Show & Prove: Luh Tyler
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Spring 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
There’s a new kid on the block toting a youthful cool like a real-life Bart Simpson with a gold grill. His name is Luh Tyler, a 17-year-old Florida native whose claim to fame is his now-signature track “Law & Order.” The song loops part of the well-known intro from the legendary TV show of the same name. Tyler’s sudden success has been helped by the 14 million YouTube views on the music video, a major label deal, a debut Rolling Loud performance, love from all his favorite rappers and even acknowledgment from some of his famous crushes like Rubi Rose and Instagram personality Jayda “Jayda Wayda” Cheaves. His life now is what many average teenage boys can only dream of.
Before rap, the young phenom was just known as Tyler Meeks, a curious, active teen who loved animals, soccer and basketball. Mostly uninterested in school, the younger brother of two older sisters vividly remembers not wanting to go to class. In his days of faking sick so he didn’t have to attend, he’d go to his grandmother’s house, where he realized he never wanted a regular job. “I be looking at my grandma, I’m like, ‘You don’t never have to go to work, grandma,’” he says. “‘You retired. I’m tryna be like you!’” At the time, she had no idea that her little Tyler, whom she played modern country classics like Darius Rucker’s 2013 hit “Wagon Wheel” for, was already forming his own musical tastes.
By the time Tyler hit middle school, his love for Florida hip-hop began to form. Talented Orlando rappers 9lokknine, LPB Poody and Hotboii dominated his playlists. But at that point, the youngin’ was just a fan with no rap aspirations. “I always had a plan,” Tyler shares. “I’ll probably be like a truck driver or something. Plumbers make a lot of money, but hell nah, nigga ain’t finna be playing with no shit.” Luckily for him, his true calling was coming soon.
Last June, Tyler was nudged into rapping by his friends after dabbling in it prior and initially deciding it wasn’t for him. “[My friend] Justin was telling me, ‘Just get back in that shit, bruh. I know you said you ain’t gon rap, but just try it!’” Tyler did just that, recording his first song, “Planet Fitness,” on his phone through the app BandLab. Released on YouTube and SoundCloud that month, Tyler showcased his natural poise as a rapper. “By the time I made ‘Jayda Wayda’ and ‘Law & Order,’ my second song [and] third song, I was like, these is kinda hard. I might drop these,” Tyler remembers.
He dropped both tracks last summer on streaming platforms and YouTube. While “Law & Order” pays homage to the famous crime show, “Jayda Wayda” is an ode to Tyler’s crush, the popular influencer of the same name, who’s also the mother of Lil Baby’s younger son, Loyal. Around that same time, Tyler’s close family friend Var, whom Tyler treats as an older cousin, started managing his rap career and helped him set up his video for “Moon,” also released last year. But it was “Law & Order” that put Tyler on the map.
The song spread from his hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. across the internet as an audio and visual hit. “Law & Order” received an initial bump from the song’s Triller video being posted on the Official Florida Promo Instagram page, then the accompanying music video went viral on Twitter after its November release last year. In the video, a fresh-faced Tyler holds court at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s Homecoming, a major event in Black and HBCU culture. He stops to take a flick with buzzing rhymer Real Boston Richey and then walks through the festivities. It’s an inside look at how Tallahassee has their fun.
Tyler’s distinctive flow on the track, in which he drags out one word to finish each bar and delivers them with the rasp of a beloved cousin from the country, makes his lyrics lay perfectly on top of the beat. He also serves hilarious couplets like “You’d think a nigga Freddy Kreuger, I be in your bitch dreams/I’m tryna run that money up, I’m tryna see some big things.”
After the initial success of “Law & Order,” other artists started contacting Tyler. Trippie Redd, Yella Beezy and Rubi Rose, who even complimented Tyler on the song. A phone call from living hip-hop legend Scarface, plus advice-laden conversations with Lil Uzi Vert and Bfb Da Packman also went down, illustrating that the teen rapper is on many different artists’ radars. “I started seeing them as regular people; they just cool as fuck,” Tyler explains. Even Jayda Wayda acknowledged on the Cigar Talk podcast earlier this year that he dedicated a song to her.
With momentum on his side, Tyler continued putting out new music like “Back Flippin” last year, which has over 7 million Spotify streams. His quickly unfolding rise caught the eye of Motion Music, created by Rolling Loud cofounder Matt Zingler. Along with label VP Sean Wertheim, they started the process of signing Tyler last December through Atlantic Records. The official announcement came this past March. “I was impressed when I met Tyler, who at only 16 knew exactly who he was and how he fit in the Florida rap scene,” Zingler says. “His flow and concepts are very different from a lot of the other shit you are hearing in rap right now and it has started to influence a lot of other new acts coming out of Florida.”
Lanre Gaba, Atlantic’s Co-President of Black Music, headed down to Tallahassee to meet with Tyler as the signing was underway. “From the first second I met him, I really think he’s a star,” she adds. “The sky’s the limit on where it can go from here. For us, I think he’s gonna be the leader of that new wave of artists coming through.”
Now Luh Tyler’s rap career is pushing full steam ahead. This past March, the teen phenom delivered his first-ever Rolling Loud performance and released his debut project, My Vision, featuring collabs with BabyTron, NoCap and more. Armed with both support and success, Tyler is just beginning to wrestle with both sides of being in the spotlight. “I don’t even really wanna be famous,” he candidly admits. “But I like when I’m famous. People fuck with my music.”
The numbers don’t lie about that.
Listen to Luh Tyler’s My Vision Album
Check out additional interviews in XXL magazine’s spring 2023 issue, including the cover story with Lil Durk, conversations with Coi Leray, Joyner Lucas, Fridayy, Lola Brooke, Key Glock, Destroy Lonely, DJ Drama, Blxst, Curren$y, Finesse2tymes, Vic Mensa, Toosii and actor Tyler Lepley, plus a look at how famed hip-hop attorney Bradford Cohen helps clients like Drake and Kodak Black beat their cases, veteran photographer Johnny Nuñez tells the behind-the-scenes stories of 10 of his iconic hip-hop photos, six rappers from six different eras—Melle Mel, MC Shan, RZA, Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B and Cordae—discuss the change in hip-hop over 50 years and a deep dive into the city of Memphis becoming a breeding ground for new rap talent.