Bryson Tiller has proven himself to be an artist to watch in 2016, following the massive success of his debut album T R A P S O U L, which has drawn comparisons to Drake's 2009 breakout mixtape So Far Gone and Usher's 2004 Grammy-winner Confessions.
The Louisville, Kentucky, native blessed a diverse crowd of University of Missouri students with an intimate performance on Thursday (December 10), one month after the campus dominated national headlines following student-led protests against racism and other forms of systematic oppression.
"It was another chance for us to come together and celebrate the fact that even if people don't like it, we are here on this campus; dressed to the nines, smiling, getting our degrees and looking good while doing it," said Missouri junior Shelby Anderson, who acknowledged that there are still some negative feelings on campus following last month's incidents.
Tiller didn't speak directly to the racial unrest that led to University President Tim Wolfe's resignation last month, but he did help students release the tension of a long and stressful semester. Attendees were thankful for Tiller's raw performance of his unique brand of R&B, which mixes 808-heavy trap sonics with sparse soulful melodies.
"He's a good performer to watch because he has something for everyone," said Anderson. "He has a way of making all the girls feel like he's singing and talking directly to them; he'll give a little glance just to make one feel special, and then they'll all go crazy."
Though the 22-year-old is still easing into the spotlight of fame, he calmly wowed the packed house of energetic students who were celebrating "Stop Day," or the last official day of classes before final exams.
Tiller quickly ran through his list of digital hits, including "Rambo," "Exchange" and his 2014 breakout single "Don't," which has racked up over 35 million plays on SoundCloud since its release and garnered him early acclaim from Timbaland and a co-sign from Drake. The song's momentum eventually led to a deal with RCA Records, helping to launch Tiller's debut album to No. 11 on the Billboard 200 this fall.
Despite his recent success, the humble crooner admitted to the crowd of students that he felt "awkward" and that he "doesn't know what to say" during the transitions between songs. Still, Tiller appeared to feel right at home in front of the sea of millennials as he took a fan's cell phone and recorded a video of himself on the social media app Snapchat.
"I was shocked by how comfortable he was spittin'," said Missouri alum Jamal Andress of the singer-slash-rapper's ability to change lanes from singing to rapping. "I thought Tiller was a vocalist by default who raps occasionally, but after watching him in person, I'm not so sure. Either way, great show."
Tiller's date in Columbia, Missouri, was part of a national tour that will stop in Houston and Los Angeles before the end of December.
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(Photo: Terrance Purdy)