Bryson Tiller's True to Self is as much a product of collaboration as at is about Tiller's personal journey. That may not seem obvious on the surface—Tiller opted to go the no-features route—but the music is a group effort, with over a dozen artists contributing to the 19-song project.
One of those producers is New Jersey's own !llmind, who is best known for his work alongside rap acts like Skyzoo and Joell Ortiz, and more recently has expanded to J. Cole and Future placements. !llmind put his own touch on "Before You Judge" and "Benz Truck" off True to Self, blurring the lines between rap and R&B.
Complex spoke with !llmind about True to Self and why he respects Tiller as a singer and a rapper.
How did you link up with Bryson?
It happened through me and Boi-1da doing work together. Since 2013, me and Boi-1da have been collaborating on beats. In and around the time Drake was working on More Life, me and 1da were working on tracks and showing them to Drake. The beat to “Benz Truck” was actually intended for Drake. Boi-1da showed it to him, and he liked it but he never used it. More Life dropped and we ended up not getting anything on that album together.
Bryson was working on his album at that same time, so 1da sent that track over to Bryson, he liked it, and recorded over it. At first it was just supposed to be an interlude, and then it ended up being attached to “Money Problems” as a two-part song.
What about “Before You Judge"?
That was a collaboration between me and NES. Basically that was NES; he ended up producing nine songs on the album. He was heavily involved in the project. I composed the melody on that track, and it was pretty straightforward. He got a hold of the melody I composed and added drums and did some bass programming on there. Bryson heard the beat, did the song to it, and ended up being on the project.
I think Bryson was posted up in Miami or somewhere; he rented a house and he was working on the project, but I didn’t get a chance to lock in with him at the house, so most of my collaborations were done online and mobile.
Were you aware of Bryson Tiller and Drake working? Tiller hinted at it a while back and I think people assumed there was going to be a collaboration with Drake on this project since there wasn’t a Tiller feature on More Life.
I don’t know any details on that. I know that they were seen together and in the lab together. I want to say all that happened at the same time. In terms of actual songs, I have no idea. It would have been interesting to hear Drake on “Benz Truck,” that would have been ill. Who knows what the future holds; I’m sure they have something in the stash.
On “Before You Judge” Tiller uses a rap flow, which he does from time to time. How would you rate his rap skills?
You know what I love so much about Bryson? He’s a rapper to me, and I’ll tell you why. Even on songs where he’s singing, in my mind he’s still rapping. He’s just a really good writer. And I think to be able to write so well and to be able to write the way he does, but also be able to sing what he’s writing, that’s pretty hard to do. The kid’s got bars and he’s got range singing-wise.
I think what makes him so great and what sets him apart is he can actually sing and rap. “Before You Judge” was a really good example of him showcasing his rap skills but then also his harmonies and his singing skills too. He’s got the overall whole package. I’m highly impressed by his rapping. In my mind I consider him a rapper just as much as a singer.
Anything else to share on your experience or what you have coming up?
Shout-out to Boi-1da. I think you guys are definitely going to get more !llmind x Boi-1da collabos. I can’t drop any names, but we’ve been working really hard, hopefully you guys will hear that at some point.
And just more collaborating. I love the fact that when you see these new albums come out, there’s a lot of producers that are tag-teaming and sharing these credits, and I think we need to do more of that. When you look at the Bryson Tiller album, it’s me, it’s Boi-1da, it’s Wondagurl, Swiff D, NES. Even Gravez is on there; shout-out to Gravez. Shout-out to IAMNOBODI from Soulection who’s got a placement on there. It’s just really cool to see producers collaborating. I want to see more of it. I think in the future that’s where music is headed.