Baltimore-born singer Brent Faiyaz has boldly marked his arrival onto the R&B scene with his excellent debut album ‘Sonder Son’. Those with a fervent ear for underground talent may have discovered Faiyaz through his low-key 2016 offering, the ‘A.M. Paradox’ EP. Since then Faiyaz has gone on to form the band Sonder with producers Atu and Dpat to release their ‘Into’ EP which created a big enough buzz to send Faiyaz touring major cities as a headlining act.
But for most, Faiyaz will be familiar for his infectious hook on GoldLink’s single “Crew”, which propelled his warm, sultry vocals from the underground scene to mainstream radio rotation. While “Crew” was such a commercial success that it earned Faiyaz his first Gold and Platinum plaques, it's easy to imagine many fans of Sonder were unaware that the same man behind the '90s throwback "Searchin" was part of the anthem that caused shoulders to shimmy throughout the summer. In fact, throughout the album comes a realization of how little is known about the frontman of Sonder and the soulful voice behind the chorus on “Crew”.
Many still reminisce on ‘90s R&B, but Faiyaz is able to represent the kids of now, who want to hear music the way we want to hear it. In his interview with Fader, he says “90s R&B was great but like... it's not the ‘90s no more”. And that embodies ‘Sonder Son’ exactly. The silky smooth R&B sounds of the ‘90s hold a large piece of influence within this body of work but Faiyaz pushes the envelope further, making those distinctions increasingly blurred. The project is a brave, personal and explorative record, one that seems to defy the subject of genre entirely.
Sonically, Faiyaz opts for a minimalistic approach, distancing himself from larger than life sounds. Although the sounds can be self-effacing at times, they layer on top of each other in minimal doses to create a complex simplicity. The use of acoustic and brass instruments calls for a more vulnerable feel, while the integration of Santana-inspired guitar riffs throughout the project elevates it to another level. Vocally there are moments of superb harmonies, smooth runs or swoon-worthy falsettos that leave you in awe.
What is most impressive it that there are no major features, no major co-signs, no major label—and yet ‘Sonder Son’ feels like a big, bold project that shouts, "I have arrived”. Not only is it a superb introduction but an improbable one. It’s refreshing to hear a R&B album from a voice that sings to a different tune to what’s served on the popular platter. Faiyaz has both the voice and the vision to stand out and it’ll be surprising if ‘Sonder Son’ isn't the final seed planted before his career sprouts into something incredible.
Photo from @ BrentFaiyaz