Bryson Tiller – T R A P S O U L (RCA, 2015)
In a near vanished line that separates rap and r&b as genres in 2015, there is a nexus of three artists that guide the sound of the mainstream, and shape the stylistic impulses of emerging musicians. The three are the evocative, sensitive braggadocio of Drake, the spaceship rattling depressive trap of Future, and the multi-syllabic, marble-mouthed elastic rhyme schemes and flows of Young Thug. Whether you stan for them, hate them or land in the grey goo in between, their influences are undeniable. Twenty-two year old Louisville, Kentucky native Bryson Tiller is of their mold, and though he is more singer than rapper, his RCA debut T R A P S O U L does justice to the sonic aesthetics he chooses to mine.
The first half of TS is easily the strongest part of the LP, with Tiller sounding confident and in his own skin over booming melodic shards of production. The first song, “Let ‘Em Know” has Tiller jonesin’ for an ex over a SykSense beat that sounds like one of the best of Timbaland’s many offspring. Things slow down to a codeine crawl on “Exchange” where he uses his vocals to admit that he’s changed from his “ain’t shit” ways and wants a second chance to give his muse a better life. Yet, things really come together on the single “Don’t” where Dope Boi Beatz production sounds like an A.I. swallowed Just Blaze or Ye’s early aughts chipmunk soul sound, and spliced it with chopped-n-skrewed Houston slap. Tiller also holds his own on the song by walking the rap-singing bridge effortlessly: speeding up and slowing down his chalky crooning lilt to compliment the track nicely.
The second half of the album is where things get static and watered-down. Tiller’s “I’m living my dream, or I’ll treat you right now and fuck the shit outta you too, or I’m fly as hell,” content begins to run a bit thin. Add that his voice is nothing to celebrate on its own, T R A P S O U L would’ve worked better as an EP or a ten song set. The “Sequence” feels like scraps from Drake’s vaults, “Rambo” is just a really bad Thugger ape, and Tiller is swallowed whole, in a bad way, by the King Kong boom of “502 Come Up.” Yet, the production shines again with “Sorry Not Sorry” and “Overtime,” giving listeners two more gems before things close out. If Tiller can find ways to expand and refine his pen, while shedding his idols and influences, he may have some longevity as an artist.
Written by: Francisco Mccurry