This weekend, Bronx rapper Lil Tjay dropped his second studio album Destined 2 Win. Leading up to this release, the 19-year-old star has garnered a lot of attention mainly due to the record’s lead single, “Calling My Phone,” peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With the pressure at an all-time high, can Lil Tjay prove he’s one of the premier names in the melodic trap wave?
As soon as you hear the opening leg of “Destined 2 Win”, “Born 2 Be Great”, and “What You Wanna Do,” it’s clear the LP’s trying to captivate upon the viral success that Tjay found on the smash hits of Pop Smoke’s “Mood Swings” and his near chart-topping 6lack collaboration “Calling My Phone”. Driving the better portion of 18 tracks through this factor, we end up getting an unpalatable amount of generic melodic ballads and not much else. Whether it’s the love story that’s as old as time on “Slow Down,” the rags to riches anthem of “Oh Well,” or anything else in between, the topical depth of the New York native feels as developed as a three-month-old babies brain. When it comes to Tjay’s vocals, they’re actually not terrible, but the rinse and repeat formula an abundance of the tracklist was created from drowns out any sort of positives. Similar to his debut record, the best moments stem from Lil Tjay showcasing his actual rapping skills. Don’t get me wrong, he’s nowhere near a premier lyricist (even for today’s standards), but stripping down the autotune, and throwing the overdrawn singing out the window, enables the young artist to create some of his best moments in the surreal “Hood Rich,” and introspective “Nuf Said”. With Lil Tjay’s performance being pretty underwhelming outside of the already stated positives, the only other saving grace through this chore of a listen are the features. There’s really not many of them, and performances from Tyga on “Move” and Toosii on “Love Hurts” do virtually nothing, but the showings from premier names like Offset and Moneybagg Yo on “Run It Up” add a breath of fresh air in an otherwise lifeless experience. When it comes to collaborating, the definite standout is “Headshot,” which unites Lil Tjay with New York drill’s heir Fivio Foreign and Polo G for a hard-hitting banger that embodies elements of the entire trios skillset. While I wouldn’t say Lil Tjay performed terribly here, the lack of new ideas and load of filler tracks make the 19-year-old already seem uninspired.
Behind the boards, the records equipped with a straightforward but presentable soundtrack. Dramatic piano buildups, anticlimactic beat drops, and drawn-out melody lines are the main elements tracks 1-19 are built with. Honestly, that’s all that really needs to be said. It’s hard to break down any of these songs as individual instrumental experiences because just as Tjay does nothing interesting to separate his writing from others, the soundscape does the same thing. The only time any sort of risk was ever taken is on the dramatic closer “Nuf Said,” which only consists of a simple but effective quarter note drum pattern and a soft but mellow piano backdrop to ease the tension of this heartwrenching closer. Overall, the production is presentable to any club or casual fan listening, but as a piece of art, it fails to do anything significant or out of the ordinary.
Walking away from Destined 2 Win and I’m left with hardly anything positive to say. This is just another below-average trap record, and to its demise, I don’t even think it has more than three tracks that can actually garner radio play. The most frustrating part of this entire project is that Lil Tjay is talented, his debut record was solid, and I only expected him to get better from there (which was clearly not the case). Going forward, if Lil Tjay keeps going down this route, I’m sure he will fade into irrelevance faster than most fans can even notice.
- Big-name features don’t let down
- Lil Tjay proves he can still make solid songs when actually rapping
- Bland production
- Terrible songwriting
- Most of the songs are so generic they feel the exact same
- Melodic vocals can be hit or miss
- The near hour-long tracklist is a burden to get through
Written and Reviewed by: Mr. Fantastic, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop