Show & Prove: Bryson Tiller
Words: Emmanuel C.M.
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Louisville, Ky. is not known as a hotbed for hip-hop talent but Bryson Tiller is changing that. The 22-year-old singing sensation, most known for his 2014 breakout hit record “Don’t,” has recently earned much praise with the release of his debut album, Trapsoul, last October on RCA Records.

But things weren’t always set up right for the young crooner, who didn’t know his dad until late in life and lost his mother at age four. Raised by his grandmother, along with the youngest of his four brothers, Tiller grew up listening to grandma’s favorites -- Gladys Knight, Earth Wind & Fire and Michael Jackson -- learning early to appreciate music. He also sang at his local church, Harvest Church of God but it was his uncle that really inspired Tiller.

“He used to play those super R&B groups from the ‘90s,” tells Tiller. “Then he played me Omarion’s [O] album and that’s when I said I want to sing. I started writing songs. They were terrible but I just kept writing.”

In middle school, the aspiring star was regularly writing and recording at a friend’s studio, using beats he found online. In 2010, he released his first song “Red Dress” via the web, and although it didn’t get much of a response, Tiller kept pushing, and dropped his first mixtape, Killer Instinct, the following year.

In 2013, Tiller dropped out of school, had a daughter and was taking a break from music working at Papa John’s, UPS and a moving company, to provide for his child. In the summer of 2014, friends gave Tiller money to buy equipment on eBay and soon
he was making music again. A couple of months later, Tiller put out “Don’t” and soon garnered attention from Drake, Busta Rhymes and several major labels including RCA, who signed the new jack in April of 2015. “He’s very focused on making great records and not much else,” says RCA’s Senior Director of A&R, Tunji Balogun.

With a new deal, a heavy buzz and his debut album building momentum, Tiller is finally set up to record the music he was meant to create. “I try to make music that make you feel something,” he says.

Right on time.

Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2015 issue including Kendrick Lamar’s cover story, Rick Ross' forever hustle, Silento's takeover with "Watch Me (Whip/NaeNae)," Rhymesayers' legendary movement and Eye Candy India Love.

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