Lil Tecca’s viral “Genius Explained” interviews in 2019 would’ve been an industry death sentence 15 years ago. The 19-year-old Queens rapper spent six minutes explaining basically every line from “Ransom” and “Did It Again” were untrue — from his boasts about owning Fendi and Prada to traveling to Paris for fashion shows and, of course, the shocking admission he indeed doesn’t own two twin glocks, promising he’s “got no smoke for anybody.”

The brutal honesty had rap purists clutching their proverbial pearls, complaining about the sanctity of rap being lost with every white lie Tecca uttered. But these moments illuminated Tecca’s ethos — he’s young and he’ll say whatever as long as it sounds good over a beat. The draw of authenticity isn’t ever constant.

Where other rappers such as Benny The Butcher and NBA YoungBoy capitalize off gripping tales of their reality, Tecca’s exaggerations cause listeners to gravitate toward him. Combined with the actual execution of tracks that sound good, he shows that living your raps is no longer necessary.

But now that Tecca has secured the bag, the aesthetic of the nerdy kid with the crooked teeth has disappeared. It’s unclear whether he’s actually living his raps, or saying much of substance; and at this point, it shouldn’t really matter. Those who press play on Tecca songs aren’t searching for verse-long conceits and introspective soliloquies anyway.

Since Lil Tecca’s breakout mixtape, We Love You Tecca, he’s retained an uncanny, hit-making ability with melodic raps that approach the listeners in bursts. His strength is becoming a curator of mood music that allows for mindless listening while eliciting positive emotions from the first beat.

We Love You Tecca 2 is an entrenchment of joyful, boyish bars, producing enough earworms to keep interest sustained for multiple stretches, despite toiling in monotony due to Tecca refusing to divert from his proven formula.

But in the age of TikTok, Tecca seems to understand his audience. He keeps his tracks devoid of fluff, only letting three of the 20 songs run past the three-minute mark. Tracks such as “CAUTION” and “MY SIDE” last about the same length as a Sonic The Hedgehog level but are stocked with melodies and hooks that satisfy with ease.

When Tecca’s alone, he showcases an inherent ability to mesh with the pleasant and airy production that floods the project. Near the end of the opening track “MONEY ON ME,” his voice trails off to mumbles and ad-libs that match the electronic elements on the beat. It illuminates Tecca’s focus on congruence.

While it’s clear Tecca is fully capable of carrying his own album, the best moments occur with others waiting in the wings to assist. “REPEAT IT” finds Gunna and Tecca splitting the track in half, mirroring each other’s flows for peaceful symmetry.

“CHOPPA SHOOT THE LOUDEST” evokes textbook rage. It registers as a 2021 Trippie Redd track, which in turn is just a retread of the sounds and elements that came from Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red and Ken Car$on’s Project X. It’s triumphant and joyous, with Trippie handling the hook responsibilities. Tecca’s singing flow allows him to become a chameleon, sounding right at home on the anger-infused beat. Chief Keef is the star though, as he embarks on boastful refrains with electric energy, spitting about his backyard being a beach, rocking Moncler sandals and flexing about how he can Venmo anyone $50 without a second thought.

But even the best tracks on We Love You Tecca 2 are destined to become playlist fodder for RapCaviar or background music for highlights from some Instagram influencer’s party. But people aren’t there for the substance, they’re here for the vibe. Asking someone to strap in for 20 Lil Tecca tracks and remember the distinct sounds from each cut is borderline impossible. Eventually, one grows weary of Internet Money’s droning production, at least when the drugs wear off.

In the past, Tecca was masquerading as a rap star, where his bars acted as aspirations. He was a kid manifesting fame and money through his raps. Now, he’s catapulted into a new tax bracket where he’s actually living his boasts about owning Gucci and driving foreign cars, just like everyone else. That playful charm has subsided for the time being.

And that’s perfectly fine. He thrives in this zone, content to create dreamy hooks and melodies for years. The well has been plentiful to this point, and as long as it doesn’t dry up, there’s no reason for him to shift. As Lil Tecca continues to entrench himself in the industry after messing around and becoming a star, he may see himself become the very figure he sought to parody in 2019.

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