Lil Tati is 19-years-old and winning. He’s the son of music executive Frank Martinez, the first signee to Carbon Fiber Music Group Billionaires, and well on his way to becoming a bonafide superstar. And though the music he creates is often pop-tinged, his demeanor is anything but. He’s selfless, wise beyond his years; a formidable talent amongst his rap contemporaries.
While much of his story revolves around humble beginnings, Tati’s success as an artist is best attributed to his tireless grind. The Miami native possesses the same high-octane work ethic and determination that made his father a legend, who’s responsible for building the careers of reggaeton and Latin trap stars like Farruko and Lary Over.
Sonically, Tati has an adaptive flow, morphing his sound and delivery to the appropriate cadence based on mood. It’s as if his voice is an instrument, incessant but laid-back, finding hidden pockets within his sonic palette that maintain a feeling of cohesiveness. Nothing about Tati’s creative process feels forced, teetering between a melodic drawl and soft-spoken croons to accentuate his natural talent.
Lil Tati’s debut project (NiNET33N, released November 2021) was a fitting introduction, coupled with a select number of featured verses from industry greats such as Rvssian, CJ, Farruko, and Mavado. Being 19-years-old is significant to Tati in more ways than one because it’s the same age his father was when he was born, making NiNET33N a coming of age moment for the CFMG Billionaires frontman. However, this project is just the beginning of what’s to come: “NiNET33N is showing people what I can do, what I’m really capable of.”
Who exactly is Lil Tati?
I’m a 19-year-old that loves making music. I came from nothing. Everybody thinks Miami is just palm trees and beaches but at the end of the day it’s not. I used to live with my grandma in one room: my parents, my sister and me in one room. Not a lot of people know that and that’s because I don’t really like talking about it. I just started bringing it up recently in interviews.
When did you first become interested in rap?
Probably around 9th grade, but that was to mess around with my friends. My junior year of high school is when I really got interested in it.
Have you always had a strong support system?
For sure, my family with me.
What role (if any) has your dad played in your overall maturation as an artist?
I think being around him has made me mature faster on the music side. Watching Farruko, he’s a big ass artist right now: just seeing how he moves and everything. Then with my dad, he put me on game too and it helps out. Having him in my corner makes a difference.
Talk to me about what it means to be 19-years-old. I know that number is significant to you for many reasons.
My pops had me at 19. At the time, we really didn’t know what we wanted to name the album. We had 19 songs originally but we didn’t think anyone would listen to 19 songs from a new kid. And that’s a fact, it’s too many songs. We scaled it back to 10 and decided to release it on the 19th, but that was on a Sunday so it wouldn’t make sense. We did it the week after my birthday. NiNET33N is showing people what I’m really capable of. I didn’t give people one thing to listen to: I included rap, rock, drill etc.
How does it feel to be the face of CFMG Billionaires?
It means a lot because I’m the first person here. When we do sign people to Carbon Fiber Music Group Billionaires, same way with Carbon Fiber Music – every other artist looks up to Farruko ‘cause he’s the first one – I hope to set that standard. I hope that later on I can give advice to somebody.
Is being a leader something that you pride yourself on?
Yeah, I look out for everybody.
But who’s looking out for you?
Right now, my label manager, Crook. Ion really depend on friends to be honest with you.
And why is that? Friendships are important.
The high school thing: you start with a bunch of friends in high school and end up leaving with a good three or four. I entered high school in ninth grade and had a fat ass group (of friends). I left with maybe three friends. At the end of the day, it’s the most unexpected shit: your closest friend can switch up.
What’s the toughest lesson that you’ve learned so far in life?
Don’t depend on anybody. You can’t expect for someone to be there for you. Ain’t nobody gon’ get anything done in life for you unless you do it. To get something done, you can’t wait on no one, it’s really on you. That’s how I think, but with the homies I have now, I look out for them. My homeboys not in the position that I’m in right now, and I thank God that I’m in this position. Even with my family, I look out for my cousins. If we go out to eat and nobody has the bread, I’ll take care of it, I’ll look out for them without a doubt.
That’s a selfless way of thinking.
I really just think about the position that I’m in, bro. Not everybody gets a chance. Thankfully, I got family and friends that believe in me. Just having them by your side, that helps you out. And God, too.
How have you adjusted to the fame?
Adjusting to the fame happened when I matured. Back then, I didn’t give a fuck about what someone posted about me online. I surround myself with older people just ‘cause they have more wisdom than me, they’ve been through certain things in life. Now, if people record me or something, I’m more mindful about what’s being posted on social media. Later on, that shit can come back to bite me in the ass. Cancel culture is so strong right now, bro.
As an artist, has TikTok made it easier for you to gain traction?
It definitely makes things easier. I have more followers on TikTok than I do on Instagram. It’s so easy to blow up on TikTok, all you need is one video. TikTok helped with my album, it helped with my YouTube, and it helped my Instagram. I think the platform helps you more on the music side. Shit, Fashion Nova hit me up because of TikTok, too.
Would you ever consider removing the “Lil” part of your name as you get older?
Definitely wanna remove the “Lil” part of my name already (laughs). We had the “Lil” part added because I was 16 at the time. Now, I got by Tati.