“This n*gga starving, impoverished. People don’t give no fucks, n*gga. Trump don’t give a fuck. Your n*ggas don’t give a fuck. Your favorite artist don’t give a motherfucking fuck. Do you give a fuck?”
These words are found on track four, “First World Problemz/Nobody Carez,” on the just-released debut project of Brent Faiyaz, Sonder Son. He is not only pointing out what he sees as problems in humanity, but specifically in his industry. He is 22 years old, and is among R&B's most exciting prospects.
Born and raised in Columbia, MD, Los Angeles-based Faiyaz started to make waves in early 2015 before SoundCloud and copyright police started to hand out warnings and delete profiles; slowly but surely declining the community of up-and-coming, buzzing artists. Faiyaz’s page would always be safe, though. Clearly being influenced by popular R&B of the ‘90s, but unlike so many SoundCloud-popular artists that could be in the same lane from 2013 to 2015, he wasn’t building his buzz off a recognizable sample or staple Aaliyah flip. In fact, to this day (new album included), listeners would be hard-pressed to find even a borrowed flow or melody from another artist or song, let alone a sample.
It’s this sense of individuality and confidence that is at the foundation of Faiyaz’s music and work ethic, and perhaps why he has gained such widespread traction so quickly. With only a couple of tracks and an EP to his name, he started seeing regular play on OVO Sound Radio and did his first live performance in L.A. opening for Amir Obè in the summer of 2016. André 3000 was in attendance, specifically to see and speak to Brent. “The fact that he called me over and was like ‘Aye man, your live show is amazing.’ It made me look at it like it was a lot more realistic,” Brent says.
Soon after, Faiyaz would link with his band, Soulection-affiliated producers Dpat and Atu, joining together as 'Sonder.' He would then be responsible for an infectious hook on a little track called “Crew,” the GoldLink track that would put him on his first Coachella stage back-to-back weekends less than eight months after his first-ever live performance. The ensuing months found a Lil Yachty cosign, writing credits and uncredited vocals on Syd's new album Fin, and even producers like DJ Mustard tweeting about possible collaborations.
Needless to say, he's had quite a year. We sat down with Brent shortly before the release of Sonder Son to hear it all in his words.
You first reached out to send me music in May 2015 after I’d been tweeting about “Allure.” You’d dropped it and “Natural Release” was already out, but you were rapping before that. What made you make the switch?
I was doing both at the time and it was really my manager. Ty was like... Damn, that’s kinda funny. That’s how how met. Wow. I never told anyone this. I met Ty when he hit me on Twitter DM and was like, ‘Yo, I like your stuff. You need to stop rapping though. Take down the rap stuff if you want to work.’
So, I’m like 'Who the fuck is this guy DMing me out of nowhere telling me how the fuck I should go about my shit?' We got into talking and he was getting me premieres and I was like it’s not moving anyway. The music is not doing no numbers. He’s the only person that reached out to me on some management type shit.
I was already getting tired rapping because it was a whole lot of writing in a short space. You could spend two or three days writing a rap song and only get one verse. So I thought, you know what, I can sing, let me focus on that. It was easier for me to sing than it was to rap. It was more natural.
What’s the first song of yours you are proud of?
“Natural Release.” That was the first song I put out when I first started singing. That’s the joint that got Ty. That one song. I did that when I was still rapping. It was that song and whole bunch of rap stuff.
Not your music, what’s your all-time favorite song?
It’s probably “X-Factor” by Lauryn Hill.
Really? That’s an incredibly written song. It’s older than you are.
It’s a great song. She’s only got one album.
A lot of your music is ‘90s-influenced. In your work, not just music, I know you have a good understanding of the industry and are very deliberate about people you work with, who would you say are some non-musical influences?
A lot of it is my team, the people around me. I’m the youngest person out of everyone I hang out with and kick it with. I am around a lot of people that can say what to do and what not to do. I soak up a lot of what they talk about, artists that they fuck with and their influences. They have a lot more to talk about than if I were to have a team to that were my age. I have homies that are my age and I get something different with those relationships.
A lot of women I spend time with me influence a lot of music specifically, too. The music is very conversational. It’s based off people I interact with. My mom. She influenced a lot of the new project, conversations I would have with her, when I would go months without seeing her.
The other day you told me that there’s more to life than singing about why you didn’t get a text back. If you could describe the album in five words, what would you say the main themes of the album?
Family. I guess passion. Discovery. Purpose. And, um... what do you think?
I have one I think you speak about a lot about throughout it - trust. You talk a lot about trust.
Trust! That was really my last one.
I think it’s about finding yourself. I learned a lot about myself while I was making the project. That’s part of the reason we went to the Dominican Republic to work on it. A lot of things - while I was going through it in L.A. or wherever I was - I’m not able to really speak on it because I’m actively going through it. When I have a chance to isolate myself, I can look at in retrospect. I can focus on the issue, make music about it, while I’m like mid-song, I’ll find a resolution. I say discovery because I learned so much about myself in the process.
I was once in a place where I couldn’t listen to anyone’s stuff because it would mess up my process, but I’m so comfortable with what I’m doing right now that I'm no longer there. I don’t feel any type of way about it. They do what they do and they have their fan base. I just feel like... it’s all real and it’s authentic and can’t nobody say it’s not real.
Any final words with the last couple dates of your tour on the horizon and your debut out into the world?
I’m in a really good space in my life right now, sounds regular basic, but it wasn’t always like this. There was a lot trouble on the way here, I just really appreciate the love. I love the people that love the music. If we keep exchanging this love, it’s gonna be a good run.
For more like this, read our chat with rising German rapper RIN right here.