Over the last few years, there have been a few artists that are taking the R&B genre and turning it on its head. They have been taking the genre and morphing it with their genres and sounds; in their words, they have been morphing R&B with Pop and Hip Hop in ways that haven’t been done before. This practice has given the genre an ultra-modern sound. One prominent ascending star in the R&B genre who is becoming a staple in this new wave of R&B is Brent Faiyaz. Brent has had a slow and steady rise as an artist since he first started uploading music online in 2014. His first taste of popularity came when his debut EP, A.M. Paradox, came out near the end of 2016. The success of this project ended up getting him a feature on the song ‘Crew’ with Goldlink and Shy Glizzy. This song ended up being a pretty big hit, which helped progress his solo career. Around the same time ‘Crew’ came out, Brent teamed up with producers Dpat and Atu to form the group Sonder. Their debut EP, Into, was praised by many music publications and is considered to be one of the best EPs of 2017. Brent’s second EP, Fuck The World, came out at the beginning of 2020 and is once again considered to be one of the top EPs from that year. Since then, Brent Faiyaz has done a ton of features for high-profile artists and has released a few singles(including the song ‘Dead Man Walking,’ which has become a smash hit on Tik Tok). All of this has led up to his new project which is titled WASTELAND. This project has been highly anticipated by many music fans, including me, for a while, as so many people want to see how Brent Faiyaz can further progress his sound. With all of that being said, here is my review of Brent Faiyaz’s WASTELAND. Please let me know in the comments below how you feel about this project, and also comment what your favorite songs from the project are.
The first track, which is called ‘VILLIAN’S THEME,’ is a cool and interesting way to start the record. It sort of sets up the project in a way; it basically informs the listener what the rest of the music on WASTELAND is going to be about. The track consists of a conversation between Brent Faiyaz and fellow R&B artist Jorja Smith which is set over a creepy and ethereal instrumental. This instrumental is provided by a layered string section(this is a theme in Brent Faiyaz’s music, as most of his instrumentals have melodies that are like this). Some of the melody has a distorted sound that lies underneath the rest of the layers; this distorted bit almost acts as a beat in a way. On ‘VILLIAN’S THEME,’ Brent is explaining to Jorja why he makes the kind of music he makes. A lot of the lyricism in Brent Faiyaz’s music tends to focus on the not-so-good things that people do to give themselves joy. He likes to sing about toxic relationships and getting fucked up; he focuses on the negative aspects of love and the bad stuff that can happen when someone is intoxicated. Brent says that he does this because it is the reality for a lot of people. Many people spend so much of their lives at work that they like to get into debauchery whenever they have free time. Brent Faiyaz is trying to shed light on it and give the people who do this something to relate to. ‘LOOSE CHANGE’ is another song with an otherworldly-sounding string section that provides the melody. The melody has a sort of anxious feeling to it; it somehow sounds positive and negative at the same time. For the most part, this one also does not have a beat; there are some light drums that come in and out near the end of the track; I like how the drums are placed into the song, as they give it texture. A great aspect of this song is the way the vocals are layered; the way the vocals are mixed gives the track so much emphasis. It is honestly hard to explain unless you listen to it. In ‘LOOSE CHANGE,’ Brent Faiyaz is talking to a significant other he has a love/hate relationship with. The way he is talking to her is so harsh and toxic(I feel like this is going to be a recurring theme in the album). He is trying to pump himself up while gaslighting her, basically shifting all of the blame on her when it comes to their issues. It is easy to see from the start of this record that there is not going to be a lot of positivity in it. Following this, we have the song ‘GRAVITY,’ which features Tyler the Creator. This is one of the songs that was released as a single in anticipation of the record. GRAVITY’ is the first “normal” sounding song on the record; it honestly has a bit of an old-school R&B sound to it. The song is driven by a slow beat that is so groovy; paired with the melody, the beat has this nostalgic and relaxing element to it. The melody is provided by a simple repetitive guitar riff that makes me think of a beach in the summer. This song has the kind of sound that makes me want to drive around smoking a joint with the windows down while watching the sunset. Brent’s vocals are so warm on this track; they go with the feeling of the melody so well. I really enjoy how Tyler the Creator’s deep voice provides a contrast with Brent’s higher-pitched vocals; Tyler’s voice adds such a cool layer to the sound of the song. On ‘GRAVITY,’ Brent and Tyler are talking about how their rockstar lives make it so difficult to keep the relationships they have with people at home. They feel themselves being pulled back to these significant others whenever they are on the road but realize that it may be too hard to make these relationships work long-term. ‘HEAL YOUR HEART(INTERLUDE’ is a short yet powerful track that seems to build on the one that precedes it. The melody of the track is provided by what sounds like an organ, with some layered vocals in the background that give the melody added texture. These vocals have a choir sound to them, and they somehow give power to what Brent is saying. Brent’s vocals have a sweet and endearing quality to them which also add to the message of the song. After sort of pushing his girl away on the last track, it is like he is trying to lure her back in on this one. In ‘HEAL YOUR HEART(INTERLUDE),’ Brent is telling his girl that there is no one like her. He is trying to convince her that he wants no other woman and that she is the only one he is thinking about. He wants to make sure she will always be there when he needs her.
‘SKIT: EGOMANIAC’ is a conversation between Brent Faiyaz and the woman he is talking to in the first four songs on the album. On this track, his lady is accusing him of moving her out to LA, getting her pregnant, and just leaving her there while he tours and focuses on his career. She feels abandoned in this massive city that she does not know, and she is sick of him not being there for her. Brent briefly tries to console her as he gets ready to go to the airport for his next trip. As he walks out the door, he tells her he loves her and she does not say it back. Next, we get ‘ALL MINE.’ This is a track that I could see emerging as a hit from this record. It has an overall sound that I think will resonate with more mainstream R&B fans. The song is driven by a faded trap beat that is so calm and easy-going. The melody is driven by synths and an instrument that sounds like a violin. This melody has a sort of analog feeling that has a Y2K pop element to it, which will resonate with a lot of listeners because this sound is back. On ‘ALL MINE,’ Brent is trying to make sure his girl knows how much he loves her. He knows he hasn’t treated her super well and needs to be better, and he wants to make sure she knows that he does care. ‘PRICE OF FAME’ is a track that I could see polarizing some listeners. I bet some fans will mark this as their favorite on the album, and others may mark it as their least favorite. I personally think the concept is cool and that it’s an interesting switch up at this point in the record. Most of this song has a somewhat traditional Melodic-Trap sound to it. It is reminiscent of artists like 6lack or PartyNextDoor. The melody on this song is sort of dark and eerie; it is provided by a distorted riff that sounds like it’s coming from an out-of-tune xylophone. Brent’s vocal performance during this section almost has a rap flow to it. His flow does match the style of instrumental. Towards the end of the song, the instrumental totally shifts; the beat goes away, and the melody is taken over by a piano and guitar riff. The second part of the instrument has a softer and warmer tone that the first part. Brent Faiyaz’s vocals also become sweet and cozy. On ‘PRICE OF FAME,’ Brent discussed the problems he is facing now that he is famous while trying to convince his girl to stay. He is trying to show her how loves her and he is trying to show her that the way he is acting sometimes is not entirely his fault. It is the fault of his fame and popularity. ‘GHETTO GATSBY,’ which features Alicia Keys, is a track that returns Brent to the kind of music he’s known for(i.e. the music this record started with). It has an otherworldly-sounding string instrument-based melody that has no beat for most of the track; a subtle beat does come in at the end during Alicia Keys’ verse. This track is very simple and low-key, with most of the focus going toward the vocals. I love the bits of the track where the layered vocals sound like a choir; they give the track a little more power, which is needed. On this track, Brent is floating about his fame and notoriety, comparing himself to GATSBY. He is asserting that he is the man, and if he wants something he will get it.
‘WASTING TIME,’ which features Drake and The Neptunes, was released as a single before this album came out. It is a fan favorite from this record. Honestly, as good as I thought it was when it came out, it has recently evolved into one of my favorite songs that came out in 2021. ‘Wasting Time’ is driven by a medium tempo beat that is provided by rolling Hi-Hats, and it has a melody that sounds like it comes from an organ that has been synthesized. The melody and beat have such a soothing sound, and they make me want to chill out and smoke outside on a nice summer night with friends. I love how Drake’s rap verse contrasts Brent’s calm and pleasant vocals. Maybe it is because of the instrumental, but Drake’s verse reminds me so much of the way he used to rap on his early albums. On ‘WASTING TIME,’ Brent and Drake are trying to keep the connection with their respective women strong, and letting them know that they are still loved and wanted. They are acknowledging that their careers are making it tough to maintain their relationships, but they are determined to make it work. Following this, we get ‘ROLLING STONE,’ which is a track that slows down the mood in a major way. Like so many other songs on the record, it does not have a beat, instead being driven solely by the melody. This melody is provided by various synths that resemble an organ and a guitar. The instrumental reminds me a lot of some of Frank Ocean’s early music. This track has some of the prettiest vocals on the record so far, and that is saying something. I enjoy Brent Faiyaz’s falsettos on this song in particular. On ‘ROLLING STONE,’ Brent kind of changes the tune he has had throughout most of the album. Instead of insisting on his girl how much he loves her, he tells her that he is too good for her and that she is lucky to be able to be around him. ‘FYTB,’ which features JOONY, goes back to the melodic Trap sound we briefly got earlier. It is a song that I could see being a hit because it has more of a palatable and mainstream sound than a lot of the record. The instrumental is paced by a simple, muted Trap beat, and the melody has a synthesized organ sound(it is apparent Brent enjoys this kind of synth). ‘FYTB’ also reminds me of Frank Ocean. Something about this style of melody is so reminiscent of his early 2010s work. I have to say, the thing about this song that makes it stand out is JOONY’s verse. His verse goes very hard compared to the laid-back nature of the rest of the track, and it provides some much-needed power to the song. Honestly, JOONY’s takes the song from a bop to a banger. Brent’s vocals on the song are nice as always, but JOONY makes the track so much better. On ‘FYTB,’ Brent is gaslighting his former woman, trying to place some of the blame for their fall out on her. He claims that they could have made the relationship work despite his behavior, and he thinks they should try again because he still wants her. Next, we get ‘SKIT: OBLIVION.’ On this track, Brent is in the car with a woman who is not the mother of his child. As they are drinking and flirting while being driven to her hotel, his actual woman tries to call and he hangs up on her. While this is going on, Brent’s track ‘ALL MINE’ plays in the background. This is ironic since it is a love song to the mother of his child.
‘DEAD MAN WALKING’ is a song that has become one of Brent’s most popular to date. It came out two years ago, and most mainstream music songs would probably associate Brent with that song at this point because it was so popular. It has a string instrument-driven melody that fits in with his style so well, and a vocal performance that draws the listener in because it’s so unique. It is such a cool and unique alternative R&B song. In ‘DEAD MAN WALKING,’ Brent is singing about living life on the edge. On this song, he describes himself partying in Vegas and partaking in all of the shady activities that go on there. ‘ADDICTIONS,’ which features TRE’ AMANI, has also quickly emerged as a fan favorite. It is an additional song with more of a traditional R&B than what Brent Faiyaz is known for. That being said, it still has a very modern and fresh sound. The song is driven by a somewhat fast-paced faded Trap beat and a melody that consists of a very simple distorted keyboard riff. The instrumental is so subtle but it works so well, especially with Brent’s soothing vocals and flow on this song. Similar to previous songs on this album, the rap verse on this song truly sticks out. TRE’ AMANI has a voice that contrasts Brent’s voice so well, and his verse gives the song some much-needed punch. On ‘ADDICTIONS,’ Brent and TRE’ AMANI are talking to their ladies and admitting that they do not treat them well. They are talking about all of the partying they do and all of the women they get with, confirming the suspicions of the women they are supposed to be with. ‘ROLE MODEL’ is another major highlight of this record. It sticks out in a big way, as it has a sound that is unlike the rest of the album. ‘ROLE MODEL’ reminds me of some of The Weeknd’s mid-2010s music. Specifically, it makes me think of the era when he was making music with Daft Punk. The song has a futuristic and funky Synth-Pop instrumental. The beat is way faster than pretty much anything that precedes it, and the song has an overall Dance music appeal. The melody has a sound that is reminiscent of the EDM-influenced R&B music that was coming out in the mid to late 2000s. Specifically, it sounds like some of the music that was being made by artists like Usher and The Black Eyed Peas during this time period. Even though this is not the style of music he usually goes with, Brent’s performance is excellent on this track. His flow sounds so nice in this song, and it shows how well he can adapt to any kind of music. On ‘ROLE MODEL,’ Brent is seemingly trying to convince his girl to stay with him. He is trying to entice her with all that he can give her because he is so rich, and he is trying to downplay the fact that he is never home and is always partying with someone else. Following this, we get ‘JACKIE BROWN,’ which slows the mood way back down. It brings back the more conventional melodic Trap sound that we have gotten a few times previously on the record. Put over a slow and tough Trap beat, the melody sounds like it comes from a piano that has been deeply distorted. This melody has such a warm and nice feeling to it; for some reason, it reminds me of sitting by the fire in winter. Brent Faiyaz goes with a delivery on this song that kind of sounds like rapping; it is the closest to rapping that I have heard him get. Even though this kind of delivery is not what one would typically expect from Brent, it is done well and it sounds good over this instrumental. Some of the vocals on the song are modified, making it sound like there is a second artist on the song. On ‘JACKIE BROWN,’ Brent is singing to his now former woman, wishing her well and telling her about what he is doing in his life now. He misses her and knows that he should have treated her better, but he also accepts his current reality for what it is.
One of the coolest things about this record is how diverse the instrumentals are. The next song, ‘BAD LUCK,’ has a sound that is unlike any song before it. ‘BAD LUCK’ is faster than a lot of the rest of the album; in a way, the song reminds me of ‘ROLE MODEL’ because it is influenced by 2000s R&B music; ‘BAD LUCK’ reminds me of a different kind of 2000s R&B music, though. This track reminds me a lot of the R&B that was coming out in the mid-2000s, specifically from artists like Mario and Omarion. The song has a low-key and pretty quick beat, and it is driven by a warm and fuzzy-sounding keyboard melody. Brent’s delivery reminds me of 2000s R&B, too. If you told me this track came out in 2005, I might believe you because it would fit right in. ON ‘BAD LUCK,’ is singing about his breakup with his former lady. He is trying to come to terms with the fact it is over, even though he still loves her and is not over her. This might be the first moment on the album where Brent’s ego breaks and he shows a level of vulnerability that he had not shown previously. Following this is the final interlude in the record, which is called ‘SKIT: WAKE UP CALL.’ This is the most intense and sad moment on the album. It consists of Brent’s former woman and him on the phone, with her telling him how much she hates him while she is seemingly about to commit suicide. As she is telling him how bad she feels because of him, he is trying to talk her off the ledge while driving to go save her. He also gets a 911 operator on the phone to try to get someone else out to her location. The skit ends with his former woman hanging up and him crashing his car as he is on his way to go save her. It is a crazy climax to the record, and it shows the consequences of his actions. The album closes out with ‘ANGEL.’ This song is unlike anything else on the record. It is way funkier than the rest of the record, and it almost has a Rock feeling to it. The song is driven by a super groovy guitar riff that gives me the “stank face” whenever I hear it. It reminds me of the Funkadelic era from the 1970s. This melody is supported by choir-like background vocals and what sounds like a string quartet. The coolest thing about this song, though, is Brent’s vocal performance. His voice is way more strained on ‘ANGEL’ than it is at any other point on the record. One can truly hear the pain and anguish in his voice; his vocals provide so much emotion and sadness, making it easy for the listener to empathize with how he is feeling. On ‘ANGEL,’ is singing to his woman, who has just committed suicide. He is telling her that she will never leave his thoughts and that he will never be able to get over what happened. It is such a fitting close to the record, as it shows that in the end the way he treated her was not okay and his life will always be negatively affected by what he did.
Brent Faiyaz’s WASTELAND was a super highly anticipated record by R&B fans and the alternative Hip Hop community. He has been so widely praised starting his career, and so many music fans put high expectations on him regarding this project. The record may not be for everyone, but I personally truly enjoyed it. The album has such a distinct and interesting concept, and the message that he is trying to get across is simple to follow; he executed the concept he had for the record extremely effectively. I have read online over the last couple of days that some people do not like the skits, but I think they fit in perfectly. If you listen to the album straight through, they add so much depth and texture to the record and help drive the meaning of the record home. I appreciate how Brent divulged into different kinds of R&B on the album while keeping the overall sound consistent. Not every song on this record is perfect, but the highs are so good that they carry the few dull moments that it has. I think this record will age well, as people will learn to appreciate the nuances it has and they will come to understand the concept more. Overall, I think WASTELAND is a very compelling and cool R&B record, and it shows that Brent Faiyaz is one of the premier artists in the genre today.