Five years after becoming a viral sensation, controversial rapper and influencer Lil Tay found herself back in the headlines in August, first when a heartfelt announcement of her untimely death at 14 was posted to her Instagram page, and then, the next day, when she resurfaced with a statement via her family to TMZ, claiming her account had been hacked and she was alive and well.
The next month, Tay dropped her debut single, “Sucker 4 Green,” the timing of which drew more questions than answers.
“I really wanted to get things going,” Tay tells Rolling Stone in an interview published on Monday. “And this was just something that came out of absolutely nowhere. And I had to clean up.”
In her first lengthy interview since the death hoax, Tay sheds some light on her rise to viral sensation and then essentially vanishing from social media in the spring of 2018 due to a bitter court battle between her parents, Angela Tian and Christopher Hope. The teen — whom the article notes is 16, per court records — says that she “always had a vision of myself becoming famous.”
“It was something I wanted to do,” she adds. “And I just spoke it into reality.”
She tells writer EJ Dickson that her comeback was planned before the Aug. 9 Instagram post was published, but the truth behind who perpetrated the death hoax is still muddled. Tay, her mother, and her half-brother, Jason, blame her father as well as her former manager, Harry Tsang.
“I had some songs that I wanted to put out after winning my freedom,” Tay tells Rolling Stone, claiming that her father orchestrated the hoax as a “last resort” to “sabotage” her career. “And thankfully, I did. So I was looking to get back on track as soon as I could. And then the death thing happens.”
Tay and her mother’s allegations against Christopher are part of a longstanding legal battle that has been fought behind the scenes. According to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Christopher obtained a court order in May 2018 requiring Tay be brought back to Vancouver from L.A. when she started missing too much school.
“She was onstage with a bunch of adults in adult situations at the age of 11, getting in these fights,” Tay’s estranged father tells the outlet, explaining that he sought the court order after a teacher allegedly expressed concern over Tay’s online content. “That was completely the opposite of what I wanted to happen. I wanted them to find some kind of manager who would give her advice about getting into acting and singing.”
Angela alleges that Christopher refused to sign any contracts related to Tay’s career, claiming he sought an order to prevent Tay from posting on social media. Around the same time, Angela and Tay accused Christopher of domestic and sexual abuse, which he denies.
Calling the allegations “totally and obviously extremely false,” Christopher tells the outlet that he would “never, never have, never would hit [Tay, or] do anything that caused her any harm.”
According to Rolling Stone, a judge approved Angela’s relocation and support application in 2020, so Tay could move with her mother to Los Angeles. A post on Tay’s Instagram page shares a statement from MacLean Law, the firm representing Angela, stating that Angela had been granted full decision-making authority over Tay and that Christopher had been ordered to pay approximately $275,000 in retroactive child support.
When it comes to the death hoax, both Christopher and Harry deny involvement, with the latter proposing that Jason used the hoax as a publicity stunt leading to Tay’s comeback. Jason also denies making the post.
“Somebody has a strategy that a good way to get publicity is to make accusations against me,” Christopher tells the outlet. “They’re all false.”
Christoper previously denied blame for the hoax in a statement to TMZ, saying, “The person who is responsible for that Instagram post, as well as anyone repeating the completely false and libelous accusation within it, are virtually certain to become defendants in a defamation lawsuit.”
“Everything stated is 100% false, and I trust that this should be obvious to anyone who knows me or the long history of absurd and untrue statements made by the various people who have controlled the Instagram account,” he added.
Harry — whose Twitter bio once referred to him as “That Asian Guy on Liltay’s Video” — gave a statement to ET at the time, saying, “I find relief in the fact that she is safe. However, I believe the reported hacking incident may not have occurred.”
“My rationale for this perspective is twofold: firstly, the restoration of a compromised account on platforms like Meta/Instagram typically does not necessitate a 24-hour timeframe,” he continued. “Secondly, the actions of Liltay’s brother, renowned for his propensity for extreme measures, lead me to hypothesize an alternative motive behind this occurrence. It is conceivable that the intention behind these events could be rooted in an endeavor to illicitly extract funds from devoted supporters and unwitting bystanders.”
Tay shut down speculation that her brother perpetrated the death hoax, simply telling Rolling Stone, “There’s always going to be conspiracy theories. If you want to make conspiracy theories, I can’t stop you.”
She adds that although she and her brother created the “Lil Tay” character together, “I am the one that’s always wanted to become famous. I was the one who had a vision for myself as an artist, and I made it happen.”
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