Bryson Tiller may be a relatively fresh face in the game, but anticipation for his new music is through the roof. Any new project he releases has a high bar to clear after the success of Trapsoul, which gained critical acclaim and went platinum off the strength of a trio of breakout singles: "Don't," "Exchange," and "Sorry Not Sorry." And yes, just like J. Cole, Tiller went platinum with no features.
Duplicating that level of success isn't going to be easy, but Tiller has the talent and diverse skill set to pull it off. As the name of his first project indicates, he's comfortable straddling and blending the best parts of separate genres. Turning in a duplicate of Trapsoul won't be enough, but he has a distinct niche and would do well to learn from what worked on album No. 1. The Kentucky native clearly left a good impression on the people in his hometown at the very least; Louisville gave him the key to the city and a full day to honor his recent success.
So what does that all mean for his upcoming project, True to Self? Here's what we know about it so far.
Tiller has been teasing his fans for months now about how close he was to releasing the album. Way back in October of 2016, he shared a post on Instagram that said simply, "Album almost done," hinting it would be in the hands of the public soon enough. But a follow-up note in January, which revealed the name of the album in a since-deleted tweet, also left the impression Tiller had a lot of work left to do in order to prepare it for public consumption:
The subtext there? Once the album was finally complete, it would go out to his fans pretty quickly, and Tiller told the world he finished work on the album April 12 in another deleted tweet:
Tiller and his management have yet to hint at any sort of formal release date for his sophomore album, but if you take the man at his word it shouldn't be a long wait. He may have teased the cover art for the project, which feels like a step in the right direction:
Is this the cover art for Bryson Tiller's upcoming album 'True to Self'? pic.twitter.com/Z8zzOwmQuo— Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) May 11, 2017
The big name we can tie to True to Self is the man dominating the first half of 2017: Drake. Tiller and Drizzy have had a relationship dating back at least a couple years, and posed together as they popped bubbly as far back as 2015. So when Tiller took to Twitter late last year to share news of working with Drake, fans of both artists couldn't have been too surprised:
Whatever work Tiller put together with Drake didn't end up making the cut for More Life, so it's possible Tiller has something in the vault from his work alongside Drake to share on True to Self. And Drake isn't the only Canadian star Tiller has been linked to; he just finished up a brief European tour with the Weeknd, who he appears to have taken plenty of inspiration from:
If he's interested in collaborations this time around, Tiller has plenty of well-placed friends around the industry. He appeared on Gucci's The Return of East Atlanta Santa project at the end of 2016, and recently worked with heavy hitters like DJ Khaled, Future, and Travis Scott despite his relatively short period of success. Big Sean even came through Lousville to show love when Tiller's hometown was celebrating the singer's breakout:
But if you read into the name of the album, True to Self could be another project where Tiller goes light on features and relies on his multi-faceted talents to fill the album. In past interviews, Tiller has expressed the desire to be the man shouldering a heavy burden: "If someone's not going to rap on my song, I'll rap it myself. If they won't sing on my song, I just sing on it myself."
Though his stated fear of rejection probably isn't a problem anymore—people are more than happy to work alongside him after all the success he earned—don't be surprised if he goes feature-light once again.
The Kentucky native likely had his choice of producers to work with on True to Self after experiencing the level of success he did with Trapsoul. One of his most important early co-signs came from legendary beatmaker Timbaland, and Timbo has routinely helped promote Tiller's work as he's risen through the industry:
Timbaland produced "Sorry Not Sorry" on Trapsoul, and smart money would be on him appearing at least once in the production credits for True to Self. The one single we have access to so far, "Let Me Explain," was produced by Phonix Beats.
A rep for Teddy Walton has confirmed to Complex that the producer contributed to Tiller's new album. Definitely something to look forward to:
Kendrick dropping tonight......bryson dropping soon.....see me on both.— TEDDY WALTON (@teddywalton) April 14, 2017
Though not much has been confirmed on the production front for True to Self, expect a diverse cast of characters to be behind the boards for Tiller's new album. Trapsoul featured work from 20 different producers on just 14 songs, which might explain why Tiller tends to go so light on features. When you're outsourcing a lot of the work on the production end of things, it makes sense for you to carry the project on the vocal side.
The production for Tiller's music to date has had a bit of controversy surrounding it. Despite being nominated for a 2017 Grammy, the producer for his hit "Exchange" was accused of jacking the beat by Boi-1da and Vinylz.
Foreign Teck, the man at the center of the alleged beat-jacking controversy, was one of a select few producers who appeared on multiple Trapsoul track credits, and we'll have to see if Tiller still wants to keep him close after the previous incident.
On May 11, Tiller released three new songs: "Honey," "Somethin Tells Me," and the Young Thug-featuring "Get Mine." "Somethin Tells Me" is the first official single and pops up on the 19-song tracklist on iTunes. Later in May, Tiller unveiled the tracklist, though it's unclear if he's still holding out on the features list as none are included. He could also go the feature-less route, which is what he did on Trapsoul.
When Trapsoul dropped, Tiller was still a plucky upstart looking for his big breakthrough. His first album sold just 22,000 copies in its first week, but steady success over the next half year allowed him to rise all the way to platinum status. In an industry where first week sales tend to be the driving force behind a project's success, that's a monumental feat for an artist's debut.
True to Self finds Tiller in a decidedly different place. People expect him to turn in a great effort this time around, and even some of the greatest artists to ever do it have been victimized by overzealous expectations for album No. 2. Nas' It Was Written is perhaps the perfect example of this phenomenon; it is largely a great, borderline classic rap record, but the shadow of Illmatic loomed over the release and didn't allow fans to appreciate IWW in the moment as much as they would have otherwise.
As with any sophomore release, Tiller has to balance a need to innovate further while not branching too far from what made him successful in the first place. Easier said than done, but True to Self should be a good litmus test for Tiller's staying power in the industry.