Tione Jayden Merritt (born April 30, 2001), known professionally as Lil Tjay, is an American rapper and singer. He rose to prominence in 2018 with his song “Resume,” and signed to Columbia Records later that year. His stage name is derived from the first letter of his first name and first three letters of his middle name.
Lil Tjay’s debut studio album, True 2 Myself, was released in 2019. The following year, he released the mixtape State of Emergency that features only drill artists from New York City. True 2 Myself debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200, marking the album his first charted release. His second studio album, Destined 2 Win, was released in 2021 and included the single “Calling My Phone”, a collaboration with American singer 6lack, his highest-charting song yet.Early life
Merritt was born in the Bronx borough of New York City. He was raised by a single mother and had two younger siblings in what was described as a “roomy” apartment. Merritt called himself the problematic child out of the three, as he would often get himself into petty robberies and school fights. At the age of 15, Merritt was arrested for one of his robberies and was sentenced for a year to a youth detention center where he would begin to write raps; they included one of his hit songs “Resume”, which he released on SoundCloud.Career2016–2019: Beginnings, record deal, and True 2 Myself
In 2016, Merritt began releasing music on SoundCloud. “Resume”, one of his first songs, was released when Merritt was 16 years old, and quickly began spreading online.
On March 10, 2018, Merritt competed and placed first at the Coast 2 Coast LIVE NYC All Ages Edition, where his performance gained the attention of a record label A&R who was in attendance to judge the showcase. Soon after, Merritt released the single “Brothers”, which became his biggest song at the time and led to him signing with Columbia Records.
Within the first ten months of Merritt’s music career, he had released five tracks that recorded over one million plays on SoundCloud. “Brothers”, “Resume”, “Goat”, and “Leaked” each accumulated tens of millions of streams. In July 2018, Merritt worked with producer CashMoneyAP to release “None of Your Love”, which also amassed tens of millions of plays. Merritt released his debut EP No Comparison at the end of 2018.
In January 2019, Merritt was featured on fellow American rapper Polo G’s single “Pop Out”, which peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. In July, he was featured on boy band PrettyMuch’s “Lying”. Later that year, he released an EP titled F.N; the project’s lil tjay lead single, “F.N”, peaked at number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became his first solo charting song. Merritt released his debut album True 2 Myself on October 11, 2019. It debuted and peaked at number 5 on the US Billboard 200. In December, he was featured on a remix of 24kGoldn’s song “Valentino”.2020–2021: State of Emergency and Destined 2 Win
In early 2020, Merritt reached the Billboard Hot 100 again with his single “20/20”, which peaked at number 94 on the chart. On May 8, 2020, Merritt released the EP State of Emergency, which focused heavily on drill music, a popular subgenre in New York City. The seven-song EP included the track “Zoo York”, featuring Fivio Foreign and Pop Smoke, which peaked at number 65 on the Hot 100. In July, Merritt appeared on Pop Smoke’s debut posthumous album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, on the track “Mood Swings”, which reached number 17 on the Hot 100. On August 11, Merritt was included on XXL’s 2020 Freshman Class. In October, Merritt hinted at a new project on Twitter.
On February 12, 2021, Merritt released his single “Calling My Phone”, a collaboration with American singer 6lack, which was accompanied by a music video directed by Cam Busby. The song debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the highest-charting single of Lil Tjay’s career. On March 19, Merritt released “Headshot”, a collaboration with Polo G and Fivio Foreign as the second single from his second studio album, Destined 2 Win, which was released on April 2, 2021. The album consists of twenty-one tracks. On October 22, Merritt released the lead single to his upcoming third studio album Not In The Mood with Fivio Foreign and upcoming New York drill rapper Kay Flock. The single was teased in snippets using TikTok from September prior to its release.2022-present: Strictly 4 My Fans EP and untitled third studio album
In early March 2022, Merritt began teasing a new song titled “In My Head” which uses a sample of Iyaz’s “Replay”. It was eventually released on April 1, 2022. On April 24, Merritt released a freestyle “Lavish” on his YouTube channel. The following day, he announced his EP Strictly 4 My Fans.2022 shooting
On June 22, 2022, Merritt was shot multiple times in Edgewater, New Jersey, and underwent emergency surgery. A second victim, 22-year-old Anoine Boyd, was shot in the back and is expected to survive. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office reported that the shooting did not appear random, and that one victim was upgraded from critical to stable condition, while the other was in good condition.Artistry
Influenced by his upbringing in the Bronx, Lil Tjay is a melodic rapper who frequently incorporates Auto-Tune in his songs. He has drawn comparisons to fellow New York rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie In an interview with Rolling Stone, he revealed that his biggest musical influences are Drake, Meek Mill, and Usher. In the same interview, Lil Tjay described his music as having a melodic sound when singing or rapping about his past struggles. Lil Tjay also credits his success to his year spent in prison, where he claims that his ability to write songs peaked. In Pitchfork’s featured article on Lil Tjay, he is referred to as a “hip-hop heartthrob”. Later in the interview, Lil Tjay explained that he is often called the “Bronx Justin Bieber” because of his sampling Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.Live performances