On True to Self, Bryson Tiller looks for his footing within a competitive field.
Producers: Beaux, Boi-1da, Frank Dukes, Allen Ritter, IAMNOBODI, Illmind, NES, Pro Logic, Sky Muzik, Teddy Walton, T-Minus, FrancisGoHeat, Gravez, Mahxie Soundz, Swiff D, Wow Jones, Teddy Walton, Wondagurl, Ayo, Hollywood Hot Sauce, J Louis, Keyz
Highlights: Blowing Smoke, You Got It, Teach Me a Lesson, Stay Blessed
Lowlights: Run Me Dry, Before You Judge, Money Problems/Benz Truck
Bryson Tiller is basking in confidence.
He surprised everyone when he dropped his highly anticipated album, "True to Self," a month before schedule - it was originally scheduled for release on June 23. This move in itself is pretty ambitious and risky. Several artists have released albums early with mixed success, but you will be hard pressed to see an artist do so a month ahead of time. You also seldom see an artist attempt this maneuver after an unexpected and significant success of their debut. Trap Soul was released to incredible reviews among fans and critics and enjoyed commercial success that no one foresaw for a new artist like Bryson Tiller. Two years later he is back with the gall reserved for a veteran.
On "True to Self," Tiller mostly stays close to what made him a success: hazy production, similar stories of love lost, opportunities missed, and general misunderstandings within his relationships.
The issue that presents itself here is the writing is not as strong as "Trap Soul." There are several attempts to introduce new wrinkles with songs like "No Longer Friends" and "Don't Get Too High."
"No Longer Friends" is about Tiller being in the friend zone of a woman in a relationship. She reassures her boyfriend that her and Tiller are just friends, but Tiller spends the entire second verse professing his love for her. On “Don’t get Too High,” he bemoans his girl wanting to spend more time drinking and smoking with her friends than be with him. The two are interesting concepts but are clunky in execution.
The vulnerability Tiller showcased in his introductory album is missing in his followup and doesn't make enough reappearances.
“You Got It” is simply written and well executed. With its sample of Kendrick Lamar’s "Feel" from his "Damn LP" released in April 2017, Tiller floats within his signature delivery. "Teach Me A Lesson" and "Something Tells Me" are sung and written beautifully. They both prove a singer can never go wrong with the tried and true R&B adage of “baby I fucked up, I’m a piece of shit, and I may not deserve you.”
"Stay Blessed" flips Mary J Blidge’s "Don’t Go" sample as Tiller sings about remaining true to self, what he has overcome and how the changes in his life cost him someone he loves.
I wish the album were more condensed. Clunkers like “Run Me Dry” (an obvious attempt to capitalize on the island sound mainstreamed by Drake), “Money Problems/Benz Truck” and “Before You Judge” could have been left out leaving the album to 15 songs instead of 19.
There are very few mentions of his daughter; I thought Tiller would have addressed the navigation of being a single father who is a rising star in the music industry.
On a positive, this album has replay value, and I’m looking forward to playing “Blowing Smoke” at obnoxious levels prompting those around me to lecture about my eardrums.
True to Self is a solid follow up that builds on many successes of its predecessor; but, in order for Tiller to transcend into super-stardom, he will need to do better than this.
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