In just one year, Lil Tecca has gone from a high school sophomore to securing a top 10 placement on the Billboard charts for his song “Ransom.”

Tyler-Justin Anthony Sharpe was born on August 26, 2002 in Queens, New York. Five years ago, Tecca’s family relocated to Long Island, giving him the space and isolation to create. Growing up, Lil Tecca spent most of his time playing basketball and video games on his Xbox. Little did he know that an Xbox console would be essential to his music career (he started rapping after roasting his friend over Xbox Live).

Between the beefs he’s had with the people of Toronto, his love for the Milwaukee Bucks, and Golden Krust being his go-to chain restaurant in New York, the 17-year-old rapper has started to open up about his interests and connect with a rapidly growing fanbase. According to him, he still only raps on the weekends, so it’s scary to think about the heights he could reach once he graduates high school and works on music full-time. His debut project, We Love You Tecca, is set to release sometime this year. Until then, here’s everything you need to know about Lil Tecca.

Photo by 4landito

He had dreams of playing in the NBA

Before Lil Tecca’s rap career took off, he had hoop dreams of playing in the NBA. As his love for the game grew, he spent “every day” of his summers playing at Springfield Park in Queens, New York. In an interview with Billboard, Lil Tecca did confirm that he was rapping at the same time he was playing ball, but eventually, he dropped the “ball is life” lifestyle. “I was truly, truly trying to go to the league,” he reflected. “I love basketball a lot. But honestly, eventually I realized I couldn’t see myself waking up every day to do it. I like doing it to have fun, you feel me? I can’t see myself having to wake up early, like 6 a.m., to go to practice for it every day.”

His first song was birthed from a roast session on Xbox Live

Lil Tecca’s career as a rapper began after roasting his friend on Xbox Live, while playing a game of Call of Duty. It’s not clear what the exact comment was, but after getting flamed, Tecca sought to take his retaliation to the next level. “I was like, ‘Yo, I’m done with this. I'm finna just record myself flaming you,’ because we would just always go back and forth through the Xbox,” he told Complex. “Then I took my sister's laptop, downloaded Audacity, and I recorded myself over the beat. Then I uploaded it to SoundCloud.” That one-minute track, addressing his friend’s head shape, birthed the rest of his rap career. 

It turns out that Lil Tecca’s Xbox friend wasn’t the only casualty of his new musical ability. During an interview with Adam22 of No Jumper, Lil Tecca revealed that he was he was also dissing other people in his school. That is, until his guidance counselor found out. Before the word spread to the masses, he deleted all of the tracks because he felt like people were snitching on him. Unfortunately, those diss tracks have never resurfaced. 

Interestingly enough, Tecca’s guidance counselor found out that he was rapping before the rest of his family did. Lil Tecca’s sister found out first, because he used her computer to make the music, and she ended up spilling the news to his parents. “It’s not that I never wanted [my parents] to know, but it was more about how I was talking about inappropriate things and my parents aren’t having that,” he explained to Billboard. “I wanted to wait to a point where they could be like, “Oh, he’s actually good and making money.” But that’s not what happened because my sister told them.”

He wants to collab with Chief Keef, but he’ll also take Drake

With Lil Tecca’s newfound fame, he’ll likely have plenty of options when it comes to collaborations in the future. But prior to the “Ran$om” remix that just dropped with Juice WRLD (another one of Tecca’s idols), he always envisioned his first musical collaboration to be with Chief Keef. “I want my first collab to be with Keef,” he revealed to Billboard back in June. If Lil Tecca and Chief Keef somehow couldn’t get the job done, Drake would have sufficed. “If Drake hits me up or something, that’s also fire,” he continued with a laugh. “But I want my first collab to be with Chief Keef.”

Being Jamaican influenced his sound and taste buds

Even though Lil Tecca’s career path is drastically different than that of his parents, the rapper is still a product of his environment. Lil Tecca grew up in a Jamacian household, subconsciously being influenced by the music in the home, despite the fact that he can’t recall the names to any songs he was hearing. “When you come from a Jamacian household, there’s going to be a lot of Jamacian music that you don’t know the person's name, but you know the song,” he explained to XXL. The exposure impacted his early tracks like “My Time,” “Love Me,” and “Count Me Out.” In addition to his ear, Jamaica influenced his taste buds as well. To no surprise, his favorite food is curry goat. 

If he wasn’t a rapper, he would be a producer

If Lil Tecca wasn’t getting busy in front of the mic, he would’ve been putting in work on the boards. In multiple interviews, Lil Tecca has admitted that if he wasn’t a rapper, he would be a producer. At the age of 11, Tecca tried to make beats, but quit because it was too difficult. The overabundance of buttons on the production programs turned him away. “When you’re 11 years old, you don’t feel like learning all of that,” he explained to XXL. Don’t sleep, though. Five years later, fully inserted in the rap game, he’s coming for producers’ heads. “I’ll give y’all producers three months, if that, until I’m the best in the game at producing,” he confidently explained. “Cause it’s just like rapping. You’re just making something sound good.”

He doesn’t feel the pressure of New York rap

Originally hailing from Queens (the same home of Nas, Mobb Deep, and 50 Cent) before moving to Long Island (the home of Rakim, Chuck D, Method Man, and more), Lil Tecca feels no pressure from New York City, despite his preceding OGs. He credits the lack of pressure to the fact that people don’t know he’s from New York. “I don't have the same pressure,” he told Complex. “Everyone else that's coming up in New York, you know they're from New York. Nobody knew I was from New York. People still don't even know.” He added, “I’m in my own lane.”

His musical influences are diverse (from Michael Jackson to Speaker Knockerz)

Lil Tecca’s musical influences will take you around the world of music. During an interview with No Jumper, he said he was inspired by a wide range of artists like Michael Jackson, Coldplay, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Waka Flaka Flame, Meek Mill, and the entirety of the Chicago drill era (including rappers like SD, Lil Reese, Fredo Santana, and Chief Keef.) Like many of us, Chief Keef stole his attention with the viral release of the “Don’t Like” video in 2012, which he says is his life’s theme song. “Me and my brother saw that and it didn’t even have 100,000 views yet,” Lil Tecca told Adam22. Even as a fifth grader, it affected the rest of Lil Tecca’s life: “It made rapping look cool to me. It was so different. It was like the first of that shit. Like, ‘I don’t give a fuck, we’re just doing this on the internet. It was like GTA rap.”

Along with Chief Keef, Lil Tecca credits his melodic flow to the slain rapper Speaker Knockerz. “Speaker Knockerz, melodically, he’s amazing,” he told Billboard. “A lot of people overlook that. If you listen to all the people that other people compare me to, the only one I can hear is Speaker Knockerz. I’m inspired by Speaker Knockerz, I’m not really inspired by all these other people that I’m compared to.”

Tecca also believes that artists like Juice WRLD, A Boogie, and Lil Uzi Vert are setting the pace for new school rappers. His standout track “Ran$om” was freestyled, a method he snatched from watching Juice WRLD. “I started freestyling on my songs after like, I seen JuiceWRLD do it,” he said on Genius’ Verified series. “And then I just tried it and then made a few songs out of it.”

Despite the many names mentioned above, both new and old, his top five rappers of all time are: “Speaker Knockerz, Chief Keef, Al Capone, Uzi, and Gunna.”

No one called him a nerd until recently

Anyone with a thick pair of frames and braces is suddenly a “nerd,” but that label is new for Lil Tecca. “No one ever really called me a nerd until recently,” he told Complex. “This nerd persona and everyone calling me that is a new thing. So I was like... I don't really take it as an insult.” As he shouldn’t. Most nerds can only dream of a lifestyle that allows for riding golf carts, surrounded by women

He says he has a stronger relationship with people online than in-person

When Lil Tecca’s life changed last year, the people around him inevitably changed, steering him away from building or keeping organic relationships with his associates. In addition to the switch-ups that accompanied his rising fame, the lifestyle disconnect created a very real separation. “It’s hard for me to be friends with a normal 16-year-old because like, the normal 16-year-old isn’t focused on the same thing I’m focused on, we can’t relate. I only fuck with people I can relate to,” Tecca admitted. He further explained that his strongest relationships come from the people he knows online rather than in-person. Why? Because Lil Tecca refuses to buy into anything fake. 

He got the name Lil Tecca from a girl he used to talk to 

In an interview with Lyrical Lemonade, the Cole Bennett-founded empire that premiered his “Ran$om” video, Lil Tecca revealed how he got his rap name. Interestingly, he wasn’t the only “Tecca” out there. He got the name Lil Tecca from a girl on Instagram. Both Lil Tecca and the girl shared a variation of the word in their usernames. Her name was Tecca with “50 c’s” and his was “Tecca Hilfiger.” As he was about to make his full transition into rap, he asked her what his name should be, and she responded by telling him to call himself Lil Tecca. So he went for it. 

He claims that in five years, he’ll either be “really successful” or he’ll be heart surgeon

In addition to the hoop dreams of his childhood, Lil Tecca explained to that in five years, if he isn’t “really successful” as a rapper, he will be spending his time in the operating room as a heart surgeon. 

If he doesn't come up with an opening line within two minutes of making a song, he switches to a new beat

Similar to when he first started rapping, Lil Tecca keeps his creative process short. According to him, if he finds a beat that he likes, he gives himself two minutes to at least come up with the opening line before he moves on and switches the beat. So what’s the fastest he’s ever recorded a full song? Just 30 minutes.

He is signed to a joint deal with Republic Records and Galactic Records

Lil Tecca signed a joint venture deal that combined his Galactic Records with Republic Records. Aside from the tracks that he’s released independently, four of his biggest songs were released through different imprints. According to Apple Music, “My Time” was released via Money Bag Music, “Count Me Out” via ReSolute, and “Molly Girl” and “Ran$om” were released via Galactic Records.