Ok let’s get this out of the way: Lil T-Shirt is not another syrup/xanax/perc-addicted trap rapper of the current ilk who is dominating the hip hop charts for some reason lately. He’s not even a rapper at all, and he’s not even American. Hailing from Rågsved, Stockholm, Sweden and having cut his teeth on punk and hardcore, Lil T-Shirt’s style on his debut EDM/R&B album Flowers/Lovers definitely borrows from trap and his name may be a bit of a tongue-in-cheek nod to those trappers who barely represent hip hop, but that’s where the similarity ends. Light, dream pop-inspired and definitely not focused on drugs, Flowers/Lovers is dedicated to love, romance and using trap beats for good, not evil.
As previously stated, the base of Lil T-Shirt’s work on Flowers/Lovers is trap and R&B but it’s likely not a style of trap and R&B most fans of those genres are used to. Combining ambient, dreamy sounds and other types of fractured beats and adding them to trap and R&B isn’t necessarily new either, but in this album it’s clear that Lil T-Shirt has a real experimental bent to his production, as well as being incredibly heartfelt in his lyrics and melodies, so the combination as he does it is different, interesting and very high quality.
Lil T-Shirt has been playing around with trap and EDM production since 2014, when he remixed Aaliyah’s “One In A Million” with a dreamy, snare-heavy halftime beat which, while a little slow-moving, showed the artist’s thorough process and beat tinkering as he was creating his style. A year later a singular video for the track “Bae” was posted on YouTube, and lo, there was a definite style to Lil T-Shirt and it only grew from there.
Lil T-Shirt’s style is now definitely solidified in Flowers/Lovers, with the vocals sort of hovering in a place between Sam Smith and M83 and lyrics that range from superficial to deep and existential. There is still a sense of play with the song titles which, again, take their cues from hip hop and R&B: “Fendi Wendy” and “Gucci/Guns” are cute examples, but each of these tracks is laden with romantic lyrics, tones and vocal melodies. Could this be EDM’s Swedish answer to Barry White? Perhaps, but short of that, Flowers/Lovers is great sunrise/drive home/sweet makeout music after the rave. The end scenes to Human Traffic or Groove come to mind, but perhaps for a new generation.
It will be interesting to see how Lil T-Shirt’s style evolves, as he’s clearly interested in tinkering with production and melding genres. While Flowers/Lovers is a very distinct style and theme, it’s pretty clear that Lil T-Shirt would not shy away from picking up more influences and experimenting more with his own sound. Perhaps some of his native punk could work its way into his slow, sultry ambient beats. One never knows but for that reason Lil T-Shirt is definitely one to watch.