Brent Faiyaz’s debut solo album, “Sonder Son” is one of the greatest R&B albums of 2017 because it’s an audio journal of his experiences growing up and as a new artist, it combines ‘90’s R&B with contemporary music and contributes to the new genre, trap soul.
Initially, I discovered Brent Faiyaz because I was listening to a similar artist, Smino on Spotify and he was a suggested artist. I knew that he had to be an R&B artist if he was like Smino but I hadn’t heard anything about his music. I was immediately drawn by the artwork on his past album, “A.M. Paradox”, which features a drawing of him smoking a cigarette in front of a ruby red wall. His latest album cover, features side profile picture of him in front of a cream-colored wall. The album features a picture of him shirtless with a red snapback hat on, siting-down looking past the camera. He appears to be in deep thought or having an existential crisis. He sort of looks emotionless on the album cover. His music puts you in the mindset of going to an old tavern on a Friday night in a secluded location where local artists often come up to the stage to sing their original music.
Brent Faiyaz is his stage name but his birth name is Christopher Brent Wood. He is an R&B singer and producer from Baltimore, Maryland. His father is originally from the Dominican Republic but he does not speak too much about his relationship with his father. Brent Faiyaz has created music since he was a teenager. He moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where he worked at a grocery store part-time and worked on his music after work. He later moved to Los Angeles where he continued to pursue his passion for creating music. He began releasing music in 2015 with his three hit singles, “Allure”, “DSN” and “Running on E.”. In 2016, his popular single, “Invite Me” headlined his album, “A.M. Paradox” which was released in September. Faiyaz’s success grew as fans and critics immediately gravitated towards his raw and emotional renditions of his past relationships. Later that year, he formed the group, Sonder with two other producers Dpat and Atu. The inspiration behind the group’s name came from Faiyaz randomly browsing the internet for unique words. Sonder is the realization that each person is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. As Faiyaz came upon the word coined by John Koenig, he felt that it encapsulated his views on how our unique experiences connect us all. The trio released “Too Fast” in October of 2016 which is an ode on the fragility of life. In December of 2016, Faiyaz was featured on the chorus of GoldLink’s hit single, “Crew” featuring Shy Glizzy. This year, the trio released an EP, “The Intro” which was an introduction to the group’s sound and Faiyaz as an artist. This EP features inspiration from Jamie Foxx’s 2005 album, “Unpredictable”, Timbaland and Ginuwine. In October, Brent Faiyaz also released his debut solo album called “Sonder Son”. “Sonder Son” features inspiration from the Dominican Republic with the its incorporation of African and Spanish style music, percussion instruments and string instruments.
This album fits perfectly into the new genre, trap soul. Coined by R&B artist, Bryson Tiller, it combines traditional R&B music with spoken word poetry. Many young artists are using this new genre to incorporate different themes and styles into their music. The themes within each song on “Sonder Son” varies but they all come from Brent’s first person perspective on his childhood and past relationships. Some songs such as “Home” and “Gang Over Luv” clearly talk about his regrets as a child. Within the song, “Home” he reflects on being a troublesome student in school and features the voice of an angry mother in the background yelling at him. In “Gang Over Luv”, he talks about how he was young, dumb and poor without a car but his friends were his support system. In “Burn One”, you immediately hear a school bell followed by his recollection of how a beautiful girl’s innocence was takin away from her. In “First World Problemz/ Nobody Carez”, he talks about how we shouldn’t be fooled by glamorous new things or become distracted by someone else’s views on our life. Throughout the song, he goes through his thoughts on being comfortable with working a job to pay rent, hanging out with the same friends and having the worst conversations with his friends. This song is truly unique because 3 minutes into the song, the tone completely changes and he begins talking about the expectations that people have for him, now that he is famous. He ends the song with stating how everyone wants lavish things but no one really cares about the fact that some Black people are improvised and starving. He forces the listener to reflect on their obsession with material things and if it plays into a false sense of reality. I’ve noticed that a lot of R&B and rap artists such as RAY BLK, Kendrick Lamar and J-Cole tend to end their songs with an honest reflection on the music industry. This writing style, helps the listener gain more insight on the inner-workings of the music industry and separate the artist from the plethora of generic R&B and rap artists. In “Misssin Out”, “Stay Down”, “Talk 2 U”, “Needed” and “All I Wanted”, Fiayaz taps into the traditional emotional lyrics that R&B artists are known for by reflecting on his past good and bad relationships. These songs are my personal favorites because they remind me of ‘90’s artists like El DeBarge, Faith Evans and Bobby Brown who created soulful music that people could dance to. Fiayaz’s sly vocals remind me of new artists such as Bryson Tiller, Jidenna and Smino. In “L.A.” and “So Far Gone/Fast Life Bluez” he talks about the environment of Los Angeles and how he is still poor while trying to be successful in this glamorous new place.
Brent Faiyaz’s solo debut album, “Sonder Son” is a staple in the music industry because it helps pushing the limitations of the sound of R&B music, embracing the sounds of ‘90’s R&B music and contributing to the new music genre, trap soul. This is a great album to get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young artist in the music industry. This album give you a sense of the inner struggles that many aspiring artists go through such as desiring lavish items but fearing that they’ll lose themselves in the process. As a listener, we only see the best and worst of times within an artist’s career. This album helps us see this middle journey that a new artist goes through. We get to hear about his childhood, his past relationships and his new life as a famous writer and producer. I am excited to hear his next album and continue to follow his journey into the music industry.