Lil Tecca Talks the Success of 'Ransom,' Chief Keef and Why He Chose Rap Over Basketball

Lil Tecca's "Ransom" leaps from No. 93 to No. 65 this week on the Hot 100

Earlier this month, emerging New York rapper Lil Tecca scored his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100, as "Ran$om" debuted at No. 93 (chart dated June 15). The 16-year-old, equipped with his undeniably catchy melodies and goofy social media presence, continues to show potential as the track propels past a quarter of the chart to nab the No. 65 spot this week, mainly off the continued strength of its fiery music video.

Director Cole Bennett, the mastermind behind countless viral rap music videos such as Lil Pump’s “D. Rose” and Lil Xan’s “Betrayed,” led the way for the making of the “Ran$om” visual. Although Tecca tells Billboard that the video shoot was mostly “freestyled,” the music video has already raked in over a whopping 21 million views in just under a month, attesting to fans’ attraction to Tecca’s natural, fun-loving presence on camera.  

For Tecca, kickstarting his rap career only to wind up having one of the most popular songs in the nation within a few years was a happy accident. After giving up on his beloved, yet short-lived hoop dreams of making it to the NBA, his first song was birthed from a “roast session” he had over Xbox Live one day. After that, the young spitter decided to step off the court and focus on making music instead.

Despite the millions of views, impressive streaming numbers, and even a 12-story billboard of himself in Times Square, Lil Tecca remains calm and level-headed about his success. He recently stopped by Billboard to discuss “Ran$om,” his parents’ reaction to his rap career and potential future collabs. Check out the interview below.

How are you feeling about “Ransom” hitting the Hot 100?

At first, I didn’t realize how much of a big deal it was. I was more hype for when “Molly Girl” was No. 1 for a few days in a row on the SoundCloud charts a few months ago. Of course I knew what the Hot 100 was, but it really didn’t hit me how huge it really was. Now, I know it’s literally the biggest chart and the most important. It’s crazy.

Who came up with the concept for the “Ransom” music video?

We seriously didn’t plan anything. We were going with the flow like, “Oh, this room is fire. Let’s shoot in here.” Then, he told me to sit on the floor and don't make any emotion, and I kept smiling at first. It was so weird to do that. And then, after a while, it just became boring, so that’s just no emotion at all which is the part you see throughout the video. The whole concept was just to have fun. We truly didn’t plan anything and we just freestyled it. And it worked out.

I know you had hoop dreams early on in life, but was music always part of the plan too?

I was truly, truly trying to go to the league. I love basketball a lot. But honestly, eventually I realized I couldn’t see myself waking up every day to do it. I like doing it to have fun, you feel me? I can’t see myself having to wake up early, like 6 a.m., to go to practice for it every day. I really love basketball, but the things that come with it? I can’t do it. It’s also not simply that I didn’t want to put the work in, it just wasn’t the path for me. While I was playing basketball, I was still rapping, and no one knew. Once I stopped playing basketball, I was only rapping. And then it took off.

Your parents moved to New York City from Jamaica. How have they reacted to you rap career taking off?

They didn’t even know for a few years, but they found out by accident. My sister knew, but she didn’t know that they didn’t know. So they were all together while I wasn’t with them, and she mentioned it, and they were like, “What are you talking about?” It’s not that I never wanted them to know, but it was more about how I was talking about inappropriate things and my parents aren’t having that. I wanted to wait to a point where they could be like, “Oh, he’s actually good and making money.” But that’s not what happened because my sister told them.

My dad liked it. He’s like, “This music is fire.” My mom, though, it was just such a new thing for her. She really didn’t know what was going on. I’m pretty sure she thought it was kinda good but she just wasn’t used to hearing me saying the things that I was saying. My mom has never heard me curse, none of that. She was like, “Oh my God” and she had a little talk with me about it after that. Eventually, she got used to it and was like, “Alright, this is what you love doing. I’ll let you do what you love doing and I’ll support you regardless.” Now, she sees the progress, which I’m glad I get to show her. She sees people are loving my music. Sometimes now I’ll be chilling in my room and I’ll just hear downstairs [Starts humming “Ransom”].

For those who don’t know the story, could you briefly explain the origin of your first song?

It was a diss track I made as a joke to a friend I met while playing Xbox. You know how we just be going back and forth roasting each other anyway. I just decided to record it and throw it up on SoundCloud.

Would you ever consider collabing with the YBN Crew? They have a similar story of how they all met by playing video games.

I really fuck with YBN. They’re fire. I be talking to Nahmir and he’s funny. He tells me to get a PC because I play Xbox.

I ask because I remember you tweeted that you’re not doing features unless it’s with Chief Keef.

Yeah, exactly. I’d do the collab only after I get that Keef feature. I want my first collab to be with Keef. If Drake hits me up or something, that’s also fire. [Laughs.] But I want my first collab to be with Chief Keef.

You’ve said Speaker Knockerz is your favorite artist. Tell me a bit about why he’s special to you.

Speaker Knockerz, melodically, he’s amazing. A lot of people overlook that. If you listen to all the people that other people compare me to, the only one I can hear is Speaker Knockerz. I’m inspired by Speaker Knockerz, I’m not really inspired by all these other people that I’m compared to.

How does it feel to be able to rep Queens?

Honestly, I don’t really be repping Queens like that. I’m from Queens, but I mostly say I’m from Long Island, though, because that’s where I became myself. I’m not gonna get it mixed up, though. I’m from Queens, and I moved to Long Island. When I moved to Long Island, I didn’t really make a lot of friends at first, so it taught me how to focus on myself and really lock in. The only thing I could do is find out how to have fun by myself until I made friends that I connected with. I do homeschooling now.

How was it like at school when your music was first blowing up? Was everyone acting different?

Not really because I never really talked to a lot of people to begin with. If anyone tried to talk to me, I’d be like, “Why are you talking to me?” I was literally that kid that no one talked to. Once I started getting views? Still, no one talked to me. It would be obvious that they knew my music was coming out, but I was never like a popular kid. I stay to myself. When I’m not making music, I really just be chilling, laying down watching YouTube, making beats. I don’t even really go outside like that.

What’s planned for the upcoming project so far?

I have a project coming out and it’s called We Love You Tecca. It’s coming soon. There’s no date but it’s coming soon.