On 10-9-14, Bryson Tiller released “Don’t,” a song that would catalyze a shift in the music industry. From the production to his cadence over it, he discovered the formula that would form the thesis of his mixtape, T R A P S O U L.
Artists have been fiddling with the fusion of hip-hop and r&b for years now. Rappers would either sing their own hooks or collaborate with someone who could. A lot of this approach incorporated melody with no actual notes being hit. A couple trial runs, 808’s and Heartbreaks later, one of the biggest rappers in the game is singing almost or as much as he is rapping. Bryson Tiller is an innovator. While he may not be the first to step in this field, he is the one doing it the best. He walks the spectrum between hip-hop and r&b with ease. When it comes to his singing, he leaves no doubt of his skill. In regards to his rapping, his airtight flow is as variable and clean as any of your favorite rappers’. The deliveries of both skills are clear as the inner monologue in your mind while reading this article. What truly separates Tiller from the competition, or lack thereof, is the absence of parameters he puts on his approach. His genre convergence method is made from his ability to mix the styles in different proportions. When listening to your standard Tiller song, you’ll find yourself hearing irregular patterns built with r&b cadences and rap tendencies. The way he attributes a note to every syllable in his raps provides limitless combinations. With these infinite possibilities, this permits newfound originality, giving Tiller the potential to express himself more creatively than anyone we’ve heard thus far.
I knew I wanted to have this project for myself when I realized how great the replay value is. So after driving through my county for two hours, from one sold-out store to the next, I finally found a copy-literally on my hands and knees in Best Buy. The production on this tape is definitely the most enjoyable in the car. Tiller has an amazing ear for instrumentals that fit the desired mood. The street fighter sample on “Sorry Not Sorry” is one of my personal favorites right now. The variety of feels from one track to another is perfect when combined with the soulful samples and bass-driven trap beats. Pen Griffey’s song structures allow him to exploit the beat to his will. He never feels out of place and always comes through loud and clear. The aesthetic produced matches the cover art of the tape: warm and ominous.
The timing and rollout of this mixtape is perfect. Tiller’s approach may seem like a lucky swing but he definitely has a grip on what he’s doing. He came up in a year where most of the artists I know released something and still found a way to stand out. He let “Don’t” do its work on the market and stir up attention leading up to release a full project built around the concept. While this approach may not work for everyone, Bryson made sure everything was done with care. The sound of the tape is unified and provides diversity at the same time. It drifts consistently from one song to the next due to wonderful sequencing. The songs are paced so that we get even changes in tempo and a mesh of rapping and singing based tracks to keep the listener’s attention. The intro and outro are great song choices and make sense down to the sounds of turning pages. The ordering of the first five tracks leading up to “Don’t” is similar to a first act in a play. The following song “Open Interlude,” acts as a great transition into “Ten Nine Fourteen,” which is the narration of everything that’s happened since he dropped “Don’t.” As a debut, T R A P S O U L is cohesive enough to really grasp who Bryson Tiller is as an artist and person.
All we have to learn about Tiller is the music, photos and videos, and what he says in interviews. A couple scrolls through the grainy textures on his IG and you’ll see that he is pretty much a regular guy and has an adorable daughter Harley, who’s full of personality. Top to bottom, baseball cap and all, he has a very laid back style.
What reveals the most about Tiller is his content. Throughout the tape, he remains transparent to his listeners and keeps his subject matter relatable. This has helped him to construct a loyal following and effortlessly pull in more fans. He tells of his trials to become the best man he can be as well as his come up in his career. His self-awareness allows him to use braggadocio and vulnerability to his advantage while always continuing to be himself.
Bryson Tiller’s recipe has led him to a unique place. His mode of art, along with his lyrical prowess, came together to create something new and enjoyable for music fans. He summed it up best on “502 Come Up” when he states “Trapsoul, man, I crack codes/Crack-Cocaine, man, that’s what we putting out.” This is one of those moments when the lyrics transcend the text and become a reality. Tiller has indeed cracked the code of the hip-hop and r&b fusion.