Brent Faiyaz is the Angsty Hero R&B Needs & Fuck The World is a Masterpiece
Evan Dale // Feb 10, 2020
'Everyone's talking R&B shit. I'm just talking me shit.'
When it comes to the future of R&B, Brent Faiyaz may very well bear the strongest grip on its experimental directionality. Like most of his compatriots, the impossibly young vocalist is an old soul. But, somewhere between the high-waisted slacks and the face tattoos, he and his music founded in decades of soul and R&B music’s past, are also a figure and a force of what the future may come to sound and look like.
2017 was his year, or at least his first. The Maryland-born and bred artist – then, just 21 years old – broke ground with a pair of differentiated debuts. The first of which, Intocame by way of he, Dpat, and Atu who together had only recently formed electro-R&B trio, Sonder. Into and truly Sonder as a collaborative at large became blueprints for a movement to follow that would see established producers collaborating heavily with the star-studded youth of the future R&B scene. The second of which, Sonder Son, marked Faiyaz’s early career with a proper debut album. A.M. Paradox, his debut EP had come just months earlier in 2016, as did a feature on GoldLink’s international hit, Crew that saw both artists earning a 2017 Grammy nod. By the time the year had ended, Brent Faiyaz had seemingly done more than any other artist in music and had gone from little known newcomer to a star primed for something huge.
Between 2018 and 2019, an EP and a handful of singles helped quench the thirst of his explosive fandom. Lost brought in tow certified hits, Trust & Around Me, keeping his relevance in check with his inescapable mystère. And between Make Luv, One Night Only, What You Heard, Fuck The World (Summer in London), and Rehab (Winter in Paris), he became – even with a limited canon – one of the most well-established leaders of R&B and Neo-Soul youth. All of those singles earned acclaim and drew celebration from his global fanbase and continued making room for something more.
And now, in February of 2020, the latter two of those singles are included in (and even the namesake for) his sophomore full-length project. Fuck The World is here and is much more in-depth, thought-provoking, and important than its nihilistic title may assume.
‘It’s deeper than that. It’s like a certain way of looking at life; looking at the world. I think that some of the qualities that makes up people that relate to my music are like empathetic narcissism or their attention to detail and overindulgent personalities when it comes to sex and drugs. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. But if you get it, it’s because you live it.’
Its angst-ridden enough to live up to the name, as have been all of Faiyaz’s notably moody releases from the beginning. And though taking a turn from the coming-of-age angle that drove the direction of Sonder Son, Fuck The World is still very much a thesis on personal struggle and personal growth. And that makes it, from one of the most covert trailblazers in music today, expectedly relatable.
Much of Faiyaz’s relatability is derived from his vocal delivery. A constantly-wavering, imperfect, yet silky and one-of-a-kind voice drives home whatever emotion it is he’s trying to convey. His low points bleed (Skyline, Let Me Know, Bluffin). His elation soars (Clouded, Make It Out). He hammers home decades of R&B tradition in exploring the emotionality of love, lust, and sex (Been Away, Rehab). And the entirety of Fuck The World shuffles between all three, painting a vivid picture of an artist every bit as lost as the rest of us, fueled by self-discovery, defined by swift emotional shifts, and speaking to it in notes all of us wish we could hit.
To be fair, no one in music – not even in R&B and Neo-Soul – sounds like Faiyaz. No one ever has. His voice is his own and it speaks for the masses listening because they recognize some counterpoint in his words and what his words can’t say in his emotional register. Brent Faiyaz is a master of controlling his pitch and Fuck The World is not only his career’s best exhibition of his raw musical talent, but also one of the last few years’ most definitive vocal flexes, joining the company of projects like Kaleem Taylor’s Surface, Snoh Aalegra’s -Ugh, Those Feels Again, and Daniel Caesar’s Freudian. And that’s no small feat.
Like Kaleem Taylor, like Snoh Aalegra, and like Daniel Caesar, Brent Faiyaz is pushing forward R&B and Neo-Soul in his own way. Driven by experimenting wildly with low-fidelity electronic production juxtaposed against the blanket of his confident falsettos and irresolute range, he, with Fuck The World makes case not only as one of the unique vocalists alive, but also as one of the most unapologetic forces making R&B music’s premiere experimental hotbed.