After signing to Columbia Records in 2018, scoring two platinum plaques for “Leaked” and “Brothers,” a double platinum honor for “F.N.,” plus a four-times platinum certification for the Polo G-led “Pop Out,” and creating a reputable catalog of songs, Lil Tjay has still been focused on the next step. Though the 19-year-old Bronx native is proud to check these things off of his goals list, his motivation to level up results in his killer instinct when it comes to everything he encounters. His ferocious drive, which is also a reason why he was named a 2020 XXL Freshman this year, is an innate part of his character and it’s also anchored in the theme in his version of XXL‘s ABCs.
For the most part, Tjay remains reserved whenever he’s not spazzing on a song or his enemies. But in this three minute video, the multiplatinum-selling artist lets loose and humorously reveals his mindset behind the mic.
Tapping into his first character trait, the rapper pairs the letter A with the word ambition. He then provides a teachable moment about financial literacy while dropping off the word bag for B and chicken for C. When it comes to the next few letters, Tjay gives his opps a straight-up warning about what will happen if they try him. And to end the first little chunk of the alphabet, he humbly locks in the word grateful for G. “I’m grateful ’cause I no longer am in the poverty bracket,” he explains.
As one of the rappers who was in the streets with the people during the George Floyd protests earlier this summer, Lil Tjay stamps in the word justice when he gets to J, throwing his fist up simultaneously as he speaks. When L comes up, he charismatically references a valid cliché about the classic summertime drink lemonade and lends words of wisdom to his fans. The streaming giant then reflects on the global quarantine for the letter Q, but unlike those who have been bored in the house and in the house bored, he’s actually been appreciative of the mini lockdown. “I been home making hits so shout-out to quarantine, I guess,” he says.
Capping things off, he playfully drops off some general advice on navigating racism for the letter R. He advises his peers to stay away from drugs once he gets to X. And lastly, he dubs the letter Z with the phrase “Zoo York,” referring to the competitive goldmine of entertainment he was born and raised in—it’s also a nod to his Billboard Hot 100-charting song of the same name. “I call it Zoo York because it’s like a zoo,” he shares. “It’s like a jungle.”
With a solid number of artists exploding in the Big Apple right now, that imagery is vivid. But no matter how you look at it, painted in the picture is Lil Tjay with a growing lion’s mane around his neck.
You can watch Lil Tjay decode his mentality in XXL‘s ABCs below.
See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class