Tiller returns to the frame, true to form, with his sophomoric studio album True to Self – a month earlier than the scheduled release of 23rd June.
Confidence oozes from this album. Tiller is an artist who has cemented a seat at our current R&B hall of fame – established from his extremely popular and critically acclaimed first studio album, Trapsoul. Returning with an album sure to break hearts, bounce us through the summer and, most importantly, expand his presence in an already dense genre – Tiller excels.
First impressions of Tiller’s latest offering are that it delivers a greater sense of embodiment in the build of his music. The beauty of Trapsoul was a seamless combination of his silky vocals and undulating beats with sharp cuts, simple but highly effective – attributes he has managed to transfer into True to Self. As previously mentioned in my single review of Honey, Tiller highlights the importance of his production team, including the producer NES in the title, like an artist should with a feature. Tiller has further capitalised on this by strengthening his music with acclaimed producers – NES being credited for nine of the nineteen-long piece, accompanied by T-Minus (Kendrick Lamar), Wondagurl (Rihanna, Jay Z), Allen Ritter (Kanye West) and Boi-1da (Drake). It is now not only a balance between vocals and production in unison, but a continuing theme throughout that both production and vocals are so strong they act as a single entity, that so happen to work perfectly as one. Tiller and his team could so easily have built up a production that overpowered his undeniable talents, but they haven’t – simply evolving and moulding his work into something greater.
Thankfully, Get Mine featuring Young Thug isn’t featured in this final version of True to Self – but more interestingly, neither is Honey. Retrospectively, we can revel in twenty-one new songs – rather than only the nineteen provided on the album. This, in turn, also categorises True to Self as another featureless album – as was Trapsoul (enter the ‘J-Cole went platinum with any features’ meme). I reiterate, as mentioned in the singles review, I have utmost respect an artist for doing this, so early in his career – at 24 he has a glimmering future ahead, proving he can supply an outfit this strong without the aid of other artists.
When I listen to an album, my instinctual intention is to analyse it a whole, rather than track by track which, I find, comes later and enables me to draw upon personal favourites. The reason I do this, is because many artists careers rely heavily on single sales and entering the charts – album sales are of course of great importance – however, radio plays, charting and streams benefit the artist immensely. When I listen to this album, I see it as one body. This is by far one of the greatest compliments I can give an artist. In an industry driven by sales, the phrase ‘selling-out’ is thrown about a considerable amount – artists claim they are growing or evolving when, really, their intentions shift to making as much money as possible. Tiller has surpassed this trap; often criticised for the low tempo amongst his discography, deeming him useless for radio play, he has taken a step back and explored what made the R&B scene so influential in the 90s and early 00s. Tracks like High Stakes and Set It Off utilise the mellifluous samples from The Spinners 1979 No One Does It Better and Faith Evan’s You Are My Joy from 1995, an homage to the music he grew around.
True to Self works hand-in-hand with Trapsoul, an impressive and moreish sophomoric offering that leaves you wanting to continuously loop. As a fan who has been around for some time, it is extremely endearing to see a favourite artist piecing together something that you envision yourself listening to for some time. I labelled Drake’s More Life as album of the summer – I think he now has a strong competitor in Bryson Tiller.