Rolling Out

Lil Tony empowers Atlanta’s youth: Here’s how he does it

The teenager loves the city right back

Lil Tony has the Atlanta rap game in the palm of his hands.

The 19-year-old — along with artists like Hunxho, Homixide Gang, Anti Da Menace, Destroy Lonely and Ken Carson — are the most popular within the city’s underground youthful scene. In Tony’s performance on Feb. 21 at Aisle 5 in Little Five Points, he once showed the impact of his online numbers in real time.

As Tony appeared on stage, fans went into a frenzy as the teen shook everyone’s hand in the front row and grabbed spectators’ phones to record videos of himself throughout the performance. Tony ran through his catalog, and fans shouted the majority of the lyrics in an obvious turning of the leaf in music. TikTok was a word mentioned twice during the show — and every time the beat dropped, kids moshed and collided with one another while attempting to keep a steady video shot on their cell phones.

Tony skipped across the stage as his free-form dreads bounced up and down with him. The house lights were off the entire performance, and the fans’ cell phones lit up the stage. For the first time in his career, he surfed a crowd. Tony mentioned at the end of the night it’s a moment he’ll always remember.

His music sounds very good; it’s energetic and hypes you up. The content is fairly dark, vividly describing some of the horrific tragedies he’s witnessed at a young age on the west side of Atlanta. In November 2023, Tony stopped by the rolling out studio and acknowledged the potential negative impact of the messages in his most popular songs. He said his new music will focus more on making money and improving his situation. The teenager said he was studying the Bible and focused on improving his relationship with God.

After a night of the crowd making gun gestures with their hands matching his lyrics, Tony gave his fans a preview of what would come next in his career. He said his next project would be called 13 Steps to Success, where he’ll break down to listeners different ways they can make money. He also said his merchandise is on the way and announced plans to enter the cannabis industry.

A young viral artist specializing in turning the horrors within less fortunate communities into bouncy party records is nothing new. The pivot of said young artists of violent party singles to more mature songs about life and financial literacy is nothing new, either, but that shift from teenagers with platforms who influence thousands needs to be sooner than later in hopes for a better future among the youth.

The shift is already apparent in American society. An August 2022 study from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed youth violent crimes have declined by 67 percent since 2006. On the flip side, a 2023 study from the Bowmore Wealth Group reported the number of millennial and Gen Z millionaires doubled in 2022; there are more than 600,000 millennial millionaires in America, according to CNBC. More younger people are making money and getting in less trouble, just like Tony, and his career is the perfect example of the modern Black American teenager who came from unfortunate circumstances.

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