“Trapsoul, man I crack codes,” sings Kentucky-born artist Bryson Tiller on his recently released debut album Trapsoul. The project plays up to the claim, blending the aggression of Southern rap with contemporary R&B sensibilities. The 22-year-old has created a flavor of his own: velvety soul juxtaposed with rumbling hi-hats and 808s, uniting two worlds in a context that makes sense on record.
With recognition from artists like Drake and Timbaland, the latter of whom has production credits on the album, this newcomer is settling into something of a surreal post-album phase. It’s been quite the transition for Tiller who, just a year ago, was sleeping in his car and working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Trapsoul is more than an artistic breakthrough — it’s the pivot point from Tiller’s struggles to mainstream recognition.
Speaking with Billboard.com, the “Don’t” singer tells us about what inspired the album, his love of Star Wars, and just how different life is these days.
Where did the idea of Trapsoul come from?
I released a song called “Let Em Know” off SoundCloud and some fan commented on it and was like, “Trap soul movement,” and I was like, man, that’s dope. What is that? And it just sounded like my music. That was the perfect word to describe my music, so I was just like, I’m going to call my project that.
What was the process like for recording “Been That Way”?
“Been That Way” is a song that Timbaland gave me. Actually, the beat is. And then he called me to come out there to Miami. I went out there to work with him and he gave me two beats for my project. One was “Sorry Not Sorry” and the other one was “Been That Way” and I recorded both of them in my hotel. I was going to record it at the Hit Factory, but I told Tim I don’t really like recording in big studios, so he bought me a whole bunch of equipment to record in my hotel.
And is that how you like to create, by yourself?
Yeah, I have to feel like I’m alone. I have to feel like nobody else on earth could be there. I sit on my laptop, I turn the mic on and I start humming into the mic and just hum melodies.
How do you feel about this soul/rap/R&B hybrid that’s so popular now?
It’s a lot different now than what it was. I grew up listening to T-Pain and The-Dream and they were doing that thing, rapping and singing at the same time. That’s where I get it from. But I like a lot of what I’m hearing.
Do you have a favorite trap artist and soul artist?
My favorite soul artist I would have to say D’Angelo. That’s R&B, soul. Trap artist, I would probably have to say…Young Thug.
I’m sure your sudden popularity has felt so surreal to you.
Definitely. Not too long ago was the anniversary of when I dropped “Don’t” on SoundCloud and I was just like, staring at the ceiling when I woke up that morning like, wow, I was sleeping in my car around this time just a year ago.
How are people back home responding to what’s happening with you right now gaining so much popularity?
Man, I think they’re just inspired. Everybody’s inspired because nobody’s made it out of Louisville in a long time. I’m just excited to see a bunch of artists emerge from there.
Do you have any plans for what’s coming next or you’re just reveling in what’s happening at the moment?
Right now, I’m just focused on touring and just getting my show right and just trying to be the best performer I can be.
Did you have a first big purchase?
I bought a car. I bought a 2005 series BMW.
I read that you’re a self-proclaimed culture nerd. I’m curious if you’re into something in particular at the moment.
Star Wars. I love Star Wars. I’m excited for the game that comes out in November. The movie comes out in December.
Have you always been a Star Wars lover?
I haven’t. I used to watch it a little bit when I was a kid and I just figured I just always wondered what it was. And I love adventure movies, sci-fi movies. So, it was up until when I had a lot of free time when I decided to get back into it. Start digging up all those old movies. I bought a bunch of trilogies. I bought Back to the Future, Ninja Turtles and then I bought Star Wars and I was just all over it.