It is a funny coincidence that the words “patience” and “pace” have a relationship both in rhyme (sort of) and on a conceptual basis. One’s ability to pace themselves is a direct result of his or her grasp on patience. If someone wants what they want when they want it, they may go for it all without sitting back, assessing the situation, and approaching things better. There are also outside factors that play into how people operate and may inhibit them from taking full inventory of their energy and ability to produce.
For artists, the added complication is the fact that they are expected to move at either the industry’s tempo or their fans’ beck and call, especially now with the streaming era reconditioning how people consume music. If listeners like someone, they want them around all the time, moving at the speed of Usain Bolt in the Olympics. Yet, they can just as easily get tired of that same person and move past him or her if they are not perceived to be leading the pack, maintaining any form of satisfactory presence, or delivering exactly what people hope to hear. Many artists simply get placed into the “fallen off” category when they may simply be trying to overcome a creative or life obstacle. There are few better examples of this in recent times than Bryson Tiller.
Tiller recently announced that this Friday he will release a special deluxe edition of his near five-year-old, Triple Platinum debut studio album T R A P S O U L. It is highlighted by three fan-favorite loosies “Just Another Interlude,” which interpolates Drake and Omarion’s “Bria’s Interlude”; “Self Righteous,” and “Rambo” featuring The Weeknd. Pen Griffey preceded this with a subtle note that his new album is on the way.
“I feel Bryson Tiller is trying to reclaim relevance after a long hiatus, so going to the album we all fell in love with him for is genius. The follow-up project better be good!” — Stephen Dwamena (@dwavocalz)
“I think he’s at a pivotal point in his career. It’s rare that an artist admits that they didn’t deliver on a sophomore effort and he’s doing a great job of recommitting his early fans by dropping a deluxe to his debut. I will say this will increase the pressure to deliver on this one because he’s alluding to being in the pocket that everyone fell in love with him for.” — Ahmad Davis (@ahmaddavispr)
The deluxe comes after years of many fans incessantly tagging the RCA Records signee on Twitter to release new music, only to be dissatisfied with what he has put out. It is unclear whether people feel the music has depreciated, or they are simply not pleased with his pace. With this announcement, he is priming listeners to have his older, arguably best work in mind while also looking toward his future content. It is a clever, bold method that could strike gold if people aren’t expecting to hear another T R A P S O U L or anything he has already made verbatim.
“Bryson Tiller will probably never put out an album as good as T R A P S O U L, and that’s OK. We gotta stop comparing every song/project to that classic. Just listen to the music.” — Michael George (@AsapMikeyyy)
T R A P S O U L gets referenced a lot, due to how great the music was but also the white-hot streak Tiller went on afterwards. It is an extended moment that is fresh in our minds. He landed guest appearances on multiple big 2016 albums, namely DJ Khaled’s Major Key (“Ima Be Alright” with Future), Travis Scott’s Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight (“first take”), and Gucci Mane’s East Atlanta Santa (“Drove U Crazy”). Not to mention he seemingly met up with Drizzy to work on ideas for 2017’s More Life, after almost being signed to OVO, and later collaborated with that album’s scene-stealing guest star, Young Thug, on “Get Mine.”
The Louisville wordsmith was dialed in and the game was pleased with what he brought to the table. It was not all fast success, though. There were times he wanted to give up on being an artist, and continue playing the background as a songwriter. It wasn’t until his all-time classic “Don’t” hit the internet in October 2014, and went viral. The brooding sensation was then officially released in May 2015. Tiller went on to receive backing from new streaming titan Apple Music as a rising star up through T R A P S O U L’s release and he was almost unavoidable at a certain point. He may have appeared to be an overnight success, but his journey began early in the 2010's.
After breaking ground in such an impactful way, everything seemed laid out for his sophomore album True To Self to take things to the next level. In some eyes it did, selling 107k album-equivalent units first week and beating Lil Yachty and Guwop’s releases for the Billboard 200 №1 spot. There were mixed reviews on the album, and with the common “sophomore slump” in music it did not appear that all hope was lost for fans. “At this point I just want him to remain consistent musically. Him being mysterious as an artist still has me intrigued and entertained. I want more.” — Steely (@steelyone914)
So why, almost a year later, did Bryson feel the need to come out and say he was depressed during the making of it? Why did he feel the audible sadness held the album back? Why did he view it so negatively even though people were still rooting for him? Because he’s human.
Tiller told Billboard’s Carl Lamarre, “You know, the №1 just came from people being so excited for a follow-up to T R A P S O U L. That was dope as hell […] I had people reaching out, like, ‘Congrats on your No. 1 album.’ It was bittersweet, because I didn’t give a s — t about that album. So it was like, ‘Damn. I got a No. 1, but not on the album that I give a s — t about.’”
He revealed why to Lamarre, stating “There’s a clear difference with this [new] album and True to Self, because at that time I didn’t want to make an album. It was two years after T R A P S O U L came out and I was going through a lot of s — t — like, legal stuff and personal stuff. I didn’t really want to create an album at that time.” It is especially certain this was a trying time unlike another as he recently lost his grandmother, but claims he was worst off prior to her passing.
What seemed like an obvious, commercial level up to the public was actually a turning point for the worse internally. He not only heard the critiques more than the praise, but agreed with them. “I’m my biggest hater and my worst critic, so when I see all these people saying things it’s like I’m agreeing with them. All these things just kinda took a toll on me,” he told Tim Westwood TV in late 2017.
Wow. Imagine not wanting to make an album, going through a lot personally, and it still ends up being solid en route to a №1. Some artists could only dream of that. To the public, it appeared Tiller was as confident as ever. He even released the project a month prior to its original June 23rd release date, which raises an eyebrow even higher when you consider what he said next.
“They can tell you this before and a lot of people don’t know this, but before the album even came out, I didn’t want it out. I was in the studio and I was upset. People were like, ‘Hey, I heard your album is done. I can’t wait to hear it,’ and I was like, ‘Listen. Don’t even bother.’ That’s what I would always tell them. That’s how I felt. I wasn’t really trying to put energy or time into it. I wasn’t really trying. It was just me being lazy. It was my C-game. I can’t afford to bring my C-game now — not for my two daughters. It’s just my A-game here on out.”
It often feels like the pressures of being an artist and trying to live a life you enjoy are not considered when fans and labels simply want the music. Clearly, the 27-year-old was burnt out and uninspired. It has felt that way for years and while some listeners have figured it out and given him a break, they still hold him to a high standard because of the talent they know is within. That is what comes with greatness.
“He definitely has to show whether or not he’s grown with the times while also showing what makes him and live up to the pressure. This dude was really able to come out with, in my opinion, a modern-day classic with T R A P S O U L that was influential in R&B over the last few years. As we all know, this is a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ scene of music right now.” — Arden Franklyn (@ArdenSportsTalk)
“I’ll always have Bryson Tiller as a special ass R&B artist in my book. As elite as T R A P S O U L was, I wasn’t one of the people who shitted on True To Self because that project was mad good and I feel like a lot of people judged it based on what the TL was saying. I enjoy how he’s barely in our faces and wouldn’t mind if he constantly ignored his Twitter @‘s and lived his life with his lady and cute ass daughters he has been doing. I’m really excited for new music from him for sure, but I’m thankful for the classics he’s given us and he doesn’t owe anyone anything. — Regina Cho (@regi_nacho)
That last quote truly touches on the pace it seems Pen is moving at now. Since True To Self, he’s been featured on many big records such as “Wild Thoughts” (DJ Khaled and Rihanna), “Could’ve Been,” (HER), Insecure Season 2’s title track (Jazmine Sullivan) and “Playing Games (Extended)” (Summer Walker). His own releases have been sporadic, with 2018’s “Canceled,” 2019’s “Blame,” 2020’s “For Nothing” with Lil Yachty, “Inhale” and the most recent “Always Forever.”
He has also delivered covers such as Drake’s “Finesse” and SZA’s “Normal Girl” along with various other Soundcloud loosies. What fans may not realize is he has at least 15 other features floating around that simply haven’t gotten the same promotional effort as his major placements. Presence is everything for some people these days, understandably.
“He’s at a ‘show & prove’ stage in his career right now. He’s shown what he can do right out the gate with T R A P S O U L but hasn’t been consistent after falling into the sophomore slump with his second album. This time around he’s gotta prove he can stay where R&B listeners had him initially when he was at the top of his game.” — Imani Bee (@Hola_Manito)
I can relate to Bryson’s fast start, subsequent hindrances, and then figuring it all out again over this half-decade due to a related story of my own. In the 9th grade, I chose to run indoor track after football season ended in order to stay in shape before baseball season began. It was new territory for me, but I’ve always been confident I can do anything. At my very first meet, my coach wanted to test me out in the 400-meter dash. Two laps? Light work. Nevermind the competition, I could do that in my sleep. The race began and I confidently burst out into the front, ready to claim my medal.
Upon hearing the cheers from my pleasantly-surprised teammates, my adrenaline amped up and I ran faster. What I didn’t account for was that I could not sustain that speed for two full laps. I did not expect to let the noise get to me and affect my performance. As my energy dwindled and I couldn’t muster up any more speed, fellow runners passed me one-by-one and I finished the race in last place.
My teammates laughed it off when I got back, explaining the 400 is all about going at a manageable pace to stay near the crowd but simultaneously maintain enough energy to sprint ahead when the time was right in the final lap. “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” It took a few more meets, but I eventually earned two medals that season in the 4x400 relay race. I also found my best event in the 200-meter dash and won a medal on my own. I was always capable on my own, but I needed to figure myself out as a runner and get a push from the people surrounding me.
Bryson didn’t feel that push to be who he wanted to be, but rather what everyone else desired for him. His early beginnings felt like he was thrown into the 400-meter dash after “Don’t” took off. He heard his teammates cheering for him, got a confidence boost, and sped up in the race. Like me, this was not a race he fully understood yet or maybe even wanted to run.
The hook to “Overtime” hits a little differently when you consider the direction he was pushed in compared to where he was at mentally. It is a tall task to compromise the reality you seek with the reality you feel or is forced on you. “Can’t keep explaining myself, feels like I’m draining myself” he says in “Blame.” Tiller has a habit of throwing out these lines in his love songs that speak to his relationship woes, but can be broadened to his entire life as well. I just always wonder if people are truly listening, or reading his Tweets.
“If you look up ‘enigma’ in the dictionary, don’t be surprised if you see a picture of Bryson Tiller. After delivering what I considered to be a classic in T R A P S O U L way back in 2015, we’ve only gotten one new album from Tiller and a handful of singles/features. I have to go back and give True To Self another listen but I’m excited to see how Tiller is coming on this album. I think it’s make-or-break time.” — Tean Becoate (@TeeDkutllc)
Now, it seems he’s found his best race; his 200-meter dash, though he is operating more along the lines of a distance runner. Bryson never really stopped working, though; he just changed his approach. Beyond that, he now has two daughters and is putting more energy into his love for gaming. He wants to enjoy his life and his work while marching to the beat of his own drum. Don’t we all?
Even if fans are dissatisfied with the length of his recent songs, it feels like a bigger plan is at play. These are short, 55-meter sprints that are just enough to show how talented he still is, but not enough to fully nourish fans. That fulfillment will hopefully come with the album. He is gifting his core with three old jams to be freely streamed and tide them over until the album. He seems excited, and wants to build up the anticipation. It exudes confidence.
Bryson closed the interview with Lamarre stating that he doesn’t want to be an artist forever. By the time he turns 30, he wants to go into video games full-time. For now, you can catch him playing Apex Legends on Twitch. He also recently got his high-school diploma. Bryson at his core is truly no different than any of us, and the effort to place one’s self in his shoes may yield a bit more patience with his pace as an artist.
We will never be able to take away the fire he came in on, but he had to face the fact that flames subside for a variety of reasons, much like we all experience in life. There are always two sides to the coin and it can flip at any time, whether you are ready or not. The most gratifying feeling is running your race, and moving at a pace that best fits you. Bryson’s here and he’s ready. I think we might be getting that feeling of serenity that was originally intended for Summer 2018. Time will tell, but only Bryson’s time.