Queens native Lil Tecca was only in middle school when he expressed interest in pursuing a rap career. By the age of 17, his career took flight, thanks to the explosive success of his 2019 hit single “Ransom.” Jumping to stardom at such a young age, Lil Tecca acknowledges that some rap fans may still perceive him as a teenager. But as he sits on a stool in Complex’s Times Square studio, it’s evident by his tall stature and cool demeanor that he has matured far beyond his youthful beginnings.
"I understand why many still think of me as that 16- or 17-year-old,” Lil Tecca remarks, reflecting on his early success. “But it was cool to turn 21. I got to use my ID.”
Since his breakout year, Lil Tecca has released studio albums. He’s also grown on a personal level, revealing that he’s learned how to break old patterns and tighten his social circle. Further distinguishing himself from the teen sensation he once was and formally introducing the young man he is in his early 20s, Lil Tecca is dropping his latest project, aptly titled Tec. He promises the project, which is a follow-up to We Love You Tecca 2, will “speak about where I want to be in life in the future” and “about stuff I'm going through now.”
Ahead of the album’s release, Tecca gave fans a taste of what’s in store with songs like the ambient hit featuring Kodak Black, “Hvn on Earth,” and the hypnotic, summer go-to “500lbs.” Fans have already received both well, with both singles amassing more than 3 million views in total on YouTube. Tecca suggests there are more sounds, anecdotes, and emotionally provocative music coming soon. “I felt every emotion making this project,” he passionately adds.
Tecca spoke to Complex about the many sides he’s displaying on Tec, growing up in front of the public, Virgo season, and much more. Check out the interview, lightly edited for clarity, below.
You rose to fame as a teenager, and now you're in your early 20s. Looking back on that experience, what was it like having fame at such a young age.
Having fame really young, you just get a lot of freedom. As a teenager, you get to just do what you want. It's a blessing I got to experience that, honestly. But it does have a lot of negative sides, too, because a lot of people want to be around you. And it's up to you to decide who is good to be around you.
How are things different now for you compared to when you were younger?
I would say as you get older, things don't get too much different. It's just you start to understand the patterns that you're going through. You start to get less confused why you go through certain things. I got the time to sit back and observe certain things that happened to me and try to break those patterns as I got older. But I wouldn't say much changed, just because when I jumped into this, I jumped head deep. It wasn't like, I'm floating, and then I'm with the sharks. I jumped straight with sharks.
How does it feel to now be the big brother figure or mentor that young artists look up to?
I've always been a leader. I've always been the person to set the path. So to see that happen on a bigger scale with people that just see me on the Internet, I feel like it's my job to lead people down that right path, because I know they follow me. So it feels good.
Do you feel any pressure from filling that role?
I don't feel pressured by it. This is who I am.
How have you grown in the past few years?
I've gotten a lot of practice, putting thousands of hours into my craft. I feel like now I know what I like more, and I know what I don't like. It makes it easy for me to say no to the wrong things and say yes to the right things.
“'Ransom' changed everything very quickly... It feels amazing to have something that people like that I made that much.”
“Ransom” just passed a billion streams on Spotify. How would you say that song changed your life or shaped the trajectory of your career?
“Ransom” changed everything very quickly. But it kind of set itself up. It was my fans. They was riding for that song back then. This was before I even had 100,000 followers. And when it dropped, it was just such a moment for them. They just paraded with it. They just took it to where it went. Now it's at a billion, and I try to not think about it too much, because that's numbers I can't even comprehend, for real. But it feels amazing to have something that people like that I made that much.
What was the inspiration behind the title of your new album, Tec?
I was gonna go with Tecca, but I wanted to simplify it and just get straight to the point.
What inspired the cover of your album?
Basically, you're working so hard in the background, and unless you always give people updates, they don't really know what you're on. So this time around, I wanted to do something that's more real-life based, like, show people my style, show people what I like. But also incorporate what I've done before. So it's my tour posters on the wall, some clips, my music videos. I wanted to stand in front of all the stuff I've done, and also show my growth.
It appears that you drop most of your projects during or around Virgo season. Is that intentional?
I'm not gonna lie, my first two projects dropping around that time was definitely intentional. The way I make my music, it's kind of weird. Now I might just have my project ready around the time when it's my birthday.
Are you into astrology? Do you feel like your zodiac sign is an accurate representation of who you are?
I'm not gonna lie, I'm very interested in the concept of it. I do look into it a lot. I want to say I don’t live by it, but I definitely check it out. Sometimes I'll be reading stuff, and it's like, yo, are they really talking to me? Or are they just saying good stuff to everyone? I be trying to put in other people's birthdays and see if they start saying stuff that also resonates with me. I'm like, okay, this might be a scam, but sometimes when I put in my stuff, it be kind of scary.
You did a presidential motorcade to promote the rollout of your album. What was that experience like?
It was crazy. It was really surprising. I thought it was just gonna be me hanging out the window. I didn't expect so many people to notice me for real. I expected no one to notice. I knew a few limos was going to be kind of noticeable, but I expected no one to tune in for a while.
Your album was originally slated to drop the same day as Drake and Doja. Did you take that information into consideration? Or think about changing anything?
Not at all. I've had that date for a minute now.
How would you describe Tec to fans? Are there any themes, sounds, or stories that you’re exploring?
It's like a playlist of my vibes. So it really depends on the version of Tecca that you're looking for. There's a lot of people that like my dancehall stuff. A lot of people like my new wave stuff that I'm on. A lot of people like my slower vibes. So just going through the whole album, you're gonna get to what you're looking for. There’s also new stuff.
What about the lyrical content? What kind of stories or messages are you sharing on the project?
I speak about where I want to be in life in the future. I speak about stuff I went through and about stuff I'm going through now. It's a few songs on there where I'm just venting. There's songs on there where I'm just flexing. I felt every emotion making this project.
"Of course I want the best for myself. And of course I’m looking to the top, but I don't ever think of myself as underrated because at the end of the day, I'm in a blessed position."
What is your favorite song off the album at the moment?
My favorite song right now is “Dead or Alive.” My favorite song that we dropped off there so far is probably “500lbs.”
Why did you choose to release “Hvn on Earth” with Kodak Black as a single?
I felt like that song was very balanced. It was very mellow, but also hard hitting. It really checked off a lot of boxes that I felt is what I'm on right now. Also, I made half of the beat, so it was a real personal song for me. I made that song in my room.
Do you make a lot of music in your room versus the studio?
I make a lot of music in my room. Sometimes I make the beat in my room, and take my mic to the other room and record it. That's how I made “Dead or Alive.” I’d rather record myself than go to the studio sometimes. I'm right at home. But I also like going to the studio for the big speakers and a different vibe.
How did you first link with BNYX?
I've been linked up with BNYX since 2020. This was just one of those melodies he sent me. He sent me [the beat for “Hvn on Earth”] a random weekend when I was in my room. I heard the melody, and I made the beat. Then I probably recorded the song a week later.
BNYX is having a great year so far. What do you think makes him stand out as such a great producer to work with?
BNYX is great. That's why he’s having a great run. I feel like greatness can’t be hidden for too long. And he’s just showing his greatness right now.
Taz Taylor from Internet Money is the executive producer on Tec. What would you say was his biggest contribution to the project?
Taz Taylor contributed to every part of the project. Taz Taylor is one of the GOATs. He has another one of those ears that you really trust in a room. You can’t always be steering the ship. Someone might see a rock that you don’t see. You got to have one of those people that also has your best interest and they also get what you on musically.
What was the biggest challenge in putting the album together?
The biggest challenge creating the project was coming up with the name. I came up with the name damn near last. The music was the easiest part of this whole thing to make. Since it's so personal, you only get one chance to do everything. And I'm really specific on titles and covers and all that stuff, because it is such a big part of the whole story.
What are some other titles you thought of before settling on Tec?
The only other name I had was Plan A. I feel like that’s my whole life. I just have plan A. I have plan B. I just go with my gut. But that [title] can still be in the future.
Who do you make music for? How would you describe your fan base?
I feel like my fan base is just into the stuff I'm into. They like clothes. They like music. They just want to do what they want. When I see my fans, I also see myself. So it's not hard to come to a common ground [with] my fans, for real.
Many of your fans say you’re underrated. What do you think of being called underrated?
When you’re a fan of someone, you want them to be on top of the world. So I feel like it don't even matter how big I was—the people that want to see me on the moon, they’re gonna say I’m underrated regardless. I don't really think of it too much. Of course I want the best for myself. And of course I looking to the top, but I don't ever think of myself as underrated because at the end of the day, I'm in a blessed position. To think I'm underrated or to dumb myself down is just shitting on my blessings.
You’ve co-produced music for other artists. How does that fit into your solo endeavors?
There's not really any juggling because I just make beats on my off time. It's another creative outlet for me, because my beats sound nothing like the music I make. Yeah, I got songs like “Hvn on Earth,” but my other beats are off the wall. You can't even tell I made them. Unless you don't know my sound, you're not gonna guess Lil Tecca made these beats.
Is it still rap, or are you experimenting with other genres?
It's definitely rap, but it's different. When it comes to being an artist and rapping, it’s about understanding what people want from me. But when it comes to producing, there are no expectations. I get to just let it all out and go crazy.
"I definitely will not have grandkids and be dropping [new music]. It's gonna be out the picture for sure."
Would you ever produce a full-length project for another artist?
Yeah, I definitely would. I've definitely done that in the past, [with] projects like Angelic 7 for SoFaygo. So definitely looking forward to doing more stuff like that in the future.
You’re releasing Tec soon, but are you working on anything else at the moment?
I'm definitely recording right now. I'm working on my next [project] right now. I'm already working on my videos. I'm working on everything. You know how in fashion they'd be like three seasons ahead or four seasons ahead? That's what I'm on right now.
A long time ago, you said that if you weren’t a rapper, you’d be a heart surgeon. Does that answer still stand today?
I definitely remember saying I'll be a heart surgeon. I don't know how much I probably still got the heart surgeon thing. I was just looking up how much they made, and I'm like, yo, if you don't go this way, I'm gonna have to put it on the line and do the school thing, really lock in. They be having to be in school for 10 years plus. And then on top of that, do some other five-year thing. And then you get the chance to get the bag. But right now, maybe a director. Or I would probably make clothes if I wasn't rapping. I mean, I’m already doing both right now though.
Some rappers have an age when they’ll stop rapping. Have you considered a time to retire?
I'm not gonna give it a certain age, because I feel like as a creator you're gonna create regardless. I don't think there's ever going to be a point in my life where I'm not rapping or hearing what I sound like on the mic. But what I can say is I definitely will not have grandkids and be dropping [new music]. It's gonna be out the picture for sure. If I have grandkids I'm not dropping. By that time, I'm gonna be on some whole other stuff, like be on a boat somewhere, like just looking at the sun, chillin’ on the beach. I'm not gonna be thinking about my ad libs and my next sound or aesthetic. I’m going to be picking up my grandkids from school in some Rolls-Royce on some crazy shit.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about you?
There's definitely misconceptions. I got misconceptions about other people too. We don’t know everybody. I feel like it's okay for people to not understand who I am and not care to understand who I am at that. Everybody don't like chicken. Everybody don't like bacon, egg, and cheese. Everybody don't like what you like. I also understand that about myself too. And even if I try to explain myself to the world, there's gonna be someone that don't care. So it is what it is.
Is there anything that sticks out from conversations or comments on the Internet you wish you could debunk or explain if you got the chance?
Nah, I wouldn't explain myself to anyone. Even if it's not true or not, if somebody says I'm 5’2” on Twitter, I'm not going to be [putting] a number in the replies or show my ID. I'm going to carry on and scroll past and go order some food.