2017’s cup runneth over with good music, of all kinds.
From fun to enlightening. From singing to rapping.
From our hometown to yours and everywhere in between, we are dedicating the month of December to reviewing and reflecting on the music that helped make this year so important.
Every day like clockwork at least one song from “Sonder Son” makes its way into my routine. Brent Faiyaz has a voice that immediately commands and proceeds to establish a stronghold on attention. The kind of attention that is not easily broken. Ironically, that voice doesn’t open the Sonder front man's debut, full length album. First a dog barks and a mother reacts to her son’s unacceptable grades. Then, that voice. One second I’m comfortable because I relate to his mother, as a mother whose son is always in something; the next, I am so uncomfortable, as a mother, that I want to turn the album off. Because hell, I really could hold my son more often. Faiyaz hits a combination of notes that could save the entire world from itself just before he says “there was a time where all I needed was a pencil just to keep the stresses of this cold world out my mental” and I am suddenly comfortable again. More comfortable than I’ve been in a while. Home.
One minute and 45 seconds into “Sonder Son”, I decided Brent Faiyaz was going to be one of my favorite R&B artists, ever. In that same time, I knew it was one of those albums I'd be telling my son he don’t know nothing about in 10, 15, 20 and 50 years.
To put my experience with “Sonder Son” in perspective, we haven’t made it to track two, yet.
“Sonder Son” came to me with perfect timing. A few albums released in 2017 seem to share that attribute and this particular one has established a place in my life as timeless. It is everything about every generation of R&B influence and none of it. Everything you’ve ever heard and nothing like anything in existence. Gang Over Luv paints a picture of who Brent is, who he was, where his priorities have been and the result of all those things. Faiyaz’s storytelling and delivery draw a Raphael Saadiq, “Instant Vintage” comparison then a school bell rings as Burn One begins and I am instantly transported back to when I first heard “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. It didn’t sound anything like either one of those albums. It didn’t feel like either one of them either but it made me feel the same way. Open. To whatever came next. And hanging on every word like it might just be the handle I need on life, to survive. To find fulfillment. Hell, to start the process of understanding fulfillment so maybe I can actually pursue that shit.
By the time First World Problemz was almost over, the thought to throw my headphones through a window tapped me on the shoulder. Why was this so damn good? How was I equally comfortable and uncomfortable? Why couldn't I turn it off? Then on the same track, Nobody Carez happened and, look. I got time today, and I have so many questions. For myself, for Faiyaz, for everyone.
Ain’t no dreamers.
People don’t give no fucks.
Do you give a fuck? Do you give a fuck about things that are worth giving a fuck about? The world gives less fucks and dreams less than ever, have we allowed ourselves to be a reflection of that? More specifically, how much has that careless, dreamless world molded how music is created and distributed? How much has it molded the way music is digested and appreciated? How can an art form founded in caring and dreaming function in a place that is intentionally void of both? Faiyaz says “maybe you just don’t know what to feel” immediately before asking “did you know that you were with the devil last night?” and I can’t help but perceive that as a direct reflection of how it must feel to exist in this world as an artist who dreams and gives a fuck.
“This world don’t love. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t hope it does...”
If you’re keeping count, by 12 minutes into “Sonder Son” I was ready to give Faiyaz every award and accolade that exists for making music. (Shoutout that Grammy nomination for Crew though.)
Missin Out and Stay Down describe the pursuit, actualization and realization of love. The process of telling someone their life would be better with you in it, then being in their life, and feeling good about it “Got my heart jumpin like Jordans...” to seeking a sense of security, wanting to know they’ll stay down. Romantic love, career love, family love, friend love, “Sonder Son” conveys every aspect of love without ever fading into an obscure, cliché, overdone representation of it. LA demonstrates that as it back doors Missin Out and Stay Down with a shift in focus to the great and terrible realities Faiyaz has found while chasing dreams in LA: and being proud of it all because the alternative is "bored, broke and back at home." Talk 2 U should be a top 10 track played on every radio station in the world, if it’s not already. I should have researched that probably. Anyway, Talk 2 U is yet another example of how effortlessly Faiyaz is able to take musical influences, this time from late 90’s-2000’s R&B, and channel it into a completely unique, new sound.
Sonder Son Interlude instantly made me revisit Burn One because the most transparent, almost painfully introspective parts of the album come to a peak on both interludes. Faiyaz breaks down the entire spectrum of emotions in a minute and 40 seconds. Confidence, insecurity, love, fear and acceptance all manifest into a bold statement of principle. This is who I am, this is what I’m doing. “Don’t tell me enough is enough just ‘cause you ain’t the one...” I vividly remember being in the car with a friend en route to partake in hoodrat things with our other friends the first time I heard Sonder Son Interlude. We sat in awe and as drums quickly transitioned to the next track, Faiyaz began singing and we both made that stank face. Not just any stank face, THAT stank face. That stank face you can’t fake or prevent. That stank face reserved for the first time you hear a song that is so good, you’re basically disgusted. In the most amazing way.
That stank face was in reaction to hearing So Far Gone/Fast Life Bluez which has been back and forth with one other as my favorite track on the album. “You say you trust us but don’t pick the phone up. Act like we mean somethin to you...” In my mind it was like Faiyaz was talking to one person as much as he was talking to everyone. Like he was talking to an entire genre or to someone he considers a friend. Like he was talking to his own mother or brother. How could anyone claim you’re important to them and leave you out here on your own? And how can you be so far removed from something you love so much? The second half of So Far Gone, Fast Life Bluez, churns the acknowledgment of being so far gone into a solid understanding that all of this is fleeting and vocalizes what it feels like to speed through life knowing there’s only one outcome.
As swiftly as Faiyaz addresses the facade of love and reality of death, Needed happens and he directly addresses those who see the light in you once it’s too late: especially once you’ve done great things for yourself, without them. It could be about an ex not appreciating you for what you are. It could be about friends. Family. Business partners. It could be about any of those people, about all of them. Whoever or whatever was unwilling to pour into you when you needed it the most while consistently returning to soak up your light.
Everything about All I Want (my other back and forth favorite track) wrapped up “Sonder Son” immaculately. “I’ma be around cause I’m made for you, this ain’t just for show....” is one of those lines that put a feeling into words. One of those lines that moved me and gave me perspective on feelings I have been attempting to understand and convey for the longest time. After placing all of his emotions and doubt on a platter throughout the album, Brent Faiyaz ends it with an absolute declaration of desire and purpose, from an angle I have never heard before. Even as the final track plays and abruptly ends for the umpteenth time, I am unable to shake the idea of “Sonder Son” being Brent Faiyaz’s state of the union address, as an R&B singer. Maybe I assigned an underlying concept to the album that was never intended. Maybe I am the only one who feels that way. I am okay with that.
Sometimes I find myself on the fourth or fifth listen to “Sonder Son” in one sitting thinking, I have to know whoever is responsible for this, personally. How else would it so vividly reflect something in me? This is Brent Faiyaz’s story. This is who he is. “Sonder Son”.
“Sonder Son”'s crowning achievement is how as a true, genuine R&B album, it does not live and die as a representation of romance or love. You don't need to be in love, or heartbroken, or trying to get the drawls to fully appreciate “Sonder Son”. It exists as a story that creates a space in which everyone can relate to it. Faiyaz's emotional transparency as it relates to literally everything elevates his raw talent to a level few R&B singers are ever able or willing to master. As honest, young and talented as Brent Faiyaz is, the industry would have seen fit to relocate him to a particular space in music and pay him pennies of what he is worth. And, no. Nah.
“Sonder Son” is a refusal to comply when you don’t see fit. “Sonder Son” is self-realization. “Sonder Son” is an execution of both power and vulnerability, without compromise.
As a young, Black man in America putting every emotion, every bit of energy, every resource and every dollar into an art form brokered by people who confess their love for his art while downplaying his importance as an artist, Brent Faiyaz refused to waiver. “Sonder Son” could have been released through a major label. Instead, at 22 alongside his current manager, Faiyaz owns a self-funded business, Lost Kids, LLC, which provides Faiyaz and Sonder both the foundation for a completely self-sustaining career in music. Brent Faiyaz went into the creation of “Sonder Son” knowing what he wanted to create and that what he was creating was important, knowing people wanted to hear his music, knowing he had a fan base, knowing him and his team were fully capable of creating art that would feed them. By standing firm in his vision and his worth, Brent Faiyaz established his own freedom.
Brent Faiyaz and Sonder are in Houston February 13th and 14th and I cannot think of a better way to spend my 30th birthday and Valentine's Day, you care.