Bryson Tiller told us how he felt in 2017 on his sophomore album, True to Self. “So many times I second-guessed myself…I never wanted to be an artist,” Tiller said on “Before You Judge.” “If you know me, you know I just want to be able to walk into Target and people not be astonished.”
True to Self was the anthem of a star that didn’t want to be a star — an artist that chose the fame over the girl yet complains about gaining the former and losing the latter.
This was the follow-up album to Trapsoul, a 2015 hit that’s sound lives up to its name. While it may not be the best offering of a hip-hop and R&B mesh, it displayed Tiller’s versatility and earned him a large following right off the bat.
Trapsoul was anchored by “Don’t,” a late-night, friendzone-type anthem in which Tiller begs the girl of his dreams to realize how much better she’d be with him.
The record is a mix of these types of songs — detailing his life with girls and the impact his come-up has had on that. Following “Don’t” is “Open Interlude” where Tiller admits to his girlfriend that the fame has gotten in the way of their relationship, but affirms his love will be enough to hold things together.
The true follow-up to “Open” comes later on the tracklisting in “Right My Wrongs,” where Tiller does more promising and less delivering.
Here, in the record’s final track, Tiller asks for forgiveness despite not taking the time to fix his mistakes. “Right My Wrongs” is an apology that offers no solution.
In the video, which was just released a week prior to Trapsoul’s five-year anniversary, Tiller tries to drag his girlfriend on tour with him while acknowledging (to himself) that he won’t have time for her. She knows this, too, asking a friend to pick her up at the airport as he boards his private jet.
As she leaves, Tiller thinks to himself, she’s about “to miss the best part.”
The song is a ballad of contradiction — a painful reflection of the excuses we give ourselves when we don’t live up to our end of the deal.
Tiller stepped over his relationship in order to rise in the music industry, cognisant of the issues it caused but not willing to actually address them.
Perhaps the bookmark of Trapsoul showcased a deeper look into Tiller’s soul than listeners realized, admitting he was going through a lot of “legal stuff and personal stuff” that made him not even want to create True to Self.
Tiller even admitted to not trying on the album, calling it his “C-game.”
True to Self opens up with “Rain On Me,” perhaps a follow-up to “Right My Wrongs” where Tiller tries to re-connect with an old girl, saying “I’m afraid I already lost you.”
The record then offers a confusing transition, giving us a “C-game” version of “Don’t” with “No Longer Friends,” where Tiller tries to talk himself into being “in tune” with a girl that’s already got a man.
Tiller continues this theme throughout, offering a 19-track look into the troubled mind of a young star that has too much at his fingertips.
Hindsight is 20/20, though. And in 2020, Tiller admitted that True to Self was not what it could have been. He was scarred and that pain was the only creative pool he had to tap into, showcasing the toxic battle between a hurt man’s heart and mind that some of us know too well — and the troubling temptation of a star’s lifestyle that we don’t know at all.
Tiller, who lost his grandmother earlier this year, actually said he was worse off before she died than he is now — showing just how deep the cuts went.
I was worse before my grandma died than I am now. A lot worse, and I hate that it takes things like that, like somebody that you love to pass away or a significant life event for you to change the way you see things, but it really changed the way I saw things. I feel like she’s in heaven and I tweeted this, but she’s in heaven and is personally talking to God like, “Hey God. Will you heal my grandson? He’s been going through some things,” and I really feel like it’s been working. She’s been working for me and I’m working for her too.
Now, Tiller is ready to move forward, saying his upcoming album has a “different energy” than True to Self.
In working on this new album, Tiller has realized how much he truly loves making music, wanting to give his next two years solely to his craft.
He won’t be here forever, though. At that point, when he turns 30, he wants to pursue his other passion — video games.
Reflection is key in any industry. For Tiller, he put his problems on the forefront, giving himself no choice but to confront and deal with them. To do so, he had to push music to the side.
Now, his priorities are clear. Three years after True to Self and five years after Trapsoul, Tiller has had time to discover who he has become. Now it’s time for him to show us.