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Lil Tjay

In just a few short years, Bronx-bred rapper Lil Tjay went from prison to the top of the charts as one of the prominent faces of the New York drill scene. After building an audience in the late 2010s with a pair of well-received EPs, he integrated R&B elements into his style, and became a mainstay on the Billboard charts with albums like 2021's Destined 2 Win. While in prison on robbery charges, Tjay (born Tione Jayden Merritt) found the motivation to get through his sentence by writing lyrics. Upon his release in 2017, Tjay, still just a teenager, began recording his songs and posting them online. Almost overnight, several tracks took off and were streamed in the millions, gaining the rapper massive attention for his often-downcast songs that combined vocal hooks and rhymes about hardship written while he was in jail. "Resume" was his first completely solo song and it went viral quickly, ultimately being streamed over 14 million times in a little over a year. He followed with multiple one-off tracks over the course of 2018, with many of them selling/streaming by the millions. Self-released tracks like "Brothers," "Goat," and "Leaked" all gained serious traction and quickly drew the attention of major labels hoping to sign the rapper. Tjay inked a deal with Columbia, which released the five-song EP No Comparison at the tail-end of 2018. A second EP, F.N, arrived in August 2019 and included the singles "Ruthless" featuring Jay Critch and "Laneswitch." His first to chart on the Billboard 200, the short set was quickly followed a few months later by Tjay's official studio debut, True 2 Myself. Certified gold and peaking in the Top Five on the main album chart, True included his aforementioned hit singles as well as the previously unreleased "Hold On." In May 2020, riding the success of his debut LP, Tjay issued his third EP, State of Emergency. A Top 40 hit, the short-player featured "Zoo York" with Fivio Foreign and the late Pop Smoke. Later that year, he delivered the R&B-leaning single "None of Your Love." In 2021, he released the single "Calling My Phone," a slow-burning melodic trap song made in collaboration with 6LACK; it became Lil Tjay's highest-charting track up to that point, debuting at the number three spot on the Billboard charts. Second studio full-length Destined 2 Win followed shortly thereafter, expanding his drill beginnings to explore various approaches to songwriting. The album featured contributions from Polo G, Offset, Saweetie, and others and debuted at number five on the Top 100 albums chart. Later that year, Tjay teamed up fellow New York rappers Fivio Foreign and Kay Flock on the single "Not in the Mood."
© Fred Thomas /TiVo
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