To be honest, I was skeptical of Bryson Tiller the first time I heard his name.
Truthful music reviews have been altered by 140 character attempts to stay on trend, paid influencers and a magazine’s need for clicks to stay alive.
The turn of the millennium brought “The age of hype” where thousands of tweets per minute and worldwide trending topics began to determine the success of a project instead of the quality of said project. After wasting hours of my life listening to music everyone else thought was “hot,” I realized that just because they are talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s worth my time.
After seeing Bryson’s name and the dark red “TRAPSOUL” cover art pop into my timeline for the tenth time, I gave in to my peers’ recommendations and listened to his debut project.
I was pleasantly surprised (and secretly upset at myself for waiting). I reached out to his RCA reps to set up an interview the next day.
A few days later, I was waiting to meet Mr. Pen Griffey himself. I felt like I already knew him from obsessively listening to his project on repeat. Now, I wanted to get to know the person behind the mysterious persona he’s created since he started his career.
When you meet the young man who Drake, Timbaland, and other highly respected musicians deem as “next up,” you might expect a kid who’s flashy, arrogant and aware of his position. When I met Bryson, he was everything but. Standing at 5’10” with a shy demeanor and low black cap, Tiller greeted me with a normal hello and we began.
Gia Peppers: Congratulations on TRAPSOUL. I’ve been listening to it on repeat since Apple Music started streaming it. It’s amazing.
Bryson Tiller: That’s love.
How are you feeling? I’ve been looking on Twitter and people really seem to love the project. Are you overwhelmed with the feedback? People are going crazy.
For real? I don’t know I’ve kind of been MIA from that. I stopped reading my mentions lately.
It’s easy to tell that Bryson wasn’t acting humble for likes or putting on a front. Throughout our entire 40 minute chill-session/interview, he didn’t reach for his phone once. He really hadn’t been keeping up with everyone else’s opinion of who he knows he is.
His humility was incredibly refreshing and a testament how far the 22-year-old has come since living out of his car and eventually, deciding to upload “Don’t” to SoundCloud just one year ago.
If you ask him, he still feels like Bryson from Louisville.
Bryson: I grew up with my grandma and my little brother, she raised both of us. It was cool. I didn’t really do much. I stayed in the crib, played video games a lot, watched movies, you know what I mean. I was really an insider. I went to church a lot growing up -a white church- and yea.
Gia: So, what made you step out and want to be a singer in the first place?
When I heard Omarion’s album, “O.“ His debut album was such a good album. The singles “I’m Tryna” and “Touch” had me like, “Oh man, this is dope.” Then I started to get into Chris Brown… I was bumping his music heavy. He was like my idol and then you know, eventually I was just singing for girls in high school, leaving songs on their voicemails and stuff.
Then this dude, he was a rapper, was like, “Yo, bro you trying to jump on this song with me? Jump on the hook.” We sung over the beat from “Lovers & Friends” and did our own remix. We got good and bad feedback. I realized I really liked doing this… I started going to the studio everyday after school.
And that led to…
That led to “Killer Instinct.” In 2011, I dropped a mixtape of me just jumping on people’s beats and doing SoundClick beats. Then I stopped doing music for a little bit to start working and to just get a real job. I focused on taking care of my daughter and stuff. Then, after that— man, this is a really long answer…
No! It’s totally fine. I’m listening. This a conversation that just happens to be recorded.
Fo’ sho. Like I said, after that I stopped doing music for a little minute and focused on working. I told my boys I got to get back into it. This ain’t enough to support me or my daughter. I’m lived an average life, check to check basically.
You lived in your car at one point, right? That’s crazy,
I only lived in my car for like a week, but still…
I mean, living in your car for a week is….
BACK PAINS. And I had to work at Papa John’s for 12 hour shifts, standing up all day. Oh my God.
So, your pizzas be lit, huh?
[Laughs] Nah, I wish I worked at the store. I worked at the factory. The store would’ve been an easier job.
Tiller never had it easy. In the years before his music started to take off, he worked various jobs to support himself and his daughter. Still, there’s nothing he would’ve changed.
Bryson Tiller: I think I did it right. One thing I do a lot is I reflect. I’d be like, “Man, I wish I would’ve done this differently.” This time, I tried to stay ahead of myself, you know what I mean. I tried to do everything the right way and I think I did do everything the right way.
For a 22-year-old, you seem have a really grounded view on love and relationships. A lot of 22-year-old’s are focused on stunting and/or living out Future’s verses in real life.
I matured fast because of my daughter. Yo, I actually got some old tweets online that I don’t know how to get rid of. Before I had a daughter, I was super childish. But once she came, I had to man up. I was like, “Yo, I can’t be talking crazy. I gotta brush up on my grammar.”
I started reading the dictionary. I didn’t want to be in the parent teacher conferences at her school and not know how to speak. You know what I mean, I had to learn how to conduct myself. I had to man up, man. I do view things differently that a lot of 22-year-olds.
I agree. Our generation seems to be craving music that makes you feel something. Especially since our we are going through difficult, tumultuous, and dangerous times… I think you, Kehlani, and Drake are doing a really good job of bringing genuine feelings back to music. What made you say, “I love trap but I have to talk about things that happen outside of the club?”
I listen to a lot of my old music from ‘Killer Instinct’ in 2011 and stuff. I didn’t paint the picture enough and didn’t make other people feel how I was feeling. I think I’ve just gotten better at expressing myself, lyrically. Like I said, painting the picture is important and people just feel me.
One of the things your fans love about you the most is your relationship with your daughter. She is so beautiful!
Thank you. You know what’s so crazy, and this is going to sound so lame, I always said to myself that I couldn’t be out here making music and having my daughter go to her principal and stuff like, “Oh, your dad makes music?” and then it be trash. My daughter’s principal is NOT going to say I’m trash.
And now they definitely can’t say you’re trash.
Not only that, but I have to be the man that I want her to go for, you know what I mean. I used to bash women because I used to hang around the wrong people. I regret it.
TRAPSOUL will balance that out.
Other than Omarion and Chris Brown, it’s no secret that Bryson is a huge fan of Drake. With one look at Bryson’s social media, you might think the two are close friends but according to him (at the time of this interview), he’s only met Drake twice and one of those times was the “best night” of his life.
Bryson: The first time was at his house. 40 invited me and Drake was doing Coachella stuff so I thought he wouldn’t be there. 40 hit me and was like, “Yea, let’s chop it up.” So, I went out there and we were just talking about the music industry and stuff. Next thing you know, Drake walks in and I look up like, “Oh my God… That’s Drake, bro! What the fuck?” And he came over and I gave him a five. He was like, “This guy, this guy.”
I really didn’t know what to say, I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries. It’s crazy and I see people do that to me now, which is even more crazy. I’m just like, it’s only me.
The second time was after I signed to RCA. He hit me up and was like, “Yo, send me some songs.” I sent him a few songs or whatever. Then he was like, “Come out the the club.” I was like, “Fo’ sho.” I came out to the club and I don’t even do clubs. I don’t drink, but that night I celebrated.
I mean, you can’t just say “no” to Drake.
It wasn’t even a peer pressure thing. It was just like, “Yo! I’m in the club singing ‘Blessings’ next to Drake right now.” Screaming, “I’m way up, I feel blessed,” to the top of my lungs. It really felt like a blessing.
Wow, so that was one of the highlights of this year.
Yea, I told him next to the day my daughter was born, this was the best night of my life.
Wow. So, tell me the full story. What’s it like to be in the club with Drake?
I mean, he was in there when I got there. I came through the back and when I got in, he was like, “What’s up bro.” Then he was telling everybody, “Yo! This dude is next!” Which was crazy. Then everybody was staring up at the stage and people started blowing up my mentions… Then, we just started turning up to Future, just chilling in the club. Then I asked him for a picture and after that, he asked ME for a picture and I was like, “What…? Ok! Cool.” The first picture we got was terrible. The one that I posted on my Instagram was the one that he took. His cameraman got it right.
You have a picture and a video!
Yea, we were Snapchatting. He was putting me in his Snaps, too. It was crazy and the craziest thing was when we were leaving, it was like Moses parting the Red Sea. The whole club just opened up. TMZ was outside the club just taking flicks and he just ignored them and thanked me for coming out.
Are you ready for that?
Nah. I’m not ready for no paparazzi. I just might go Kanye on them, for real.
Jungle. 6God. 502 Way Up. A photo posted by pen griffey (@brysontiller) on
A few weeks after this interview took place, Bryson sold out two separate shows at New York City’s staple make-or-break music venue, SOB’s. I went to the show and the line was down the block (a New York block) and doubled just to fit the true Tiller fans.
While standing on line, I wished he could see how many people actually love his music.
When we got inside, every single person screamed the words to his song to the top of their lungs. All I kept thinking about was the 21-year-old kid whose hands were probably shaking when he clicked ‘upload’ to SoundCloud around this time, last year.
Now, I hope he believes the hype. It’s real.
It was dope to meet you, I’m super proud of you and I hope you stay this cool forever.
Nah, literally, in my first label meeting I asked them about the people they worked with who haven’t changed. They told me that it was Miguel. I got on the phone and actually talked with him because I want to be like him. Whatever it is that is going to make me want to change, keep it away from me. I’m going to give it my best. I’m one of those people who realize when they’re doing something different. I’ll look and the mirror and be like, “What am I doing?”
In case you held out way longer than I did, stream Bryson’s debut project here.