I Did It
At 18, Lil Tecca has had more success than rappers twice his age, but that hasn’t jaded his desire to keep pumping out hits. With We Love You Tecca 2 approaching, the Queens rapper is prepared for both the love and hate.
Interview: Aleia Woods
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Lil Tecca is a New York-bred teen to his core. He claims he’s always going to be a kid and wants to relish in it for however long he can. That’s his mind state heading into this summer, in which he hopes to spend his time playing basketball, going to amusement parks, museums and libraries. On a spring day in late May, the 18-year-old rapper, born Tyler-Justin Anthony Sharpe, is in the greyed-out bedroom of his Long Island home, diving deep into a late lunch of a Caribbean patty and a Jamaican Kola Champagne soda. Despite his hunger, Tecca, who was raised in a Jamaican household in Queens, is ready to chat via Zoom.

Currently, Tecca is in a great mental space as he’s been busy recording his forthcoming album, We Love You Tecca 2, in Los Angeles over the last five months. He’s bringing the melodic, nostalgic vibe of his 2019 platinum mixtape, We Love You Tecca, but insists the energy differs from his 2020 debut album, Virgo World. The multiplatinum-selling rhymer’s imminent release follows his already established track record for success, which includes the hit singles “Ransom,” “Did It Again” and his recently dropped track that’s already bubbling “Never Left.”

With WLYT 2 on deck for an Aug. 6 release, Lil Tecca opens up about the album, being labeled a pioneer, personal growth, the pursuit of happiness and more.

So, what have you been doing with yourself over the last few days?

I just got back to New York. So, I linked up with my friends and stuff. Just that home vibe back, ’cause I been working on my project for the last few months.

Fans are excited for We Love You Tecca 2. You’ve been working with Internet Money?

Well, me and Taz [Taylor] been working with each other for like, two years at this point. So, it’s definitely a chemistry, it’s definitely a dynamic. We already know what we wanna get out. We already know the vibe. It’s very successful.

What made you want to collaborate with Taz and Internet Money?

It’s just a sound. Like, when you hear of We Love You Tecca, it’s a sound. So, now that this is the second version, it’s time to make the V2 of that sound, not go back. ’Cause you always gotta go forward, but reintroduce, like make a nostalgic feeling. Recreate that whole vibe.

Who are some of the artists we can expect to see on the album?

You can definitely expect Boat [Lil Yachty] on there. You can definitely expect Gunna.

What was it like working with somebody like Gunna, who you have said is one of your favorite artists?

Bruh, especially when I got the verse back? I’m like, Yeah, this nigga going crazy. It was lit. I ain’t even gon’ lie. It was lit ’cause that’s something. I definitely do like [his] music a lot. A lot, a lot. Bro, is too fire.

What would you say you did differently with this album opposed to Virgo World or even the first We Love You Tecca?

I would say this is different from both of them. Not music-wise. I’m not making no crazy country music or something, but I would say the process was different. Just the energy was different. It feels really natural. It feels really concentrated and focused. It’s definitely a vision. We’re not just lost in the sauce. There’s a vision.

How did you record differently?

When I say that, what I mean by that, I mean basic studio sessions, basic rapper verse, studio. You hop in. If you don’t have a beat already, you might call some of your friends, ask them for beats, all this other cool stuff. But this time around, we hoppin’ in there. We playin’ up loops, starting the beat from scratch. It’s a different method, you know? ’Cause when you hear just beats back-to-back-to-back, you really have nothing to do with the beats. You have to wait ’til you find something that you like. But instead, when you loading something up, you can make something that you like.

You have a successful track record. “Ransom” is four-times platinum, “Did It Again” is platinum. Your recent song, “Never Left,” is buzzing. Do you feel a certain amount of pressure to outdo prior successes that you’ve had?

I feel less pressure now. You get the most pressure when you do this for your first time ’cause everyone is looking at you like, “Can he do it again?” But even before I had “Ransom,” I already been dropped buzzing songs… And it’s two years later now, so how can I still feel pressure from two years ago, a year ago? I’m doing me. If I let anything give me pressure, I’m just letting a bunch of random people eat me up on some brainwashing shit. That’s dead.

How do you measure success for yourself? Both musically and personally?

At the end of the day, this is my career. This is my business. So, if your music is doing good, you’re doing something right. You feel me? But, that’s just the base level of it ’cause there’s a lot of successful artists that might not be happy in real life. I worry about what’s real first. Before I step into the numbers and all of the opinions, I make sure what’s real. I got a clean room. My mom happy. My dad happy. I’m eating good food. The internet, it’s always gon’ be there. But here? This shit could go away in a day. So, I’m just worried about me.

How impactful have your parents been in your rap career?

My parents is the best parents in the world. I can’t ever put them at No. 2 or nothing. They’re very impactful in this. It’s very important to have people that you love supporting you.

You were 15, 16 years old when your career started buzzing. Have you adjusted to the fame so far?

Nah, even ’til this day, there’s no adjustment. I’m still that same dude. I done changed a lot. I done evolved a lot, but I’m still that same dude. And I just be thinking about it sometimes. And it’s like, it makes me go crazy in my head because I can think about so many times where I probably thought about quitting or I probably was like, Damn, they think I’m trash. Or some weird something.

Or like, people in school, they didn’t like me or something. And I just think about where I’m at now. It’s not an explainable feeling. If anyone tells you that the feeling is explainable, it don’t matter what rapper you ask, if they got a word to describe this, there’s something wrong.

In high school, were you the popular kid? Were you the class clown? Were you the ladies’ man?

I was just me. Like, everyone knew me. Everyone didn’t really know nothin’ about me, but they knew me, though. And they knew if I came around then it was lit. Like, I wasn’t going to the dry parties, I wasn’t linking with no... If I’m there, it’s lit. Just know if I’m there, it’s worth something. No matter before I was rapping. Any of that. If I’m talking to a girl, she’s here. My guys, they them. You feel me? Like, it’s no half-ass nothing.

And what’s even weirder, ’cause I would be in class talking my shit and there would be girls in the corner like, “You gotta have a backup plan.” And I’m just like, “Shut up!” Like, you don’t know me. Like, I’m serious about this. But that really happened, though.

Before rap took off for you, what were your career plans?

I wanted to be an NBA player, but I knew I wasn’t gonna go to the NBA. I knew since the seventh grade I wasn’t going to the NBA and I just dropped it all right there. One day, I was a basketball player and the next day, I wasn’t. Like, at all. I’m not playing ball at gym. I’m not wasting my time at all on it.

lil tecca photo

What discouraged you?

It was just a super self-realization moment that I’m so happy I got at that point in my life. I was just like, I’m not going to the NBA. These niggas are raw. These niggas are dunking on people. I can’t do this. So, it went from something that was realistic to very unrealistic in a split second.

As far as this newer generation of rappers, where do you think you stand amongst them?

I don’t know. I blew up like two years ago. Like, amongst the rappers that coming up now, I don’t know where I stand amongst them. I really don’t know. All of us are still not shit. We all got a long way to go. That’s where we all stand, honestly.

Who are your top five rappers?

My son Shawny Binladen. I’d say that’s No. 5. He just be going crazy. I like unorthodox music. Shit that I can just move my head to. It just makes my head move. I would say that music is fire. No. 4, Gunna. I always just listen to Gunna. [No.] 3, I’ma just put Lil Baby. I be bumpin’ Lil Baby. Bro crazy... [No.] 2, let’s put... You know Lancey Foux? I’ma put him at two. He been going crazy for a minute. I been listening to him since like, a minute, like [20]18… [No.] 1... You know Ken Car$on? Yeah, I been bumping him a lot. He’s fire. Yeah, I’d put bro at [No.] 1.

Rapper Lil Tecca performs onstage during "We Love You Tecca" tour at Center Stage on November 06, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Paras Griffin, Getty Images

You and Lil Mosey, you’re both on Internet Money’s “Jetski.” You guys had some issues between the two of you in the past, but you guys seem to have have squashed the beef. How were you two able to mend those fences so that you guys could be able to do some work and be on a record together?

We both older now.

Maturity fixes things sometimes.

Yeah. It is what it is.

You mentioned on Twitter that you are working on yourself. In what ways are you doing that?

I’m always working on myself, 24/7. So, I try to make sure anytime I can remember like, I’m always in the moment. ’Cause there’s so many times I find myself just simulating through the day. I’ll just think about it like, What did I just do 30 minutes ago? Where was I at? So, I just try to make sure I’m here.

When someone talks to me, they’re talking to me. For real. No, none of that. That right there is what changed the last 10 months of my life. Just that. I ain’t even gon’ lie. And then that just led to other things: face routines, all type of stuff. I’m just, you know, really stepping into me.

You’ve gotten a lot of props and praise. Taz has bigged you up. Cole Bennett called you a pioneer. How does that feel to have that level of recognition?

It feels very good. Especially when you been working your ass off. You been seeing a lot of things that other people have not been seeing. It feels great. It feels deserved. It feels amazing to be... Recognition, just credit in general, feels really good. ’Cause a lot of people don’t like to give credit. And it’s lame.

What are some goals that you have for yourself in the future?

I definitely just wanna be happy as hell. And, I want people to know I deadass don’t care what they think. I dead don’t care. So, I’m gonna keep doing whatever I do and if you choose to comment on it, you’re probably gonna get blocked. Like, you know that option where you can block all they accounts? I’ma just hit that. I’ma keep moving and I’ma probably drop a song the next week after that.

Working on designs, working on clothes, working on myself, music. Now, I got my whole second [album] We Love You Tecca 2 already done. I’m really just tryna see what else I can make, throw in there, that’s just making what I got even hotter.

Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2021 issue including our Freshman Class cover interviews with 42 Dugg, Iann Dior, Coi Leray, Pooh Shiesty, Flo Milli, Morray, Rubi Rose, Blxst, Toosii, Lakeyah and DDG, producer Nick Mira's thoughts on producing the beats for the Freshman Class, an in-depth conversation with Ski Mask The Slump God about his comeback this year, Moneybagg Yo's candid discussion about his new music, family and indie labela look at what the 2020 XXL Freshman Class has been up to since last year, Doin' Lines with Jack Harlowand more.

See the 2021 XXL Freshman Class

Welcome 42 DuggIann DiorCoi LerayPooh ShiestyFlo MilliMorrayRubi RoseBlxstToosiiLakeyah and DDG to the 2021 XXL Freshman Class.

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