17-year-old Detroit rapper Lil George talks signing with Sony

From sauced up to bossed up

George Tinnon, Jr., better known by his rap name Lil George, has made a monumental move in his budding career by recently signing a record deal with Brooklyn Knights Entertainment and Sony. Even though he made his announcement to supporters on Sept. 14 via Instagram, the recent graduate of University Prep Science and Math High School is not a newcomer to the rap game. Lil George became an instant superstar in April, when his hit single "Sauce" peaked at the top position on Billboard's singles sales chart. Since then he's been featured on international media platforms such as Revolt, MTV Jams, Sway in the Morning, TMZ, and the Breakfast Club.

Growing up on the west side, Lil George was heavily influenced by his family's involvement in the entertainment industry. His father, George Tinnon, Sr., owns the independent label BMB (Breaking Major Barriers), and has worked with hip-hop artists like Charli Baltimore and Kash Doll. Seventeen year-old Tinnon hopes to use his newfound celebrity as a way to talk about the struggles among inner-city youth (but of course to have a little fun while doing it). We spoke with Lil George two days after making his announcement.

Metro Times: How did you know you wanted to be a rapper? 

George Tinnon: My pops had a record label, so I was always around the musicians and actors. Being his son, he kept me around with him. Going to shows and just seeing all the rehearsing and acting rubbed off. There was a studio in my house. I never really used it before until I was like, "Hey, I'm going to start rapping." I got inspired by a lot of Detroit rappers and I like to have fun, so I started recording myself. I had my own producer and for like a year straight I had my own studio to myself. Nobody was coming in my house while I was recording because my grandma and my mother was there. We are very private. I write everything I rap — everything that makes me happy. 

MT: Tell us about how you signed with Brooklyn Knights Ent./Sony.

Tinnon: It's a single deal. I had several meetings with the label. When we talked to them, it made me feel actually comfortable. We waited for like two to three weeks to tell everybody. We wanted to make it big because there are not a lot of artists, especially out of Detroit, that's young like me. At first, we were going back and forth with the industry because we were just trying to see where I would be comfortable at. We were going to hold off and work harder but they were on our heels.

MT: What was the first thing you did the day you signed? 

Tinnon: I actually shot a video that day. The last video I shot was called "Wonder Why." It's about a female. I had my big brother finding females that I could use in my video, but I could only use one female. By the time I got to the set, it was about 10 females. I was like "awww man", I can only have one in the video, so I have to make the rest of them happy. I didn't want them to be mad because they came and got dressed. I told them I was signing my papers that night and I just took them all out to eat, took everybody out to eat. I took my family, the girls and whoever who was with them. I signed in Detroit. You know we had a good time. I thank everybody who has supported me. And the day after that I went to the studio.

MT: What is "Sauce" all about? 

Tinnon: When we made the song "Sauce" we were thinking about something that would be catchy. We were just thinking of lingo that was cool, that would stick to somebody's mind. Once we had "Sauce," I had to think: "your momma a boss, your daddy a boss, so I got the sauce. I'm it." So eventually they are going to pass me the torch of their legacy. It's all about legacy. Once people heard "Sauce," they had their own version of what it means. But I still kept my meaning.

MT: How did you get French Montana as a featured artist on that track?

Tinnon: I was in Los Angeles with a big producer named Detail. Me and him grew up in the same neighborhood. He called me to the studio, and that was my first time ever seeing French Montana. So that was around the time I was all over TMZ and people started seeing my face. Once I got to the studio, I saw French and I introduced myself. It was organic because I don't like to force nothing. I had a lot of choices of who I thought I wanted to feature. When him and Chris Brown was on tour and they came to Detroit, French Montana came to my house and then we went to the studio. He liked me because I'm somebody young from my city that is trying to put on. I'm ambitious and he loves it. And whatever he can do to help me, he is there.

MT: How supportive has your family been about your career?

Tinnon: A lot of these rappers get signed and change. They do a lot of weird stuff, but the thing about me — I'm going to always stick to my roots because I have a strong foundation behind me. I have people that actually care about me. I've always been a family person. Even when I first started, my family was the ones who molded me. Whenever I need something, they are there for me. And that's how it's always gone be. 

MT: You graduated from high school this year; is college in your plan?

Tinnon: Definitely. I got a 23 on the ACT. I would never want to let that go to waste. The type of environment and neighborhood I come from, it's very rare that people finish school. I will be going to college. But once I got out of high school, everything took off so fast, it was so many opportunities. I'm 17 years old, so it feels like I will always have the opportunity to go to college. I'm going to finish what I have to do with this music life, get my foot all the way in the game and then go back to school, even if I have to take a tutor on the road with me.

MT: What's next — what can people expect from you in the future?

Tinnon: They can expect real life and relatable music because I'm young and there is so much that I've been through that I know the younger generation has been through as well. I'm not really trying to impress the elders. That's good but at the same time, it's so many young lives that are just leaving and nobody is saying anything about it. I want to make a lot of music. "Sauce" was the commercial song, but there are a lot of young and very talented people that are not being heard. And that's exactly what I'm doing this for.

Taylor Bembery is an intern for Metro Times.

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