Brent Faiyaz never stays in one place for long. One second, you’ll find him enjoying fine wine on a balcony overlooking Los Angeles. The next, he’ll be greeting crazed fans on the claustrophobically narrow streets of London. It’s always impossible to predict where you’ll see him next, but wherever he is, he always shows up as himself.

When I track down the Columbia-born singer and producer on a blisteringly hot Wednesday afternoon in the middle of July, he’s sitting in the back seat of a black Suburban, parked in front of Neil Simone Theater in New York City. It’s two weeks after the release of his second studio album, Wasteland, and our original intent was to see the Broadway play MJ: The Musical together, but as Faiyaz is accustomed to, plans change quickly. Instead of seeing the show, we cruise down the block to his apartment to relax and talk before he has to jump to his next destination later in the night. He’s rarely here because he travels so often, but the top-floor crib has a stunning view of lower Manhattan.

Shortly after we arrive, Faiyaz looks out of the floor-to-ceiling windows and watches the little yellow lights flicker from nearby buildings as the sun slowly sets, like Batman surveying Gotham City. “Sometimes, I just look out the window and imagine what people are up to,” he says inquisitively. 

The feeling he’s describing is known as “sonder,” the realization that every person is living their own life just as complex as your own. This idea not only inspired the tattoo above his right eyebrow, but also the name of his group as well as his 2017 debut solo album, Sonder Son.

While Sonder Son told the story of Faiyaz’s life before major fame, his 2020 EP Fuck The World was the true homecoming that introduced him to a global audience. He had already gained notoriety after snagging a Grammy nomination for his GoldLink collab “Crew” the year before, in addition to the success he found with Sonder, but Fuck The World put him on a whole new level. To this day, he remains independent, but a lot has changed for him since the release of that pivotal EP, which arrived just as the planet was falling apart.