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Lil Tjay - True 2 Myself Music Album Reviews

The breakout NY rapper’s emotionally affecting, piano-heavy street tales start to run together at 17 tracks.

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 was released back into the Bronx’s Fordham Heights neighborhood, with a promise to his mother that things would be different. At first, he fell back into his old ways, skipping school to run the Bronx streets. Then, he stepped into a studio for the first time and recorded his breakout single “Resume.”


On “Resume,” Lil Tjay sing-raps in a soft voice about his crushes with the charm of a mischievous early 2010s teen R&B star (think Prodigy of Mindless Behavior). At the same time, he reflects on the drug addicts he passes on his block everyday and the friends he’s lost while incarcerated. He perfectly captures the feeling of being a kid in a New York environment that rapidly forces you to mature. That conflict only becomes more profound on the singles that followed “Resume,” which he began uploading to YouTube every month or so. “Long Time” is a bittersweet ode to all of the friends he’s lost; “Goat” reflects on the low points he’s overcome; “Brothers” dredges up the past he’s still trying to distance himself from. By the end of summer 2018, Tjay’s melodic sense was refined and his stories tapped into an emotional honesty that made him a relatable breakout star in New York.

Lil Tjay’s music was always suited for singles. There’s nothing wrong with that; so much of rap is consumed through playlists and YouTube videos. But when stretched across a 17-track album, like his debut, True 2 Myself, issues that were irrelevant before begin to surface: uniform vocals, half-cooked production, and writing that pulls from the same stories.

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True 2 Myself is more like a compilation than an album. On “F.N,” Tjay’s vivid reflections are given life by lush piano. “I was stuck up in the streets, but I had a brain/I ain’t have no money, we was looking for a nigga chain,” he raps, while keeping a steady melody. The album’s intro, “One Take,” is Tjay at his sharpest; every line over the sparkly keys has a purpose, especially when he addresses comparisons to fellow Bronx crooner A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie: “They said I’m the new A Boogie, relax/I ain’t never tried to copy his swag.” Each of these songs is just as good, maybe better, than early tracks like “Goat” and “Brothers”—both land on the album—but lose some of their luster when they’re all run together, and padded out with blander versions of the same piano-heavy street tales (“Dream That I Had,” “Post To Be”).

The album format gives Tjay a little room to stretch, something that’s nearly impossible when he’s only releasing one single a month. Some experiments work, like the traditional R&B ballad “Mixed Emotions.” The “BET Uncut” slow jam “Sex Sounds,” meanwhile, is way too much: Hearing him sing “The way you kiss me when I’m stroking deep inside” is like finding porn in your little brother’s internet history.

Lil Tjay wants to grow up, and an album feels like part of that process. But Tjay didn’t need an album; he notched a Billboard Top 15 single and became one of the rappers leading New York’s melody-driven scene without one. True 2 Myself is a playlist of soon-to-be singles grouped under the industry-formality heading of an “album.” Inevitably, one of these brooding piano ballads will catch on, followed by another, and Tjay, just like he did less than two years ago, will go on another run.


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