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Brent Faiyaz’s ‘Fuck the World’ Makes Life’s Tough Questions Sound Sexy

Written by on February 8, 2020

When I meet Brent Faiyaz he’s slouching on a couch, hiding behind dark sunglasses and a bucket hat in the VICE lobby. He doesn’t want to be noticed. The 24-year-old is still adjusting to the fame following his appearance on “Crew,” a Grammy-nominated song with GoldLink and Shy Glizzy. His new EP, Fuck the World, which is available today, is only going to make hiding in plain sight more difficult. The 10-track project reinforces that Brent Faiyaz is no longer just Maryland’s hometown hero. He’s going global and fast.

“It’s very difficult to be present in an environment when it’s people looking at you doing shit,” he tells me later, recalling how his life has changed since 2017. “That’s why I don’t even understand how motherfuckers can act natural when it’s people obviously staring at you and looking away.”

When it comes to R&B, Faiyaz has never branded himself as a traditionalist. His music carries the same rough edges as the hip-hop that shaped him, and his songs look at love with more skepticism than optimism. His work with the trio Sonder, along with solo projects A.M. Paradox, Sonder Son, and Lost have heralded him as a brutally honest songwriter.

If you’ve been listening to Faiyaz since 2016’s A.M. Paradox, a title like Fuck the World might not come as a surprise. Over the course of four years, the singer has been voicing his frustrations on songs like “First World Problemz/Nobody Carez,” and “Why’z It So Hard.” The Maryland native has never shied away from singing about carrying the weight of the world as a Black man, and his desire to remain an indie artist suggests he wants to find success on his own terms like releasing his projects on Lost Kids, a label he helped start.

Fuck the World to me is embracing the good shit,” he tells me. “The overindulgence of sex, money, bullshit but also saying fuck the world. Shit is fucked up. The good shit and the bad shit, the yin and the yang. That’s why I like that specific expletive because it can mean both things.”

The singer chatted with VICE about the importance of songwriting as a vehicle to staying true to his sound and himself.

VICE: Your music often talks about what it’s like to be a Black man in America, but you’re international now. How have your travels shown you what it’s like to be a Black man anywhere?

Brent Faiyaz: The more places I go it shows me how fucked up America is. I’ll go out to London and people will ask, “How are you liking London?” I’m like, I’m really fucking with it. Then they’ll say, “The police out there in America, they beat y’all up.” It’s something we normalize so much. I had to go overseas for somebody white to open the door for me.

Why did you choose to open the project with the question, “Do you know what makes the world go ’round?”

I ask myself that every day. Anyone who has some sort of awareness should ask themselves what makes this shit go around. What am I living for? What are my goals? What am I in this shit for? Why was I born? When am I going to die? Sometimes I wish I could fast forward 10 years from now just to get a little glimpse and go back and live my life.

I’d say “Clouded” is the most rap leaning song on here, from the production to your cadence. Why’d you decide to approach this song this way?

A lot of that is due to Nascent, he’s a hip-hop producer. My music is often written from the perspective of an extroverted introvert. If you’re always out, always meeting people, always on the scene, always doing shit, what do you think in your head? I wanted to answer questions people ask on some day-to-day shit. “What are you thinking about? Or why is your energy so low?” I use “Clouded” as an opportunity to address that. It was one of those days where I smoked a j, went to the studio, and just let everything out for real.

I love “Been Away,” but as a woman, I have trouble accepting the rhetoric that we are supposed to wait for men to get their shit together. What’s that about?

If you’re my woman, you’re somebody I give emotions to that I don’t give to nobody else. You’re my safe space. I don’t want my safe space to be compromised. You can definitely tell when that energy is shifting. You can tell when somebody you care about has been fucking with somebody else. The energy ain’t the same.

So when I say “Don’t give my shit away” it’s like, if women could just be out here fucking casual niggas and still give me the same attention that I would prefer, we’d be good money. But I know that’s not how it is. I know if you’re fucking around with someone else that you liked whoever else you were fucking with.

On “Fuck the World” you say, “Took a trip to London just to hear how they talk.” People gravitated toward your struggle. How do you think the access music affords you changes your appeal?

If anything, people are just going to rock with me harder. It’s different if you come into the game and you already have this grandiose bravado, but my shit is earned. I speak from the perspective of somebody who didn’t have that shit. My fans grow with me versus it seeming like I’m just flexing. Plus, it’s some real shit. It’s not no cap. When people come in just saying shit, most of the time you don’t know if it’s true or not. I’ve built this shit off just being honest and truthful, it’s not a lie on that project.

When you said “I’d probably be dead if I was basic,” it reminded me of a line from Queen & Slim. For a lot of us, being anything less than Black excellence can be a death sentence.

That’s a hell of a way to put it. You have to be above and beyond just to level the playing field. “I’d probably be dead if I was basic” is also if I wasn’t in a situation where I was able to do what I do I would probably off myself. I don’t know where the fuck I’d be.

“Let Me Know” does a great job of blending self-awareness with social consciousness. As an artist who doesn’t like labels, is there pressure to be a “ revolutionary singer?

Hell nah. I’d rather that than motherfuckers always expecting me to have some dumbed-down ass shit. I’d prefer for people to know that they’re going to get some substance when they listen to my music versus hearing the same “Oooh baby, I love you.” To me that’s pressure. But for people to be like, “Bro you gon put some real shit on there?” It’s like, I got you.

At one point you say “Love can trump it all,” which caught me off guard because so much of your work talks about a lack of trust. How can you look at people with cynicism but still think love is the answer?

When I made “Let Me Know” I’m talking about Black people as a whole. “Who can you love when they tell you you can’t love yourself?” I’m really talking about how they criminalize and marginalize us so much, to the point now where we look at each other like we not shit. I see how we criticize and treat each other. “Love can trump it all” means if you can love yourself, you can love your brother. If you can look in the mirror and say I love myself, that’s going to affect your interactions with people who look like you.

On “Rehab” the woman you’re singing about goes from being an addict to your drug. How did you approach writing this one because people might miss the message because of how vulgar it is.

I don’t even want to be cap. I’m a sexual person. I’m a freaky motherfucker. I feel like a lot of my previous music didn’t reflect that. So before I throw anybody off with my behavior in person, I’d rather put it in the track so motherfuckers know how to approach me. I figured I’d take a real-life situation, put that shit out there and see who could relate to it.

Hypersexuality was a huge reason for D’Angelo’s departure, do you ever worry that it might overpower your messaging?

If you see a live show, I don’t really hump the mic stand anymore. It’s a lot of shit I used to do that I don’t do anymore. There are different ways of displaying sexuality that don’t necessarily have to be visual. Instead of it being a physical thing, it can be the way I word things. It can be how you say something, it can be a smell. There are ways to be sexual and still be intellectual about it. At some point, I might switch it up completely and do a whole album of conscious records and it’s still going to be sexy because I already have sexy records.

Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.

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