I’m going to take over the world, Lil Tjay said, at the conclusion of his most recent Complex interview. The interview was conducted just 12 hours after his debut album True 2 Myself hit stores and streaming platforms. The 17-track album, whose finale is a Lil Wayne-featured remix of “Leaked,” is an inspired show of Lil Tjay’s star potential. With its inescapable hooks, and bars packed with all of the nostalgia an 18-year-old could possibly muster, True 2 Myself has skyrocketed to becoming one of the most promising rap debuts this year.
A melding of his contemporaries, Lil Tjay is a young incumbent to the pop-rap wave we’ve seen gain rise. In True 2 Myself opener “One Take,” a straight rap song with a lilting piano melody as its hook, Lil Tjay shows off his timely, hard-hitting bars. He even references his first few doses of rap beef, the near-constant comparisons between himself and A Boogie Wit A Hoodie which are always punctuated with the lingering question: Who is the real king of New York rap?
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Though the title is self-proclaimed, we think Lil Tjay is a name worth tossing in the mix. Especially when you’re talking about the Bronx. Of course, there is A Boogie, who astounded the internet with his new age success this year. And from Hell’s Kitchen there is the lyrical divine Marlon Craft, whose exceedingly real bars are the closest we have to an oracle for these times. Not to mention Brooklyn’s own Jay Critch, the 21-year-old rapper who recently co-starred on the Rich Forever 4 mixtape with Rich the Kid and Famous Dex. Whose to say which, if any, of these rappers is the true King of New York. But regardless, the city is bustling with hip-hop talent these days, and Lil Tjay is right amongst the best.
Three years ago, a 15-year-old Lil Tjay was sentenced to a year in a juvenile detention center for a robbery. In late 2017, he returned to his Fordham Heights neighborhood in the Bronx where he continued to learn the hard way for only a little before finding himself in the studio, recording his break-out single “Resume.”
In “Resume”, his soft-rap voice is our Virgil through the streets of New York. A city which, according to the themes in True 2 Myself, can be dark and unforgiving the longer you exist in it. Much like “Resume” is “F.N,” where Lil Tjay takes more shots at describing his harsh upbringing and those fallen around him. But what separates him most from the fold are the lush piano melodies beneath his lyrics and his contagious beats. The marks of true potential—instincts.
Lil Tjay will be on the road for the rest of this year promoting True 2 Myself. Though the album can feel more like a playlist, we think this effort bodes well for the Bronx rapper, who, really, didn’t even need an album to notch a Billboard Top 15 single, or to become one of the leaders in New York’s melody-driven rap scene. But now, behind the honest True 2 Myself, you can catch Lil Tjay across America’s stages.