Lil Tay has been making big waves this month. The nine year old, previously known for her provocative instagram videos (she likes to swear and discuss precisely how broke you are), was seen first in a video alongside Chief Keef on April 7th, before clips surfaced of an April 15th altercation between Bhad Bhabie, Woahh Vicki, and Lil Tay herself. According to Bhad Bhabie, conflict arose after Lil Tay and Woahh Vicki called Bregoli’s best friend a “dumb n*****,” leading Bhabie to challenge them to a fight outside a mall (both Woahh Vicky and Lil Tay frequently use the n-word online). Lil Tay has previously gotten into internet beef with youtuber Ricegum, who you probably don’t remember from the time he made a Jake Paul diss; open conflict with Bhad Bhabie seems just as much about courting internet clout as it does personal differences and bigotry.
Digging up information on Lil Tay online proves difficult; her instagram has been repeatedly deleted (probably because you have to be 13 to have an account), and Tay has only done a single interview to date, focused primarily on her music rather than the artist herself. While we don’t know who Lil Tay’s parents are, her old twitter bio claimed the account was run by her mom, who may be the woman seen adjusting a Glo Gang headband for Tay in the aforementioned Chief Keef clip. It’s also safe to surmise Lil Tay’s parents are extremely loaded, given their daughter’s penchant for rocking Gucci and Vuitton.
Now, the music: “Money Way” by Lil Tay is a boilerplate trap track for 2018, clearly derived from the Lil Pump formula, but substituting the shock value of a 9 year old white girl for Pump’s oddball charisma (note: Lil Tay may be half-Asian, specifically Filipino?). Two months prior to the March release of “Money Way” came “On My Wrist,” with lower production value and even less attempts at “rapping;” that’s probably why that song remains unavailable on major streaming services.
Lil Tay shocks on first encounter, but the trends precipitating her rise have been apparent for a minute. White rappers have been en vogue since the 2010s started, typically at the edge of the scene but increasingly carving out larger and larger swaths of territory. In the last year, we’ve seen G-Eazy and Lil Pump go #1 while hewing closer to traditional rap aesthetics of the moment.
The success of rappers like Rich Brian (FKA Rich Chigga) in translating vine personality into hip-hop star power presaged the current wave of rappers utilizing a personality-first model to break big (think Boonk Gang and Woahh Vicky). And this digital incarnation of the cult of personality is just a retooling of how celebrities and reality television stars used to parlay screen success into studio smashes (Paris Hilton and Tila Tequila both had short-lived musical careers; Bhad Bhabie rose to infamy on Dr. Phil). And we would be remiss not to cite the talented-as-hell (fight me) Matt Ox, a 13 year old white rapper who performed at the same illroots party as Chief Keef, boxed with fellow-Philadelphian Lil Uzi Vert, and contributed a standout hook to “$$$” off XXXTentacion’s recent #1 album.
Rumors are currently swirling that Lil Tay has signed a record deal of some sort, though there appears to be no official substantiating evidence. And while she’s currently making the rounds as a meme, much like Matt Ox and Bhad Bhabie before her, there is a clear dearth of musicality that ought to preclude her from capitalizing off her 15 minutes of fame in the same way. Moreover, it seems hard to believe that Tay will remain attached to the idea of rapping; she seems more preoccupied with flexing, using well-worn hip-hop tropes to accentuate the flex as opposed to flexing to highlight her rap bonafides. If Rich Brian asked “what if all the aesthetic markers of a rapper were transplanted onto a figure with absolutely no connection to them,” Lil Tay asks “what if all the aesthetic markers of a rapper were transplanted onto a figure with absolutely no connection to them and no interest in performing that connection?” While the answer might amuse for a moment, the moment is quickly passing.