Stretched down the block outside SOBs is a curving line of anxious fans checking the time on their cell phones. 30 minutes until showtime.
The spot is filling up fast. Suddenly, the entrance doors swing open. A gust of cool air spreads across the humid venue and Omarion enters, cruising through the crowd with a Cali bop and girlfriend Apryl Jones in tow. Like the rest of us, he’s here to see Bryson Tiller.
The audience thickens as the crowd outside the NYC hot spot shrinks. Finally, Tiller touches the stage, the brim of what has become his signature cap casting a shadow over the bottom half of his face. Fans know every word to every song.
It was only last year that Tiller released ‘Don’t,’ which has since garnered 35 million streams on SoundCloud.
We meet in a back-office at RCA the next day. He smiles, remembering his performance the night before.
‘I was driving to work every morning listening to ‘Don’t’ like, this is a dope song. Just vibing to it,” he says. ‘Then I eventually stopped liking it and was like this ain’t that good. To hear everyone singing my song word for word last night – that was crazy.’
Shrouded in The Weeknd–like mystery (he doesn’t do on-camera interviews), he reassures me that his reserved demeanor isn’t a ‘gimmick.’
‘I really am just private. Some people just talk themselves into a pit. I do that sometimes, so I’m trying to get better with that – not saying too much.’
A better explanation is, ‘It’s the way the beats hit, the hard-hitting 808s the snares. Putting loves songs and giving it that bounce. A lot of people may feel R&B songs are a little too soft.’
Tiller’s been putting in overtime, carefully jotting down his feelings and converting them into a cohesive album that flows like Ciroc at a strip club. Unlike the misogyny-laced ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes’ music on every radio station’s rotation, Tiller is singing about his love for one woman.
‘That’s what I learned from my idol, Drake,’ he explains. ‘He puts all his emotions into his songs. He’s very vulnerable in his music.’
By now, you’ve probably heard the stories about Tiller turning down the opportunity to sign with OVO, but that hasn’t caused any tension between them.
‘I really didn’t know how they felt about me not signing OVO. He hit me up like a month later after I signed to RCA. He was like ‘Come to the club with me.’ I sent him some songs and he was loving them. He was just like ‘Come rock with me.’ I went out there, I really didn’t think it was real. I walk in and there’s Drake standing on the couch and he’s like, ‘Wassup.’ He was tapping people on the shoulder like ‘Yo this dude is next.’ I was like What? You talking about me? He got me a bottle and was like this is all you. I don’t even drink.’
Tiller describes that evening as one of the best night’s ever. A cosign from Drake means everything in the game right now, but that doesn’t ensure longevity.
He recalls a long conversation with the ‘Hotline Bling’ rapper, who offered this advice:
‘He seen people with immense talent fall deeper and deeper into something based on their character. This is all about being in this industry. It’s all about the decisions you make. The people you surround yourself with.’
Tiller may be shy, but he exudes confidence in his music through songs like ‘Rambo’ (praised by Sylvester Stallone himself).
‘I don’t care what I say in my music. I say whatever. I may not get on Twitter and talk about a beef I have with somebody or something they said about me. Imma talk about it in a song. That’s how music is created.’
The self-proclaimed Pen Griffey is on the brink of stardom as he continues to tour around the U.S.. He’s aware his star is rising.
‘I feel like I’ve been known it everything over the year that’s been happening has proven it to me. Like it’s really happening.’
If you haven’t copped T R A P S O U L, do yourself a favor and purchase it here.