|Birth name||Tione Jayden Merritt|
|Born||April 30, 2001|
New York City, U.S.
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.
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 fellow recording artis 6lack, his highest-charting song yet.
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.
2016–2019: Beginnings, record deal, and True 2 Myself
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 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 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 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 Kay Flock. The single was teased in snippets using TikTok from September prior to its release.
2022–present: Strictly 4 My Fans 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.
On June 22, 2022, Merritt was shot multiple times during an attempted robbery in Edgewater, New Jersey. He was flown to Hackensack University Medical Center and underwent emergency surgery, while a second victim—22-year-old Antoine Boyd—who is friends with Merritt, was also shot once and was in stable condition. Meanwhile, the shooter was also hit by gunfire, and escaped with help from an unidentified co-conspirator. 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.
Later that day, police arrested 27-year-old Mohamed Konate, who was charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder, three counts of first-degree armed robbery, and multiple weapons offenses. Jeffery Valdez, who was with Merritt but was not injured, and Antoine Boyd were both charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, but charges were later dropped. Merritt was not charged with any crime.
On June 23, 2022, it was reported that Merritt was still unconscious following the shooting. Days following a lack of any credible updates on Merritt's condition, rumors began to surface claiming that he was paralyzed and possibly brain dead. However, multiple sources later disproved these rumors, as news came out on July 1, 2022, stating that Merritt was still hospitalized but "alert and talking."
On August 24, 2022, Merrit uploaded an update video on his social media accounts. In the video, he states how he's doing better and is "going to come back stronger than ever" while wearing a neck brace.
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".
Lil Tjay accompanied Seattle rapper Lil Mosey on his nationwide tour throughout 2019. He also has performed at the three-day Rolling Loud Miami music festival, along with Migos, Travis Scott, and Kid Cudi in Miami Gardens, Florida in May 2019 and at the Los Angeles festival in December. He frequently appears and performs on concerts with close friend Jay Gwuapo.
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- "Get to Know Hip-Hop Heartthrob Lil Tjay, Who Wants to Be the Next Usher". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
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- Suarez, Gary. "5 Hip-Hop Singles To Watch This Winter On The Billboard Hot 100". Forbes. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
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- Spanos, Brittany (July 19, 2019). "Watch PrettyMuch, Lil Tjay's Graffiti-Covered 'Lying' Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- A., Aron (January 3, 2020). "24KGOLDN Taps Lil Tjay For "Valentino (Remix)"". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
- Williams, Kyann-Sian (May 8, 2020). "Lil Tjay – 'State Of Emergency' EP review: trap'n'b star makes cynical grab for New York drill hype". NME. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
- ""Fans are loving Lil Tjay's song Zoo York"". May 8, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2020 – via Twitter.
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- "Spent the last couple months pouring my heart out into this album. It's finally done!! 🔥😤 I'm extremely excited about this project hopefully it helps ya to get to know me a lil better, I decided to opened up about a lot". October 24, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Twitter.
- "Lil Tjay and 6LACK Share New Song "Calling My Phone": Listen". Pitchfork. February 12, 2021.
- Findlay, Mitch (March 24, 2021). "Lil Tjay Announces New Album "Destined 2 Win"". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- Zidel, Alex (October 22, 2021). "Lil Tjay Drops New Drill Single "Not In The Mood" With Fivio Foreign & Kay Flock". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
- Grant, Shawn (April 1, 2022). "[WATCH] LIL TJAY RETURNS WITH "IN MY HEAD" SINGLE AND VIDEO". The Source. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
- Cho, Regina (April 25, 2022). "Lil Tjay announces new 'Strictly4MyFans' EP and drops off "Lavish (Freestyle)"". Revolt TV. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
- "THREE MEN CHARGED IN EDGEWATER, NJ SHOOTING". Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. June 22, 2022. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
- "Rapper Critically Wounded, Second Victim Stable In Edgewater Shooting". Cliffside Park-Edgewater Daily Voice. June 22, 2022. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
- Quinn, Liam. "Court records detail what led up to the shooting of NY rapper Lil Tjay in Edgewater". North Jersey Media Group. Retrieved June 24, 2022.
- "Update on #BCPONJ & @EdgewaterPolice investigation in Edgewater NJ shooting: per initial investigation, does not appear to be random act and one victim upgraded from critical to stable condition. Other admitted to hospital with non-life threatening injuries in good condition". Twitter. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
- "Prosecutor: Man charged in Edgewater shooting that injured 2, including rapper Lil Tjay". News 12 - New Jersey. June 23, 2022. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
- Zehawi, Tariq; Quinn, Liam; Katzban, Nicholas. "New York rapper Lil Tjay shot in Edgewater shopping center in attempted robbery". North Jersey Media Group. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
- "Bronx-born rapper Lil Tjay shot in N.J., Manhattan man charged". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
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- "Lil Tjay – Upcoming Shows, Tickets, Reviews, More". JamBase. August 26, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- "Lil Mosey, Lil TJay, C Glizzy, Bandkids". Chicago Reader. September 23, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- "Rolling Loud Miami 2019: Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Cardi B, amogh <3 Kiran, and More". Pitchfork. January 28, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019.