Though there’s a slight chance you heard of Brent Faiyaz on the heels of his very first EPs, most audiences became familiar with him in the same way—through his feature on Goldlink’s “Crew.” A song whose sheer inescapability spanned from its release in December of 2016 well into the summer of ’17, the Maryland singer’s performance on the hook is undoubtedly the reason it captured that status. Though, to their credit, the rest of the “crew’s” contributions on the rest of the track certainly didn’t hurt. The term “breakout single” is sometimes thrown around a bit too loosely in this format, but it’s more than warranted here. It now stands at 6x Platinum, and brought home a GRAMMY nomination for each of the featured artists.
Brent Faiyaz Begins His Solo Career In Earnest with Sonder Son
Even if Brent Faiyaz could probably still live off of the success of that song (financially or otherwise), one great song does not a career make. 2017 would continue on as a banner year, as it brought his debut album, Sonder Son. Anecdotally, “Gang Over Luv” endures as one of the project’s biggest successes, and its composition speaks to why so many saw Faiyaz as a transformative voice in the genre.
It isn’t highly produced, it doesn’t have a big name feature—hell, despite the title, it isn’t even really a love song. Instead, the narrative centers around the vivid images of the singer’s upbringing. Sparse melody hits and 808s totally clear the space for that to take center stage, and Faiyaz’s voice excels as the lone star. Though rife with those unconventional formulations, Sonder Son resonated greatly with audiences and began to cast an image of the Maryland crooner as a true name on the rise.
Though the typical story of an artist’s rise heavily includes their guest appearances, part of what set Faiyaz apart was a lack of them. Taking a quality over quantity approach, he made himself sparse in the three-year span between projects, only lending one feature in the leadup to his 2020 EP, F*** The World. Juice WRLD slotted that song, “Demonz Interlude,” which essentially functions as a minute-long Brent spotlight onto the tracklist for his Death Race for Love.
F*** The World & Wasteland Solidify Faiyaz as a True Force
Once Brent Faiyaz returned to the airwaves, he was here to stay once again. The EP, running a tight ten tracks, still showcased his pension for slow-burning ballads, but despite the title, expressed a softer and brighter side of his personality. In that same vein of “opening up,” he began cropping up much more frequently on other artists’ work, including the standouts “Sweet / I Thought You Wanted To Dance” and “lost souls” by Tyler, The Creator and Baby Keem, respectively.
Despite boasting platinum plaques and building up a ton of cultural equity by the time of its release, Wastleland, his 2022 album functioned as a true breakout. In a tale that’ll ring familiar for any hip hop or R&B fan, a Drake feature on that project’s “Wasting Time” is the clearest proof. The bouncy, sentimental epic of a track not only earned the most significant co-sign to that point on vocals, but also reunited the Neptunes, as big of a name as you can get behind the boards.
The song earned Faiyaz his highest chart placement post-Crew, narrowly supplanted another Wasteland cut, “Gravity.” The single reunited the Maryland singer with Tyler, The Creator, and proved his conceptual weightiness on top of his S-tier vocal talent. The woozy, bright DJ Dahi production there belies a story of infidelity, not entirely a foreign concept for his catalog but one clearly detailed in its lyrics.
Larger Than Life & the Future of Brent Faiyaz
Cut to the present day, just a few months removed from Faiyaz’s first commercial mixtape, Larger than Life. While the tape is plenty exceptional for the included material, it isn’t revolutionary for those fluent in his backlog. More than anything, it’s a reminder of how he achieved “top of his genre” status in the first place, (Coco Jones, A$AP Rocky and Missy Elliot as features certainly don’t hurt that point, either). In its distribution is where the true intrigue lies—imprinted by his very own record label, ISO Supremacy. Though it seems like there are still plenty more Brent Faiyaz projects to look forward to on the horizon, the Maryland singer, with the launching of that endeavor, solidified his place as a true tastemaker in the space, not just an artist any longer.
While the hour-plus of new music debuted on Wasteland would be enough for many artists to take a break afterwards, Brent Faiyaz is still applying pressure nonetheless. Currently amid a global tour and teasing new material in a short film with Lupita Ny’ongo, the story of the Maryland product seems like it’ll get plenty more chapters in 2024. As always, you can find all the music mentioned in this piece on all streaming platforms.