A little more than one year before the release of his debut studio album, Lil Tecca cracked the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10 with his hit single “Ransom”, which would go on to become one of the year’s most popular songs. The track allowed the New York upstart to build the starter kit for his brand, releasing his first commercial mixtape We Love You Tecca and kicking off his dream.
Despite the strength of “Ransom”, Lil Tecca’s potential longevity was still called into question by curious listeners. Would he be able to stand the test of time or would he fizzle away and become a one-hit-wonder? With Virgo World, his official debut album, Lil Tecca attempts to prove his staying power.
Prior to the release of Virgo World, the 18-year-old nerdy-looking teenager came through with the Internet Money-produced single “Out Of Love” as well as “Royal Rumble” and “Our Time.” The variety presented in Tecca’s pre-album offerings made for an intriguing rollout. It was unclear which direction he would be heading towards. Was he dropping a full-on dancehall record? Or would his pop-leaning tendencies take over?
“Out Of Love” is a typical Tecca single, something that could have fit in perfectly on his first mixtape. “Royal Rumble” marked somewhat of a change for the artist, perhaps acting as a line in the sand, dividing Tecca eras. “Our Time,” aptly placed as the album opener on Virgo World, helps solidify this new era, an exploratory period for the young star-in-the-making. The song, when compared to his previous releases, is abstract and warm, with its island-influenced production, piquing the listener’s curiosity enough to keep them onboard.
As you travel deeper into the tracklist, it’s clear that Tec Romani strived to create an album that flows, curating a playlist-like project that has the potential to live on forever. In other words, Tecca actually cared about the music he was set to release. He wasn’t just recording songs willy-nilly and including them all on the project. His beat selection is consistent, and with the way he arranged Virgo World, each song flows well into the next. However, with Tecca’s focus placed primarily on a specific hit-making formula, nothing is substantive enough to truly stand out, making Virgo World more suitable for a background listening experience. Despite this, it does make for a certain level of consistency in his music. Everything is bound to be catchy to an extent, and that doesn’t come easy.
While this album seeks to establish Lil Tecca as a star for years to come, it also shines a light on his weaknesses as an artist. For one, Tecca is unbearably offbeat in some songs, losing the flow and missing his cues. While that may be his intended result, the inconsistency it creates is unimpressive to the listener, who may pass off Tecca’s purposeful decision to rap offbeat as an inability to ride the track. On “Tic Toc”, for example, Tecca barely manages to sweep the surface level as far as his lyrical content goes, making the song memorable only for his failure to remain on-beat in the hook.
Until this release, Tecca also lacked a clear artistic identity. What is Lil Tecca really about, besides the fact that he wears glasses and doesn’t look like a typical rapper? We still don’t know but, with his beat selection and slight personality-building moments on Virgo World, we start to get somewhat of an idea. At times, Tec shows vulnerability, like on “Insecurities” and “No Answers”. On the former, he is giving himself a pep talk, telling himself that he’s got to just start adopting habits that will take him to a new level. “Gotta be yourself, lil’ n***a, that’s the way to grow/They gon’ try put you down but you gotta stay afloat,” sings the young rapper. “And sometimes got to put your foot down and start sayin’ no/And sometimes got to isolate and just start settin’ goals.”
It sounds like Tecca is introspective enough to realize that, if he continues just being himself and remaining transparent in his music, he has a promising career ahead of him. However, with so much emphasis placed on creating hits, Tecca often loses himself in the mix, putting on a mask and crossing his fingers for another Billboard smash.
While Tecca’s foray into more of a dancehall-inspired productive style is ambitious, helping to carve out a new lane, it’s not definitive enough on this record to truly showcase the teenager’s roots. Both of Tecca’s parents are Jamaican immigrants, moving to Queens, New York before the rapper was born. He has said in the past that being raised in a Jamaican household influenced his overall sound. While his move into island-based production adds some much-needed substance to Lil Tecca, it fails to come across as authentic. At times, it feels like Tecca is taking this approach to simply chase trends, hopping on a sound that Drake revived in the American mainstream a few years ago.
Virgo World is a pretty solid debut album for Lil Tecca. Sure, it would be nice to hear him open up more in his music, as he still lacks a certain depth of character and artistic identity. However, this is a great starting point for the 18-year-old, who shows glimpses of individuality and has all the potential in the world to continue developing.