Tieran continues to chase the dream on ‘They Don’t Get It’

The rapper’s introspective new album releases on streaming services Friday, Feb. 25

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Tieran

Tieran wrote the bulk of the songs that populate his new album, They Don’t Get It, during a time of personal upheaval that unfolded in early 2020, around the same time the coronavirus started to become more of a national concern. So, while COVID-19 does make its presence felt on the recording — “There’s an epidemic/I should probably watch the news,” he raps on “Get It Done” — there’s little sense the tracks would unfold any differently absent the pandemic.

This is even true of songs such as “I Don’t Leave the House,” which gained additional buoyancy amid stay-at-home, but also reflects Tieran’s generally reclusive tendencies. “I’m pretty antisocial, in general,” said Tieran, who will release his new full-length digitally on Friday, Feb. 25. “I don’t want to ever go anywhere or do anything, and my girlfriend hates me for it, but this is who I am.”

Over the course of the album’s 10 tracks, the rapper works to similarly define himself, filling songs with references to the various ways he’s been misconstrued or struggled to find his place while carving out a career in music. On “I Don’t Leave the House,” Tieran relays that growing up he “wasn’t punk, wasn’t hood," existing instead in a more tenuous middle ground. "Think You Know Everything,” in turn, finds him addressing those who might judge his sincerity in making hip-hop, offering that he raps as a means “to find my peace,” a realization that arrived as part of an ongoing assessment investigating his reasons for making art.

“The goals are always changing, but I feel like I made the mistake of having grand dreams too early, where now the goal is just to reach a point where I can pay my bills with music alone,” Tieran said. “I watched this TV show once, or maybe it was a movie, but this guy played guitar, and someone said to him, ‘Man, you play guitar really well. Have you thought of making a career out of it?’ And he said no, because he didn’t want it to lose that innocence. And that stuck with me, because it’s so true. Once you make it a dream, you make it a goal, and now the business side can [spoil] that innocence, and it becomes strategy. … I could make a song to try to get people to dance on TikTok, or I could have a strategy in how I create my music, but that wouldn’t feel genuine to me. And all I want to do is be genuine.”

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Tieran said the internal focus of his new album wasn’t a byproduct of society shutting down, leaving him more time to stew in his thoughts, but rather a result of that inner world existing as a primary focus stretching back to childhood. “I’m always thinking about what I’m doing and how I’m reacting to things,” he said. “Am I a productive member of society? Am I an asshole? Am I misunderstanding everyone else? Is that the problem? Am I the problem?”

These thoughts intensified in the months that followed the death of his grandfather, from whom Tieran inherited a couple of dogs, a tumultuous stretch that also coincided with the purchase of a house with his now-fiancee, not to mention the new realities brought about by COVID, the impact of which was initially relegated to the background. “I wasn’t paying attention to it because I was so caught up in my own shit,” he said. “Not that I wasn’t taking it seriously; I was wearing my mask and doing what people were telling me I was supposed to do. … But once I figured out my own shit, I looked into it more, and started caring about it more, the way I should have.”

One thing the pandemic did afford, however, was time, allowing Tieran an opportunity to immerse himself more fully in the recording process for longer stretches, which helped in drawing out a through-line that runs through the tracks, some of which date as far as three or four years back. 

“I was looking for a way to make [the songs] cohesive,” said Tieran, who noticed a unifying quality once he stepped back and viewed the collection from some distance. “And it hit me that they tend to [document] the trials and tribulations of chasing a dream that has a low success rate.”