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

By: Yaya Ketema

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 to OVO, Kylie Jenner was caught mouthing his lyrics on snapchat when her and Tyga were having a rough patch, and 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 May 1987 issue of Ebony, there was an article titled “Has the Black Male Shortage Spoiled Black Men?” in the relationships section. I find it ironic that over 3 decades later, me and every single one of my girlfriends 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),or 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 grow 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 but sometimes the rebound relationships don’t always work out. 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 niggas know it’s 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.

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30 Comments on "The Bryson Tiller Effect: The Normalization of Unhealthy Black Relationships via Trapsoul"

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Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

This is a great article

Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I enjoyed this article…and there are some key points in here which I agree with but there will be more interracial relationship in the next 25 years.

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

I really like the article! But why do conversations like this always end with a call to women to be “better”? It’s a mutual effort. We should all be responsible for what we accept, but also what we put forth and put people through. All in all great work, though.

Guest
Anon
1 year 7 months ago

Black men will never be enough will we?

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

This honestly sounds like an attack. Their are plenty of black men out there for black women to date. 42% is less then half but did you expect to see 80%? And the fact is all men cheat not just black men

Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Well just tell me about my life real quick!

Guest

The article was a good read. And im happy to hear a 22 year old with your mindset. But im not sure steve harvey is sending his message to women in your age range. As i understand it (and i could he wrong, of course) steve harvey’s target audience is middle aged women who, frankly, do need to check their standards. Id dare to guess that most women, at your age, SHOULD have higher standards. You are young and wide eyed about life, plus you have plenty of time to FIGURE out what you want in a man. Thats cool… Read more »

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Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

This is an article that I can’t even directly relate too but i’ve noticed it in friends, such an interesting powerful article so important

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

Meh. I understand where people are coming from with this I guess, but I always say you treat people how to treat you. I’m a Black (mixed) girl, also 22, and I’m in a great relationship with another Black (also mixed) man and have been in plenty of good relationships with other Black men. Never have I been cheated on, and in fact, I’ve been the one to end most of my other relationships. Don’t let these boys push you around! All it takes is you knowing you’re the shit and acting like it, come on, Ladies!

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Tianna
1 year 7 months ago

This definitely should have been longer with more analysis

Guest

Girl I screamed “yeeesss” the entire article. I made a post a few months ago about Bryson prob being kinda crazy based off his lyrics. His music does perpetuate unhealthy relationships. Thank you for this.

Guest
js
1 year 7 months ago

.48-(.48*.06)=0.4512

Guest
Tiffany A.
1 year 7 months ago

Steve harvey doesnt encourage lowering standards. He reminds women that just because a man isnt tall dark and handsome or rich that they should give him a chance. Dont lower ur standards but dont be superficial either. The hard truth is that young women like myself (23yo, latina) date guys who are no good sometimes, and sometimes we dont I dont think that bryson tiller perpetuates the cycle with his music it just sheds light on how relationships are these days because of factors like social media, and falling in love young. He himself is 23 (with a child) this… Read more »

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

Very interesting article. Clearly one sided and eloquently articulated BS, in my opinion. Few good points but much more to be addressed here. 1) Bryson Tiller is a musician not a role model, his music is solely entertainment. 2) No real facts or consideration of women’s actions in this article. 3) Stop playing the victim game and find a good man (Not a fuck boy) and treat him well. Funny enough in my opinion it is women who inspire and encourage irresponsible men (fuck boys) to behave the way they do, and make it hard for responsible men. Most respect… Read more »

Guest
Shae
1 year 7 months ago

I liked this article. But, I think it’s a stretch to pin this idea to Bryson Tiller. Besides that, I totally agree. I just think a more attainable thing we black women could do, is stop narrowing the “ideal man” down to someone that can only be black. You touched on it though, broadening horizons.

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

Perfectly written.

Guest
Nnonye Asonye
1 year 7 months ago

This article speaks every ounce of truth. I am a listener of Bryson tiller myself and it is true that his lyrics speak to you and for you. Men like bryson tiller dont have a “down black chick” and if they do thats the reason that they keep messing over the ” down black chick” . When our spolied black men start to get more money than your average black men they no longer seek that down black chick but will always keep her around because he knows she isnt going anywhere. At the end of the day our down… Read more »

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

I really enjoyed reading this article……. until she made the cop statement.

Guest
Anon
1 year 7 months ago

Your article is interesting but have you no knowledge of correlation and causation? Correlation doesn’t mean causation. It’s the equivalent to saying because people play CoD it leads them to go shoot up schools. Your article was nice as a story but it’s unwarranted. I think you may be American as they’re the only people that seem to attribute bullshit as to why relationships are happening or aren’t happening. The type to analyse back-up dancers in a music video when nobody cares about the music video lol

Guest
1 year 7 months ago

This was a great article! I love that the author is my age.

Guest
Tiara
1 year 7 months ago

This is why you start looking outside the country and your own race for guys and not just looking at being with a black American man. My first boyfriend was black and ended up getting incarcerated which spelled the end of our one year relationship. He begged for me back, but I said no. I was raised by my father (who is a black man) to respect myself and know that I deserve the best in a relationship. I walked away from him and a few other bozos who were African, black, and white until I found a man who… Read more »

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Cane
1 year 7 months ago

I’ve never heard a Bryson Tiller song, but I think all young people today have a messed up image of a healthy relationship. I’m 10 years older than you and I say don’t limit yourself. Many educated and sucessful black men don’t date or look for sistahs. We need to stop acting like fifth rate citizens. Black women deserve love too. Date all diffetent types of men and find one you love regardless of race. I get so tired of the good black man myth. Why are we saving ourselves for those who have left us a long time ago?

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

So are men the only reason that black relationships fail? This article made it seem like women are perfect when it comes to relationships and that if it fails it isn’t her fault. Relationships and love need to be met both ways. I can’t agree at all with this article because you neglected the fact that black women mess up at relationships just like black men.

Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Respect this article and the perspective. My opinion is that monogamous relationships should be a thing of the past. An open relationship if done correctly is way less complicated and society needs to hurry up and adapt. It’s 2016 and we’re all human. Your spouse most likely had sex with other people before you and will more than likely desirw to have sex with other people after you. The sooner people realize this and accept that “cheating” doesn’t mean you don’t love someone, the better. This goes both ways too, male or female, no double standards on my end.

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

I’m a black man who listens to Bryson Tiller damn near everyday and it actually makes me see the bad choices I’ve made with women. So I’m motivated to get it right the first time. Thank you Bryson Tiller. “I know I fucked up way too many times.”

Guest
1 year 6 months ago
Guest
Mona
1 year 6 months ago

To be honest, Bryson Tiller is one of the many black men who seem to prefer Latinas, whites, and Asians over black women. So I doubt his songs are about us.

Guest
1 year 6 months ago

Wise words @Tiara, I often feel sad about the fact that black couples are rare, and that black men don’t want black women anymore. But at the same time I don’t like the idea of being with anyone other than a black man, so I feel stuck. There are few black men who are interested in a serious relationship with a black woman, and I’m not interested in dating outside of my race :/ How does one overcome this?

Guest
Duh👅
1 year 3 months ago

I think about this every time songs like that come on. How do you break somebody’s heart and then try to pop up back I’m their lives and think its all good. Like if you dont get outa my face. That’s not how it works fool.

Guest

This was very insightful

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