Bryson Tiller gets wild behind the mike in the recording booth, but in conversation he’s a remarkably soft-spoken guy. Given how difficult it’s become to find success in the music industry these days, it’s damn near impossible to find a rising artist whose modus operandi isn’t 24-hour self-promotion. And though Tiller is still an Instagramming, Snapchatting millennial, he has gone to Beyoncé levels of effort to maintain his privacy in the wake of his newfound fame. Search YouTube for a video interview with Tiller, and aside from sneaky footage taken by fans at Q&As, you might be scrolling all day. Tiller has said he might never do a video interview out of fear that the black hole of internet comment sections and memes would overshadow his artistic output. Even hip-hop radio heavyweights like New York’s Hot 97 DJs have had to settle for phone chats with the reclusive rapper.
In 2017, Tiller has provided even more proof that he means to remain focused solely on his music. Tiller is heading out on the road for his Set It Off Tour, which will take him through the United States and Europe — including a stop at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables — fresh off the heels of a number one album debut on the U.S. charts with his sophomore full-length, True to Self. Tiller’s profile rose this year when DJ Khaled featured him on a verse on the unequivocal summer anthem of 2017, “Wild Thoughts,” alongside Rihanna. The trio shot the song's steamy, fireworks-laden music video in Little Haiti. Though Tiller was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, he says Miami feels like a second home to him in a sense — a cosmic sense.
“Everybody who knows me knows that I love Miami,” he says, his restrained voice growing more animated. “Like, more than any place in this entire Earth, probably more than my own hometown. I feel like my soul is there. I think from one of my past lives, you know what I mean? I believe in reincarnation and stuff. Like, I was, in a past life, maybe somebody who was born there or something. I don't know. Miami has always been good to me. I love Miami.”
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It’s been only a year and a half since Tiller played the Fillmore Miami Beach in support of his debut album, Trapsoul, which yielded the hip-hop radio hits “Don’t” and “Exchange,” but jumping on a smash hit with Rihanna — who long ago transcended genre and fragmented radio playlists in her conquest of the pop throne — has introduced him to an expanding audience. In recruiting Tiller for the track, DJ Khaled was prophetic about where the song might take the rising star. “I feel blessed... grateful that any of this has happened for me,” Tiller says, his humility evident in his measured tone. “[Khaled] invited me over to his house to be a part of this song, and before I even did the song, he told me: ‘Congratulations.’”
Tiller’s insistence on checking his ego in the face of accelerating success, fame, and money is mostly owed to his desire to be a positive role model for his daughter. Like many dads his age, he posts about her frequently on social media. It’s clear to him that many people in his position lose themselves in the haze of sex, drugs, rock 'n’ roll, and, in today’s world, social media filters, both literal and figurative.
It’s in that spirit that he named his latest album True to Self. “Staying true to myself — I thought about it, and I was like, what exactly does that mean? I know what it kind of means... it's obvious. But what does it mean exactly? So I started looking up the definition, and then I found one that talks about, when you’re being true to yourself, you are communicating your feelings both with yourself and others wholeheartedly and allowing your truth to flow into the world. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”