There’s center of the sun hot, and then there’s Bryson Tiller hot. The latter kind is turning the music scene into a scorched-earth, leaving behind little but a golden flame on everything he touches. From the outside, it looks like the Billboard editors have lost their minds and made it a policy to rubber stamp “Bryson Tiller” all over the charts. The 24-year-old R&B lynchpin from Louisville, Kentucky claims the top album spot on the Billboard 200 with his sophomore album True to Self and, get this, 12 of the 25 positions on the Hot R&B Songs chart for the week of June 17, 2017.
Don’t worry; all is well with the powers that be at Billboard. Tiller’s meteoric rise to chart domination is to be expected. It’s also anything but an overnight success story.
Tiller began his singing career in earnest in 2011 with the ambitious 21 song mixtape Killer Instinct Vol.1. He supported himself by working a string of jobs at places like UPS and Papa John’s and even spent a stint living out of his car. Not the type to allow a meager reality derail his dreams, Tiller plugged away making music for several years, ultimately landing an audience and industry exposure via the music sharing site SoundCloud.
With $600 scraped together from friends, Tiller upgraded his studio equipment and recorded his breakthrough single “Don’t,” a mesmerizing slow churn record about becoming the man his girlfriend needs. The song dropped on SoundCloud in October 2014, amassing a staggering four million streams within the first six months.
It wasn’t long before the major labels and deep pocketed dealmakers came knocking as the interwebs took notice of Tiller’s lo-fi grooves at a clip unheard of for an unsigned artist. Megastar rapper Drake was one of the first in line with an offer to join his Toronto-based OVO Sound label, but Tiller eventually settled on major RCA Records.
Tiller’s proper debut album T R A P S O U L hit the streets in October 2015 with the same ruckus as “Don’t” a year prior, going platinum and peaking at number eight on the Billboard Top 200. “Don’t” was given a proper video treatment and re-released on YouTube, where it’s since been spun over 220 million times. Music industry accolades followed with Tiller netting Best New Artist and Best Male R&B/Pop Artist at the 2016 BET Awards.
And you can never have too much of a good thing, right?
Tiller began whetting fans’ appetites back in January when he first announced the upcoming release of True to Self. By early May, the album artwork and three songs, “Somethin’ Tells Me,” “Honey,” and “Get More,” trickled out to the internet.
A June 23 release date was set for True to Self, but with the completed album in hand, Tiller and his management decided to drop it a month early on May 26. In a music industry filled with very precise release schedules and focus group selected singles, Tiller plays the role of a risk-taking poker player by bucking tradition and dealing his album when the fans want it.
Luckily, the bold move paid off as the positive reception among fans has been immediate. Just peek at the numbers–the top spot debut on the Billboard 200 with 104,000 units sold, and the 3.5 million views the lead single “Somethin’ Tells Me” has garnered in just two weeks on YouTube.
Tiller rounds out his red hot summer by kicking off an extended tour on June 23 in Los Angeles. He’ll head to Europe for a string of dates before returning to North America in August.
Amidst all the action, Tiller hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He was recently on hand to oversee the rehabilitation of a park and several basketball courts in his hometown of Louisville.
It’s definitely been one wild ride for the crooner who was making music in his bedroom a few short years ago.