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Brent Faiyaz “Wasteland” Review

Five years separate Brent Faiyaz’s debut studio album, Sonder Son, and his newly released sophomoric effort Wasteland. Within that time frame, the DMV-bred artist has become one of the most elusive, yet championed alternative R&B acts in the music industry. His respective 2018 and 2020 EPs Lost and Fuck The World helped build an insatiable hunger for another full body of work, and after a year-long flood of singles — from “Show U Off” to the one-off Sonder and Jorja Smith team up on “Nobody But You” — Brent Faiyaz has finally delivered his long-awaited sophomore studio album.Coming in at a total of 19 tracks, Wasteland features a significant amount of previously heard material, including the nostalgic Drake and Neptunes collaboration “Wasting Time,” “Dead Man Walking,” the previously leaked “Price of Fame,” and the funky Tyler, The Creator-assisted “Gravity.” Wasteland also contains its fair share of skits, so when combining those four pre-release singles with its four non-musical tracks, the album only really supplies listeners with 11 new songs. It would have been far more enthralling to hear all these tracks for the first time within the frame of Wasteland, but Brent Faiyaz’s latest album still makes for an incredible listening experience — albeit a considerably lengthy one — from start to finish.The opening track, titled “Villain’s Theme,” on Wasteland is more or less just a vibe check. As the haunting, pluck-filled production creeps up on you, Brent Faiyaz and Jorja Smith go back and forth about topics such as toxicity, temporary euphoria, and vices, and while it makes for an intriguing two-and-a-half-minute listen, the true intro of Wasteland is “Loose Change.” Built upon gorgeous, yet sparse, production, “Loose Change” finds Brent in an eerie post-Fuck The World soundscape, where he waxes poetic about challenging his perception of reality and rattles off some pretty on-brand zingers (i.e. “You wanna be my equal, you won’t even do the half”).The aforementioned Tyler The Creator collaboration follows “Loose Change,” and although listeners have had their hands on “Gravity” for well over a year, the song fits surprisingly well within the confines of Wasteland. In contrast to the tense meter of “Loose Change,” “Gravity” brings some much-needed energy to the opening stretch of the album, and it even overshadows its successor, the angelic — yet unfortunately forgettable — “Heal Your Heart (Interlude).” From that point on, the album enters skit territory, effectively dividing the rest of Wasteland into two distinct halves — one that’s more tender and thoughtful and another that’s far more hedonistic and — wedged between three theatrical scenes that tell the tragic story of Chris and his pregnant partner.The first — and most certainly the tamest — skit features an intense argument that’s hard not to label toxic, and it’s almost cringey to hear how Chris, portrayed by Brent Faiyaz, callously responds to his baby mother’s cry for help. However, that important moment is quickly pushed to the back of the listener’s mind as a nonstop barrage of incredibly interesting tunes commences immediately afterward. The stretch from the lush earworm “All Mine” to the energetic JOONY-assisted “FYTB” is filled with unorthodox beats, fearless vocal performances from Brent, and undeniable vibes. Even for an artist that’s known for pushing the boundaries of his sound, “Ghetto Gatsby” really takes his experimental streak to a new level. The dissonant Alicia Keys-assisted track easily makes for the most uncomfortable listen on Wasteland, but if you like to feel sonically challenged by artists, then you’ll be able to appreciate the strange and uneasy tune.After an NSFW skit where Chris cheats on his partner with another woman — who is portrayed by voice actor Joy Ofodu — in the back of a limo, lust and self-indulgence take over for another impressive stretch that contains some of Wastelands’ best highlights. The previously released “Dead Man Walking” ironically leads the charge of this genre-fluid series of songs, and the three-peat of the Tre’ Amani-featured “Addictions”, the synthy “Role Model” (that’s low-key reminiscent of Ye’s “Flashing Lights”), and the pitch-bending and euphoric “Jackie Brown” is unbelievably good. The album pushes forward with “Bad Luck,” and although it’s not as sonically captivating as its four predecessors, it does boast some of the cleanest and most beautiful songwriting on Wasteland.Before the epic finale on “Angel,” shit gets real during the final skit on the album. If you found the first skit even acutely distressing, “Wake Up Call” is going to cause a wave of dread to wash over you. The scene documents the tragic ending of Chris and his baby mother’s story, as he recklessly attempts to find her before she commits suicide due to his negligence and infidelity. The skit ends vaguely without confirming what happens to his partner, but based on Wasteland’s final track, Chris is the only one left standing. As a result, “Angel” — which boasts production from Jordan Ware and Raphael Saadiq — is both epic and self-deprecating, making for a chilling end to Wasteland.From the Shakespearean tragedy that narratively ties the album together to the brilliantly unique and compelling sounds scattered throughout the tracklist, Brent Faiyaz’s sophomore studio album is a whirlwind of an experience. It’s poetic, experimental, and horrifyingly honest. Most importantly, Wasteland is unlike anything else that’s out right now, and in an era where music way too often feels homogenous, Brent Faiyaz’s latest album stands out even more.

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