A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my friends about some of the new, young artists breaking into the music industry. He went home to discuss what I told him with his children. They couldn’t understand how I knew so much about various young artists. Of course, they didn’t understand that I am a music blogger, and my job is to know developments within the music industry. Certainly, new trends in music fall into that category. This week I chose to feature one of the more successful of the new artists, Bryson Tiller. His new album, True To Self released May 26, 2017 is his second studio album that is establishing the young singer/songwriter/rapper as a top-tier talent of today.
I came very close to featuring Bryson Tiller two years ago when he released his début solo album TrapSoul. However, as I have written many times in the past, sometimes it is difficult to feature an artist in Weekly Music Commentary when other artists stories may be more compelling. Therefore, I had to wait until this week to feature Bryson Tiller.
As I listened to the entire True To Self album, it was what I thought it would be. The young artists of our day are writing songs that speak to their audience in every way. I understand why older listeners might not appreciate music from an artist like Tiller. Every songwriting device he uses is an effort to reach young people. Therefore, if an older person does listen to Tiller’s music and understand it, they are paying close attention with open ears. I realize this is why my friend is not interested, but his daughter wonders why I am. Perhaps I’m interested because Bryson Tiller makes music, and I write about music makers.
For Bryson DeJuan Tiller, it all began when he was born on January 2, 1993, in Louisville, Kentucky. When he was four years old, his mother died, and he was subsequently raised by his grandmother. He has four brothers. Tiller attended Iroquois High School, where he started singing and rapping at age 15. After he left school, he went to work at Papa John’s Pizza and UPS.
Tiller started his musical career in 2011, releasing the début mixtape Killer Instinct Vol.1, which included 21 songs. Like many young aspiring performers, success does not always come right away. For Tiller, four years would pass before he would catch a break. In 2015, Tiller started receiving some internet attention from music industry insiders with his breakout single “Don’t”, which he initially released on his SoundCloud page. It was officially released on iTunes in May 2015 and became the lead single of his début studio album. “Don’t” peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Bryson Tiller received a lot of major label attention, including Drake’s OVO Sound record label. He eventually chose to sign a creative partnership with RCA Records.
On October 2, 2015, Tiller released his début studio album, Trapsoul, which debuted at number 11 on the US Billboard 200 and later reached number 8. The album’s second single, “Exchange”, peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Tiller’s second top 40 hit. “Sorry Not Sorry”, which was released as the third single from Trapsoul, peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was included on a number of 2015 year-end lists, such as Complex’s The Best Albums of 2015, The Root’s 10 Favorite Albums of 2015, and Pop Sugar’s The 24 Best Albums of 2015.
Tiller had several high-profile performances during 2016 like the Late Night with Seth Meyers show and the BET Awards, and appearances on songs like DJ Khaled’s “Ima Be Alright” featuring Tiller and rapper Future. Early in 2017, Tiller announced that his second album would be titled True to Self. On May 26, he released True to Self a month early before the intended release. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, earning 107,000 album-equivalent units, of which 47,000 were pure album sales. It became Tiller’s first number one album in the country.
While talking about the recording of the album in an interview with Rolling Stone, Tiller said; “I posted something on Instagram like, “album almost done”, then I met this producer named Nes, and the way he produces his beats just changed everything. So I started my whole album over.” The fact the album is named True To Self is fitting because Tiller controlled much about the overall sound. The music belongs to him, and that’s a good thing.
Bryson Tiller has been described as somewhat reserved and humble by interviewers, not willing to speak much about his financial success. Nevertheless, he has enjoyed much success in a short period. I wonder if he gives much thought to what comes next for him. Tiller, and a few other young artists, represents the direction of R&B and possibly music overall. Tiller has cited American singer Omarion as his biggest influence, saying that the singer and his début album, O, inspired him to start singing. His other influences include R. Kelly, The-Dream, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown and Drake. Understandable, all are household names in R&B and Hip Hop.
Tiller says that his music is “just trap and hip hop-influenced R&B, the perfect marriage between hip hop and R&B.” Is his music really that simple? I don’t think so. However, I feel that his ability to rap and sing well is something we will see a lot from artists following Tiller. I also believe the present and future have collided, and given us Bryson Tiller and a few similar artists who are the beginning of a wave of more like them. Regardless, musically Tiller will remain True To Self….and Fans.