 Myself found early success and peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Canadian Albums Chart, which is also the highest ranking the project received out of all the countries it charted in. With that being the case, it came as no surprise that Canada was one of the first stops on the young star’s No Escape Tour, which will keep him on the road through most of December.
I got a chance to speak with the “Goat” rapper here in Toronto after a sold-out show inside Rebel. We touched on his come up, touring, and what he has in stock for the future. Check out the interview below along with the “True 2 Myself (Documentary)” video.
You can find True 2 Myself on all major streaming platforms including Apple Music and Spotify.
Q&A: Lil Tjay
HipHopCanada: What was it like growing up in the Bronx?
Lil Tjay: Growing up in the Bronx is unusual when you compare it to other cities. There’s a lot of versatility out there as well as different types of people. It’s definitely a place of poverty over all, it’s literally just the hood though, it’s different from some places I’ve been. New York City is kind of how it looks.
HipHopCanada: What originally got you into music in general and what was the first song, you can remember ever writing?
LT: I mean I used to always try to write music a long time ago, I never took it all the way serious but there was a time and a place I was trying to take it seriously when I was a kid but I always knew I wanted to be an artist too but just didn’t take it seriously at first.
HipHopCanada: Looking back, who would you say positively impacted you on the come up and really kept you focused?
LT: Myself, just even knowing that it was possible.
HipHopCanada: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. How did the record “Pop Out” come about?
LT: Just having met Polo in New York and we just ended up getting in the studio and decided to make a song. Then it went crazy from there.
HipHopCanada: What was the energy like recording that song in the studio?
LT: It was a calm day, we was just chilling in the studio.
HipHopCanada: Let’s talk about your other releases your core are super familiar with, “Brothers” and “Leaked.” What was your thought process and where was your mind at?
LT: Both are two different vibes and it was literally me being in the mind state of wanting to blow up.
HipHopCanada: What has the tour been like for you and what has been the most memorable part?
LT: Dang, it’s just kind of like, the out of the country thing. Like [being] out of the States is the biggest thing that stood out to me. Being able to sell-out shows out here going to London, Ireland and being able to sell-out shows.
HipHopCanada: Which city has brought the most energy, out of everywhere you’ve been so far what city has been your favourite?
LT: It’s kind of hard to tell. I dunno, I get a different vibe from all these places. It’s hard to compete because it’s a lot of competition between cities.
HipHopCanada: Talk about the two singles on the new album True 2 Myself, how did the record with Lil Baby come about?
LT: Literally, I know someone from my label who had to work with him closely. Around that time, I was thinking about putting someone on the song, I guess they had played it for him and he had fucked with it and he hopped on it.
HipHopCanada: How did you get your other single to Lil Wayne?
LT: It was kind of the same process really.
HipHopCanada: Who are some of the artists you’d like to work with down the road?
LT: Really, there’s a whole lot but I don’t really plan features. I like to let it happen, you know? If it happens, it happens.
HipHopCanada: What was the feeling like when you found out the “Leaked” went gold for the first time?
LT: Amazing. I get the same feeling every time a new record steps out. It’s definitely an amazing feeling because I always remember being in the trenches.HipHopCanada: What kind of advice could you giving aspiring artists in Canada?
LT: Don’t give up, never give up, anything is possible. If you want it just know there’s never going to be any handouts, you gotta really work.
HipHopCanada: My last question for you is what can your fans here in Canada as well as readers at HipHopCanada expect from you in the near future?
LT: Just more music. I’m definitely coming strong in 2020 and even before that. Before 2020 comes, just more heat, more everything.
You can follow @LilTjay on Instagram.
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