Thanks to Soundcloud, a person’s career can skyrocket into superstardom in the blink of an eye, and that is exactly what happened to 24-year-old Kentucky native, Bryson Tiller back in 2014, when his infectious sexy trap R&B hit, “Don’t”, was posted on SoundCloud and caught the attention of Drake. In probably one of the smartest moves of his career, Tiller turned down signing with Drake’s OVO Sound label and instead signed to RCA Records with a creative partnership. Something tells me if he would have went the Drake route, nearly all of the songs on True to Self would have been on a Drake album (just ask PARTYNEXTDOOR).
Alas, Tiller’s “Don’t” became the song of the summer, even prompting Malia Obama to truly embrace her full carefree black girl and dance to it at last year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. “Don’t” appeared on Tiller’s debut Trapsoul, which ultimately went all the way up to number eight on the Billboard 200 charts. After much anticipation, Tiller dropped his sophomore album a little earlier than expected, surprising fans with some new material to work with.
Although Tiller has some very catchy music (I probably still sing “Don’t” in the shower at least once a day), it is hard to determine what exactly sets Tiller a part from the many other trap crooners out there. In a world full of Torey Lanezs, PARTYNEXTDOORs, Drakes, 6lacks, PnBs and way more, what makes Tiller stand out from the pack? Well the simple answer is nothing really. Tiller isn’t the best singer and his flow gets monotonous at times, but the production is truly at the top of the game. Although, Tiller dubs his music as trap soul, I wouldn’t even say it is particularly soulful. The real soulful element comes through his use of vintage R&B samples.
Tiller also shows his 90s baby side by using a slew of epic 90s R&B samples throughout the album that he rides really well. He actually sets the nostalgic tone to the album with the “Rain On Me (Intro)”, which samples SWV’s “Rain” The stunning track “Set it Off” samples Faith Evans’ “You are My Joy (Interlude)” with a low key wading background beat. This is easily the “Don’t” of the album, considering I can see a lot of people singing a long to this. “Stay Blessed” takes on Mary J. Blige with a muffled piece of her heartbreaking track “Don’t Go” playing behind Tiller. Being a 90s baby myself, I truly enjoyed the little time capsule that this album presented. It made me want to watch reruns of Moesha and write in my Lisa Frank diary, while having this album on in the background.
What makes Tiller refreshing is the fact that is he completely free of gimmicks and just gives you some good ole reflective in-my-feelings music for our 808 and hi-hat-loving generation. On True to Self we aren’t bombarded with grating auto tune, and the entire project has a slick steady flow that is consistent throughout. I didn’t have to roll my eyes once due to a watered down culturally appropriating dancehall song, which already makes this album a winner in my book.
Tiller’s flow can get a bit boring at times, but he did experiment a little on some tracks, such as the extremely rhythmic “Run Me Dry”, which is definitely a pleasant standout on this sophomore album. “Money Problems/Benz Truck” is the quintessential club banger on the album and also featured one of the smoothest transitions I have ever heard in a double track. Other than that, there aren’t too many tracks that stand out, as they all seem to fuse into one at points in True to Self.
True to Self is an enjoyable listen for the moment, but I am not sure how Tiller can continue to keep us interested, especially when he has so much competition in his field on the rise.