Life, the concept of time, and existence in general just doesn’t make sense. As I write this review, King Von is now dead at 26-years-old after an apparent altercation at a night club. He was pronounced dead on Nov. 6. Nov. 6 is also the late Speaker Knockerz’ birthday. He would’ve turned 26.
To me, both artists were similarly great at capturing a harrowing tale inspired by troubled environments. They were both precise, intelligent rappers who told stories as if they were folktales. Most of the time though, their reality shined through.
It’s difficult to not think about the ubiquitous adage, “time is precious.” Posting “RIPs” across social media has essentially become a depressing expectation at this point. “Don’t take anything for granted” and “enjoy life while you can” are bedroom decor quotes that should go without saying. And yet, we have to consistently say them. Why? Because life doesn’t add up, but time does.
I ponder this as I delved into Bryson Tiller’s new album Anniversary, which comes five years after his breakthrough album Trapsoul, and acts as its spiritual successor. Tiller was my age when he released the latter. He’s now 27, which is one year older than Von.
You can tell right at the start of Anniversary that a lot’s changed in the artist’s life. He released a sophomore album during a time of depression, raised a family, and basically grew up in the process. His music, on the other hand, has stayed pretty consistent. Stylistically, many of the spacey trap instrumentals you hear on Anniversary harken back to Trapsoul’s atmospheric production. The drums, while adhering to a commercial bend, can sometimes feel like they’re shifting the tectonic plates in the Earth. I can’t help but admire the rhapsodic thud of each instrumental. Considering the album’s bulky universality, the backdrop is admirably fitting.
Part of time’s trickiness is you can’t control it, you can only manage it. What makes Anniversary Tiller’s greatest effort to date is the fact that he realizes this within his writing. “Years Go By” feels like a stark moment of catharsis for someone who’s thinking of his music more than his past (“Spit the truth in the booth, give it to the fandom/Listen boo, I gotta make these anthems”). “Timeless Interlude” presents Tiller in a place of maturation, playing a character who’s been oblivious to the passage of time. When he first found fame at 22, it was understandably difficult to capture the nuances of a societal structure. Now, at 27, he’s more analytical, and inherently aware of what surrounds him as a famous superstar.
There’s also the obvious romantic escapades that linger between lust, love, and 21st century lingo. The second half of the album illustrates a noticeable difference in warmth and dimensionality. “Inhale” features a soulful SMW sample, while other tracks during this portion sound sonically intimate. Drake appears more tolerable than he has all year on “Outta Time,” a track that portrays Tiller and the 6 god in a contemplative state of temptation. For someone who attempts to conquer the essence of time, Tiller resembles a hopeless entity, drowning underneath the iciness of human nature.
It’s difficult to not chuckle a little bit when noticing the album cover connection between Anniversary and Trapsoul. Only Drake himself could ever display this much of self-serious posturing. Thankfully, the meme-like energy surrounding the two covers does little to affect the actual music. Tiller is in a state of perpetual wonderment, often reminiscing about times he wishes he could get back. He occasionally inserts vocal snippets from family and friends as if they were precious voice mails from his college days. “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” displays Tiller in a somber, yet self-motivating state of deep thought. ” He sing-raps the line “I gave it my best, and that’s exactly why I’m here” with a conclusionary vigilance. Don’t take life for granted, but also find your happiness.
That’s a message Tiller wrestles with over the course of Anniversary. He hasn’t necessarily found peace or self-actualization yet (then again, who has), but he does appear to be wholly aware of time’s powerful grasp on the human race. He seems more inclined to appreciate the little things. What the album lacks in innovation, Tiller makes up for with personal storytelling. Rather than fight time’s grass, Tiller nurtures it as if it were his child. Embraces it like a new lover.