The Bryson Tiller Effect: The Normalization of Unhealthy Black Relationships via Trapsoul

Bryson Tiller became a phenom last October when he dropped “Don’t” via his Soundcloud and later that month dropped his first album “Trapsoul.” Drake attempted to recruit him for OVO. Kylie Jenner was caught mouthing his lyrics on snapchat when her and Tyga were having a rough patch. Kehlani claimed him as a friend on instagram. It was imperative that I figure out what the buzz was about. After listening to the album, I had to salute his skill– I even caught myself getting in my feelings! However, I heard what I wanted to hear the first few times through the album, cute lines sticking out to me as potential future instagram captions. It wasn’t until I was making the five hour drive from my hometown back to my college town that I started formulating this theory.

Young black relationships are caught up in the Bryson Tiller effect.

It has been speculated that Bryson Tiller penned Trapsoul while reminiscing and reflecting on his relationship with the mother of his adorable daughter. And although Tiller has openly said he’s written a lot of his music to remind women of their self-worth, as a woman who has (avidly) listened to his music, I can’t help but remain steadfast in my belief that Black monogamous relationships are on the decline and Bryson Tiller’s songs characterize an archetypal black man of this generation. This is not to say some of our daddy’s and grandpa’s weren’t dogs in their days too, but the approach to black love has shifted greatly since then. This tumultuous style of love Tiller croons about is crazy relatable for the average person who has been in a relationship, girl or guy.

Whether monogamy is good or bad is not the question here. In fact, I foresee a radical change in regards to the outlook of marriage unions in the future. The question I would rather discuss is why unhealthy relationships are so normalized and accepted in the black community.

The reality is, there is a historical struggle to maintain black relationships. In the Relationships section of the May 1987 issue of Ebony, there was an article titled “Has the Black Male Shortage Spoiled Black Men?.” I find it ironic that over 3 decades later, every single one of my girlfriends and I would answer that with a resounding YES.

Now, I’ve heard the argument that this Black male shortage is fabricated and that there are plenty of eligible Black bachelors. I’ve heard that Black women’s standards are too high (Steve Harvey is notorious for making this argument) and that Black women overlook good black men to deal with bad ones. However, men lie, women lie– but numbers don’t. There are just naturally less Black men than Black women in the U.S., with Black men comprising of 48% of the Black population. This does not include the estimated 6% of Black men who are incarcerated (so now we’re down to 42% unless you’re a Cardi B and down to ride), the Black men who identify as gay, and the Black men committed in interracial relationships. These are the most basic constraints, but obviously every woman has different standards and possibly additional standards that continue to decrease their Black options. Black women are also the least likely out of both racial and gender categories to engage in interracial relationships in the United States…but that is another conversation.

I was raised in a two parent household by Black parents who had no troubles expressing their love and care for one another. I am one of the lucky few who got to witness her father go above and beyond to see her mother happy, whether it was as simple as making her breakfast or as substantial as being her rock during her lowest moments. I note this to say that no, I am not scarred with daddy issues nor am I some man-hating feminist. I love my dad, I love Black men, and that cannot be used to discredit my argument.

With the above being said, I am 22 years old, and almost all of my romantic relationships with Black men in my age group have in some way or another followed “the sequence” that Tiller’s entire album represents. From the beginning of the album when he’s making his bid to get his girl back again because he obviously did something seriously wrong, to the end where he hopes to “right his wrongs,” Tiller’s music is a constant reminder of the errors I have made in previous relationships.

Some of the lines in his music infuriate me. They are reminders of the lines exes feed me when they want to get back in the picture, especially those who feel they’ve learned a lot from me in the relationship.

“You don’t know how much you helped me grow.” “This what happens when I think bout you, I get in my feelings.” “Let me show you the difference.” “Baby, I been sufferin, does that mean nothing? That’s gotta mean something.”

This has become the common courting process of this generation: it may begin in friendship or it may begin with a dude tryna get at you over SoulSwipe (Black Tinder) – either way, eventually strong connections grows and a relationship forms. You fall deep, get super sprung, and then the guy messes up…which generally refers to cheating in some shape or form, though not always. Relationship ends (though for some this may have to happen after a few mess ups). You have major difficulties rebuilding your self-esteem and pride but somehow you do it.

It is once you’ve nearly completed the healing process that these men you once had such strong bonds with decide that they are desperate to have you back in their lives — even if they have someone new in their life (like the girl he may have cheated on you with).

You might have someone new come in the picture to try and move on. Sometimes the rebound relationships don’t always work out (“girl, he only fucked you over cuz you let him”). Many of us have exes who believe they’re going to marry us anyways. “Lord please save her for me. Do this one favor for me.” “I’m coming back for good so let these n*ggas know its mine.”

Bryson Tiller’s lyrics are continuing this romanticized idea that ya down black girl will always take you back, even after you break her spirit in a multitude of ways. This is not an attack on Bryson Tiller nor his music; he is certainly not the first artist to make music surrounding these topics. However, this music does perpetuate these misogynistic ideas that we, as Black women, must do our best to combat and reverse.

Now wait, isn’t this ironic? Black women are supposedly notorious for being too strong-minded and dominant in their relationships. Yet, somehow, so many of us don’t know when to leave even when it is necessary in a relationship. When it comes to protecting our own hearts, Black women need to do better. No one else will do the job. We have to hold our partners accountable for their actions no matter how slim the pickings are; it is important we don’t lower our standards, as Black men like Steve Harvey tell us to do, but instead continue to raise them to end this cyclical process.

I’m 22 years old, so I have plenty of time to experience a healthy relationship before I settle down, but it’s scary for me to think that it may not be with a Black man. I want to be with a Black man, and the reality is, Black women are the pillar of the Black community. As a collective, we fight for Black men when they are being murdered by police. As a collective, we advocate for Black male lives almost more than we advocate for our own. As a collective, we must maintain our standards and require consistency from Black men, or we have to stop complaining, accept our circumstances, and attempt to widen our dating pool horizons.

Yaya Ketema is a 22 y/o from Berkeley and a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with double major in Philosophy/Black studies and an Education minor. She is planning on attending graduate school in the fall, though the location is not finalized quite yet. She spends a lot of her free time listening to music and daydreaming.

This article was originally published via

The Bryson Tiller Effect: The Normalization of Unhealthy Black Relationships via Trapsoul

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