There’s a certain mundanity that accompanies stories of trauma — the random mishaps and day-to-day minutiae that precede the eventual tragedy. For Lil Tjay, those details surface on “June 22,” a start-to-finish recap of the day he was shot seven times. Coasting over pensive piano, he lays out a tale of lean-induced studio nap sessions and an impending trip to Paris before venturing off into creeping paranoia that turns out to be terrifyingly justified. Tjay argues about whether an enemy is on his tail, and the faux back-and-forth between him and his friends creates paralyzing tension: “I took a look, I saw the car and then I went right back to sleep/I heard, ’That’s that car again,’ what?/Never, now it’s beef/I grab my Glock and I’m like, ’Now I’m finna flip ’em on this street’/Bro’s like, ’Nah, Tjay, you wildin’’/All I do is suck my teeth.”

Blending real-time urgency, casual humor and a dense slab of opp navigation logistics, “June 22nd” is the most powerful offering from 222, Tjay’s first album since the shooting a little over a year ago. While few songs on the project are nearly as compelling, Tjay is still able to create affecting warrior theme songs, even if 222 is stifled by conservative production and a general lack of experimentation from the person that released it.

Tjay’s strengths remain the same; he’s got a lithe, expressive tone that burrows into the crevices of every emotion, letting him generate mournful street ballads, tender R&B songs (“Stressed” with Summer Walker), or drill anthems that soar with melody and menace (“Bla Bla” with Fivio Foreign). He’s also a pretty good storyteller, who can be convincingly bloodthirsty and charming when he decides to. Most of the time, it all coalesces into something worth repeating.

HipHopDX | Rap & Hip Hop News | Ad Placeholder



On “Nobody,” Tjay sinks into a Bobby Glenn sample immortalized by JAY-Z, lamenting disloyal homies and a lifestyle that makes a Glock necessary. Rendered through his whimpering tenor, the lyrics spill out like a teardrop: “One of them n-ggas, yeah, that’s the reason why they hate me/That’s one the reasons why I can’t walk with it on safety.” He emits that same vulnerability on “Heart Felt Soul,” except this time, there’s a bounce that helps it avoid monotony, something Tjay doesn’t replicate often on this project, much to the listener’s dismay.

While tracks like “Bla Bla” and “Project Walls” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again inject the project with energetic flows and manage to stand tall on their own, the beats themselves scan as bland variant versions of each other. Meanwhile, “Scared 2 Be Lonely” plays out like a less heartwarming version of Toosii’s “Favorite Song.” The aforementioned “Stressed” and The Kid Laroi-assisted “2 Grown” scan as merely competent slow jams; Their monochromatic production and vocal performances don’t leave a strong impression.

Despite Tjay’s smooth voice and some rapping dexterity, many of his hooks end up without flavor, sounding indistinct, lacking the symbolism, swerving melodies, or phonetic fun to make them memorable. There’s no “Zoo York” or “Calling My Phone” to be found, and there’s little in the way of the innovation you would hope to see from someone with his obvious talent. However, there are just enough spurts of piercing songwriting and hooks that can occasionally reel you into Tjay’s world. But you’re left wondering what he could do with a longer casting rod.