What Happened To Pill?
By this point in hip-hop’s storied history, many young hopefuls have learnt that being courted by the stars, and becoming one, are vastly different things. Although the talent of an upcoming artist may equal or even supersede that of the established MC’s, it can all depend on whether the cards fall favourably. Otherwise, you’d best find an inventive way to be self-sufficient and keep it moving if you are to achieve the success that once seemed in reach.
In the tumultuous career of Tyrone Rivers, lesser-known as hardened Atlanta veteran Pill, the ability to reset has been one that he’s displayed with varying degrees of success. Once touted as the hottest up-and-comer that the ATL had to offer, Pill has now reached a point where, save for his connections to household names and a small cult following, he’s essentially starting over.
Although this may be a fairly common predicament for rappers that were once on the books at an esteemed label, what makes Pill’s plummet into obscurity so interesting is that he had all the contingency plans an MC could ask for, yet he still slipped through the net.
Always quick to stress that he is really from Atlanta in a way that other MC’s aren’t, Pill has been rhyming since his formative years. Believing that music was “etched” in his soul, he pursued his dreams of being a recording artist to such a degree that he turned down a football scholarship along the way. Honing his skills during his school days, he was initially welcomed into the professional ranks by Killer Mike, who was put onto his fellow ATLien when he received a videotape of the young rapper from a cousin that just happened to be Pill’s classmate.
Together, they worked in tandem as members of the Grind Time Rap Gang, with the Run The Jewels firebrand choosing to pay it forward, moving from protege of Big Boi, to mentor another emerging talent from the A.
LISTEN: Killer Mike feat. Pill & Nario of Grind Time Rap Gang “Down Fo’ The Kick Doe”
After a few years of limiting himself to sporadic features and finetuning his game, Pill decreed that the time had come to launch his career in earnest with 2009’s debut mixtape4180: The Prescription.
Boisterous and lyrically descriptive, the DJ Burn One-aided tape saw Pill cast a commanding presence over iconic beats— as he most notably achieved on “Get Paper (Tribute To Big)” and the 808’s and Heartbreak-adapted “Coldest Story,” as well as with original compositions. Although his potent flow was on full display throughout, the most attention-grabbing moment proved to be the bombastic “Trap Going Ham,” which proceeded to make considerable waves in the blogosphere.
LISTEN: Pill “Trap Going Ham”
Now armed with a moderate smash on his hands, Pill was soon anointed “Unsigned Hype” by theSource in October 2009, and he quickly capitalized on the buzz with his second tape of the year in the form of 4075: The Refill.
Following Pill’s recognition in the same magazine column that once featured DMX, Biggie and Eminem, another accolade swiftly followed, one which Pill would value above all else– an Andre 3000 cosign.
“To have his stamp of approval, me being from the A and idolizing them — him and Big [Boi] — for him to hit you and quote your lines on the tape, I was like, ‘Oh!'” Pill remarked after 3 Stacks praised his debut mixtape. “I was like, ‘For real? That’s what’s up! I appreciate it.’ He’s top-five to me. … I was like, ‘I might know how to rap a little bit.'”
At this point, Pill’s reach was beginning to extend beyond Atlanta’s hip-hop ecosystem and soon, he’d find himself spotlighted among one of the most prosperous XXL Freshman classes of all time. Sharing the stage with Nipsey Hussle, occasional collaborator Freddie Gibbs, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Jay Rock and J. Cole among others, Pill would waste little time lavishing in the spotlight that the platform afforded to him, and hopped right back into mixtape mode. Before the year was out, he’d find time to ingratiate himself to poppier audiences with an unexpected spot on Mark Ronson’s Record Collection project.
Bolstered by the rocket that so many tastemakers had strapped to his back, it was no surprise when Warner came knocking. And soon enough, he’d become part of a hip-hop heavyweight’s most decorated all-star team.
“Pill, he’s been representin’ in the A-Town forever, just being a deep thinker and a street lyricist at the same time,” Rick Ross said after bringing him into the Maybach Music Group fold in spring of 2011.”So that was somethin’ that I was just vibin’ and attracted to.”
Ushered into the Floridian boss’ inner circle alongside Wale and Meek Mill, this trio was essentially tasked with being the foot soldiers who would eventually turn MMG into a reputable hit factory.
Meek Mill, Pill, Rick Ross and Wale at BET’s “106 & Park” – Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images
Appearing alongside this crew on BET’s 106 & Park, Pill spoke candidly about his intention to be a “sponge” and soak up all of Rozay’s knowledge, while aiming for a high-profile collab.
“I worked with a lot of people, but somebody like Drake or something,” he replied when asked about his feature wishlist. “He got the hooks and the flow down,” Pill added.
In May, this MMG’s new breed would announce their arrival on collaborative album Self Made Vol 1. Netting spots on seven out of its fifteen-song tracklist, the Atlantan was given ample room to shine and became one of the major talking points upon the record’s release. Two months on, he’d do his utmost to flourish on his own with the release of The Diagnosis, a DJ Scream-hosted tape that harnessed his momentum in order to accrue features from Pusha T, 2 Chainz, Rozay and many more.
From the outside looking in, all signs suggested that Pill’s time in the trenches had elapsed and he was flourishing on MMG/Warner. Thus, it came as a disorienting shock when in January 2012, Pill not only revealed that he was no longer affiliated with the labels, but claimed that he was never a true member of Ross’ clique to begin with.
WATCH: Pill feat. Rick Ross “Pacman”
“I never really went on tour with them; I never really did anything with them,” Pill told MTV. “The only time I performed on tour with them was when it stopped in Atlanta… the label had been put together for us to be on as a whole.”
Rozay echoed this sentiment, elaborating on the situation during an interview with MTV’s RapFix. “Pill’s situation was a special situation because he was already signed to Warner [Brothers Records] before I did my label deal at Warner. So when I did do my deal, it was a business opportunity that was presented where Pill could run with the team for a year,” he said.
Although Pill’s short stint under Ross’ banner may have been a failed experiment, it didn’t appear to be the death knell for his career entirely. In fact, even his Ross had high hopes that through perseverance, Pill would hit upon the winning formula
“Hopefully, in the future he’ll bring him a hit record, and get him some paper and do his thing. Once you rep the MMG flag, I’ll never step on your feet,” Rozay said in the same RapFix interview.