What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? The answer to that question is one Lil Tecca has already come to terms with, as the rapper’s meteoric rise has elevated him to a stratosphere from which many artists before him, and after, have crash-landed. The 19-year-old Queens native—who rose to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts in 2019 with his Top 5 single, “Ransom”—has avoided falling into the material and spiritual trappings of fame. Focusing on his self-development while churning out a succession of hits, Tecca appears to have not allowed the accolades to have gone to his head, which he credits to his own accountability.
“I keep myself grounded more than anyone,” he tells VIBE when asked how he succeeds in not losing his balance while displaying accountability beyond his years. Not one for handlers or big entourages, Tecca has become larger than life in the eyes of many. Dropping his debut mixtape, We Love You Tecca, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, in 2019, and his debut studio album, Virgo World, the following year, but the “Love Me” rapper still gives thanks for the little things and never takes his platform or lifestyle for granted.
Having debunked any speculation of being a one-hit-wonder after accumulating ten Hot 100 singles on his resume, Tecca returns with his sophomore studio album, We Love You Tecca 2, an album that captures the vibes of his introductory offering and finds him returning to his roots. Released on Aug. 27 and led by the single, “Repeat It” featuring Gunna, We Love You Tecca 2 features additional guest appearances from Chief Keef, Trippie Redd, Lil Yachty, NAV, and Iann Dior, as well as production helmed by Taz Taylor, Internet Money, and a bevy of other boardsman who helped Tecca flesh out his creative vision. The album is a body of work that stays true to the formula that’s made Tecca into a household name while displaying the evolution of the man behind the music.
The budding superstar spoke with VIBE about the creation of We Love You Tecca 2, balancing the highs and lows of fame, and the positive vibes he hopes to give people with his music.
VIBE: You recently did Rolling Loud Miami and a lot of people praised your set as one of your best. How was the feedback on the performance?
Lil Tecca: I thought it was fire, honestly, I thought it was super fire. I thought everyone had pretty good energy, to be honest.
Are you ever nervous or anxious prior to doing a show?
Yeah, I would definitely say it gives me a feeling like before I hop on the court. Like if I was on a sports team, it would give me that same feeling like right before I get on stage. So a little anxiousness, but it’s like an excited anxiousness.
How do you get over that and get ready to go onstage?
Honestly, first of all, I get my outfit. I don’t really like talking to people before I get on stage so if niggas just keep asking me, ‘Yo, bro, you ready? You ready to hop on,’ that shit is annoying as hell, I’d rather just stay to myself before I hop on the stage and that really just helps me a lot. Just rock out, for real.
How would you say you’ve grown as a performer?
I know I had to put on a show. So it’s like I remember I had shows performing in front of twelve people so now that it might be 12,000 people in the crowd. No matter if it’s 12 or 12,000, I still gotta bring that same energy because, at the end of my day, I’m performing my songs. But it’s like two years ago, I was definitely, I wouldn’t say shy, but I was maybe a little more timid. But now I’m way more bold with my performances, I’m just there to really perform my music. I lost all my timidness, that’s how I’ve grown.
Are there any artists you’ve watched or taken any cues from as a live performer?
I ain’t gonna lie, I definitely watch Lil Uzi [Vert] perform a lot. I definitely watch Travis Scott a lot, those two right there, that’s really who I get my whole performance inspiration from Uzi and Travis.
Do you have any plans to hit the road for a tour in promotion of Lil Tecca?
Most definitely, I got plans for that. That’s really what I’m most excited for. Hell yeah.
Do you have any timetable and when you’ll be doing so?
It should be around early 2022 or late 2021, I don’t really know specifically.
Are there any artists you have in mind that you may be hitting the road with?
I really don’t even know right now, but I’ll know very soon, though.
Your new album We Love You Tecca 2 is titled after your 2019 mixtape, which basically put you on the road to stardom. Why did you decide to revisit the title for this album as opposed to saving it for a mixtape?
Basically, We Love You Tecca 2, the whole We Love You Tecca [theme], it’s really just an energy. It’s like at certain points of life, I get to certain feelings and right now, I’m feeling those same 2019 vibes. So anything besides We Love You Tecca 2, it really wouldn’t fit the vibe.
We Love You Tecca 2 dropped on August 27, the day after your 20th birthday. What made you choose that release date for this particular album?
It was really just a coincidence, we really just wanted everything to come together in, like, a planned sense instead of like a rushed-out sense. And then when the 27th came up, it was just perfect. Sh*t just aligned.
Your new single, “Repeat It,” with Gunna is currently burning up the charts? How did that track come to life?
That sh*t, I ain’t even gonna lie, Taz Taylor really set that song up. He was like, “Today, we gotta make one of those,” and I was like, “Facts.” Heard the beat, and then we got to cooking for real. But Gunna wasn’t on it at first, I made the song and Taz was like, “Who should you put on it?” And I was like, “Gunna,” ’cause that’s one of my artists, you feel me?
What about you and Gunna do you think makes y’all click?
He got the sauce, bro. So at the end of the day, Gunna’s a super-talented dude, so you put him on a track, he gonna do what he do. And I got my part done, too, so it just came out smooth so it was a real good moment.
You recently released the music video for “Repeat It,” what was it like filming with Gunna and what were some memorable moments from behind the scenes that didn’t make the final cut?
I ain’t gonna lie, there was this part where my manager was pushing a car ’cause we were all behind a green screen. And they were gonna turn the green screen into a tunnel, which they did, but he was pushing the car in the back and you can’t really notice it in the video. But that shit was really funny while we were shooting the video.
How involved are you in the making of your visuals, as far as developing the concepts and themes behind them?
I’m not super-involved, except to the point of approving it. But when it comes to directors, I really try to trust their vision and see what they think the song should look like. But I’m definitely gonna get into putting my vision into [more] stuff very soon.
One song from the album that piqued my interest was “Choppa Shoot The Loudest,” featuring Chief Keef and Trippie Redd. How did that collaboration come together?
Me and Trippie did that song in the studio and we were trying to figure out who to put on that song for a minute because he got the hook, I only got a verse and at that point, it’s basically his song so we’re like, “We gotta put another person on the song so it’s balanced, it’s a full song now.” We were thinking for mad long ’cause it’s like a specific type of beat. So we’re like, “Damn, who’s gonna rap on this?” I’m just like, “Chief Keef.” He got on it and just went crazy.
How much would you credit Chief Keef and other artists from that drill era with influencing you or your sound?
I wouldn’t say my sound, but definitely the swag. Definitely my hair. I got dreads, I be shaking my hair around. I be wearing baggy jeans, all types of sh*t like that. I wouldn’t say the sound, but definitely the swag.
How would you say that your writing and recording process has changed or evolved since the making of your first project?
I wouldn’t say the process changed too much, honestly. I really wouldn’t say it changed too much.
Who are some of the producers you worked with on We Love You Tecca 2?
Internet Money, Taz Taylor, all of them.
You mentioned Taz Taylor. What about him makes y’all connect and be such a winning team creatively?
Basically, it’s like… say I’m a photographer, right? And I’ve got the camera and he’s just putting the stuff in the canvas, like, “Yo, I think you should take a picture of this, I think you should do this.” And I’m like, “Nah, move that a little bit to the left.” He’s like, ‘Yo, I think you’d be fire on this,’ and I’m like, ‘Alright, I agree with you, but we should do it like this.’ So it’s like we just be putting shit together.
What are three songs from We Love You Tecca 2 you’re excited for fans to hear?
I’m definitely excited for them to hear “No Discussion” ’cause that beat is just super crazy. I think that song overall is just a bump. I’m excited for them to hear “Chopper Shoot The Loudest” ’cause I’ve been saying for like two or three years now that I want Chief Keef on a song, so when they actually hear it, it’s gonna be like, “Damn bro, he actually did it.” And I’m pretty excited for them to hear “A Lot Of Me,” I just think that song is like super catchy and I feel like you could play that song for a three-year-old and they’ll start bopping their head and sh*t.
The past two years have been a whirlwind for you, with all of the success you’ve had. How would you say the fame and accolades have affected your outlook on life and the people in it?
I feel like the way I look at life, I’ve been looked at it. It’s just before I got to a certain perspective, it wasn’t really proved to me. It was certain times where I thought certain people were on some type of thing, but maybe I thought I was tripping. And now I’m like, “No, I wasn’t tripping, it’s the truth,” you feel me? I really just proved to myself that I wasn’t tripping, that’s the only thing.
What’s been the biggest adjustment to being a star and being successful?
The biggest change you gotta have is just perspective because at the end of the day, once you become whatever people call a rapper or a famous person—whatever you wanna call it—you almost become this non-human entity where anyone can just talk sh*t to you all day long and they expect you not to have feelings from it, you feel me? So, it just becomes a change in perspective, I really don’t care what none of y’all are talking about. You really just realize that it’s just Instagram because you become one of the people that are getting talked sh*t on instead of being the people that are talking sh*t. So you’re just looking at everything from a whole different angle.
What would you say are the most memorable experiences you’ve had since the release of Virgo World that bled into the creation of this album?
I’ll say what molded this album is definitely a lot of self-reflection. And just, like, working on myself, even if it’s reading a fu**ing chapter a day or meditating. Just those two things have done more than meeting anyone or having a conversation with anyone. Just taking that look back into myself to find myself instead of trying to find myself in exterior whatever-the-hell is-going-on and sh*t that don’t affect me. I’m just worried about what really affects me and what’s real in my life and that’s what made this project and everything more real and just more fun.
Have there ever been any moments you regret fame or wish you could revisit life before the fame at times?
100%. There have definitely been times like that, but you know… it is what it is. This is what ni**as chose to do and you gotta remember, it’s like a polarity in life. You can’t love life without hating life at the same time at the end of the day. Some days, I’ma wake up and feeling good and some days, I’ma wake up feeling bad. I just gotta take everything. When I’m feeling good, I’m feeling good and when I’m feeling bad, I’m feeling bad and I don’t complain about it. I don’t make myself feel sorry for myself ’cause I don’t think of myself as that big, so it is what it is.
NAV, who you’ve collaborated with previously, appears on the track “About You.” Explain the chemistry between the two of you, both personally and professionally?
I’ve been listening to Nav since he was BeatsByNav. I was listening to him in 2016, you feel me? So just to have him on my songs now is just some full circle sh*t. Like, it’s just super fire [for that] to happen.
Moving forward, who are some artists you’re looking to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?
Sh*t, as everybody knows, on the first one, there were no features except for the “Ransom (Remix).” On the second one, we had a few people. On this one, it’s a few people, but on future ones, there’s not really any people that I’m specifically [seeking out]. It goes song by song ’cause when I’m making a song or when I’m thinking ’bout music, I really don’t be thinking like, “Yo, this would sound fire with me and this person.” That’s never how I thought about music, so it would really have to come situationally. But I do wanna make a song with Drake, though.
Over the past few years, who are some artists you’ve connected with that you created a brotherhood and bond with?
Nah, I don’t really have no brotherhood with no [other] artists.
Today, branding outside of hip-hop seems to be a lot of artists’ aim. Do you have any plans to pursue more opportunities outside of music?
100%. Music is just like the first step. I don’t wanna be a rapper for my whole life. I don’t wanna be 38 [years old] and I’m sitting there in the studio working on my tenth album. I wanna already have some sh*t that’s serious enough that I can put my whole generation on. Sh*t is way bigger than music.
What message or feeling do you hope listeners will take away from hearing this project?
Just freeness. Just realizing that nothing that you think is serious is serious. None of the problems that you think are real are really real. You could wake up tomorrow and have a real problem and then you realize that nothing that I thought I was stressing about, losing sleep over even ever mattered. And that’s what I want my fans to take from it. Just, like, that sense of freedom. Like, ‘I’m free.’
What’s next for Lil Tecca?
Keep working on myself. Keep improving at whatever I’m doing, whatever I choose to do.