Brent Faiyaz on the Success of ‘Sonder Son,’ His Love for Lauryn Hill & Why He Plans to Stay Independent ‘Forever’

For Brent Faiyaz, when it comes to stroking the pen, he’s a star student. Though the Maryland upstart never valued the importance of the school system growing up, he was always adept at voicing his heartaches and somber realities with his pen and pad. His visceral takes on love and ambition are what allowed his 2017 project, Sonder Son, to win the hearts of R&B purists. With a buttery voice and indelible lyrics to match, Faiyaz had a memorable 2017.

Aside from the success of his project Sonder Son, Faiyaz became a Grammy-nominated artist after he, GoldLink and Shy Glizzy doled out an inescapable record in “Crew” last year. The DMV natives rattled the cages of the music industry with their unmatched chemistry and grit. Though the record failed to nab a Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration in January, Faiyaz was able to add another title to his résumé: platinum-selling artist. The record peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and provided all three artists the first plaque of their careers.

After providing listeners a snapshot of his life on Sonder Son, Faiyaz embarked on his first headlining jaunt titled the Sonder Son Tour last month. With close to half of the tour wrapped up, Faiyaz plans to lock back in the studio and unleash more earworms for his eager devotees. Billboard spoke to the singer about the success of Sonder Son, the meaning of his “Sonder” tattoo, his love for Lauryn Hill, being a Grammy-nominated artist, and more.

Take me back to the moment you fell in love with music.
I’d like to say it was always there. If I could think of like a particular moment, I think it was when I got my first play keyboard when I was a little kid. I got a toy keyboard when I was around like five or six. I would be playing it, and typically kids be on that jawn for like five seconds and then go do some other shit, but I would just stick on it and mess with stuff and press the buttons and the different instruments and just do that all day.

On Sonder Son, the first track “Home,” there was a woman in the background playing your mom and she was talking about you being a troubled kid growing up. How did music grow to be an escape for you?

Music to me is an outlet where I can just let out feelings that wouldn’t be appropriate to let out on some everyday shit. Being a man, especially a Black man, I’m not about to walk around with my emotions on my sleeve all day, talking ‘bout my heart — it’s just too much shit. I got too much stuff to do. Music is my one opportunity to let out how I’m feeling when I’m not talking to a chick or my mom, you know what I mean? It’s just venting.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
It was probably a rap. I don’t even remember the first one. It was some bad ones [laughs].

Ultimately, what made you transition from rapping to singing?
Really, [my manager] Ty. I was doing both, on my Lauryn Hill shit, I guess. There’s so many rappers out. I remember sending music around, sending emails all day everyday for damn near two years. Nobody was really giving me the response I wanted. The thing is, because it’s so many rappers, if I’m not referred by somebody, I don’t even wanna listen. Versus singing, somebody can press play, and like three seconds in you might be somebody’s favorite singer off of one song. You don’t gotta hear a whole catalog. It was a no brainer.

Even looking at it now, do you feel like you’re a better singer than you are a rapper?
I still got bars, I just use ‘em differently. I’d say I’m a better singer than I am a rapper at this point because I’ve been sharpening my sword. If I really hopped back into rapping, I’d f— these n—as up.

Continue reading this story at Billboard.