He’s come a long way since the Dunkin’ Donuts days. Today, he’s a leading figure in a new era of R&B that’s full of artists challenging the conventions of the genre. He isn’t caught up in wanting to be the torchbearer for R&B, but he also wouldn’t decline being considered the face of the genre.
“I’d own that—I feel like I earned that, but I think it’s deeper than R&B,” he says when I ask for his opinion on being called the “face of R&B.” Then he adds, “It’s bigger than just a genre… I’m not one of those niggas that wears R&B on my sleeve, so it’s ironic, but I’ll take it. I think music as a whole is changing and people are going to see a lot more with what I’m trying to do.” He shared similar sentiments with Complex back in 2020, explaining that even though he’s considered an R&B artist, he doesn’t want to restrict his sound to the boundaries of the genre. “I just make music,” he said. “I listen to a lot of different types of genres, but I guess I’m R&B because I’m Black, I sing, and I have a soulful voice. So I’ll take that R&B title. But I might fuck around and make a reggae album tomorrow.”
Another thing that separates Faiyaz from some of his peers is the fact that he never wanted to be famous in the first place. “I think there’s a common misconception that I’m chasing commercial success. I think motherfuckers fail to realize that I really don’t give a fuck. I just don’t care because nothing is that serious.”
Regardless of his intentions, success keeps building for Faiyaz. Wasteland debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, surprising many in the industry. Like Faiyaz’s own career, the album didn’t take a linear path to existence. Late last year, a different name for the project was circulating among fans: Make It Out Alive. Faiyaz clarifies that he thought of that name first, but as Wasteland began to take shape, he realized it was being informed by the burning world around him, so he opted to save that for an entirely different project that will be released at a later date. “I still have a project I want to put out called Make It Out Alive,” he reveals. “That’s still in the works—it’s just not this one, because I love the title Wasteland and I love what it represents. I have an idea in my head of what I want Make It Out Alive to be, but all of the songs that I have been making up until this point didn’t fit that title. I wasn’t in the headspace to put that body of work out.”
“It was a weird a** time, and that’s what Wasteland is; protesting and getting tear gassed while simultaneously still going to the strip club and writing music and going to the studio.”
Many of the songs on Wasteland are cathartic, as Faiyaz sings about the regret of letting his past lovers down and accepting that he’s just as flawed of a human being as anyone else. He credits The-Dream—a collaborator he first met in 2018—for helping him figure out how to make R&B love records that are authentic to him, rather than filling them to generic, sensitive content that he doesn’t actually mean.
“I was struggling with finding a way to be myself and still sing, so I linked with Dream and started talking to him about music and life,” he says, remembering a turning point that happened before Fuck The World. “He just goes into the booth and starts singing my thoughts. He was like, ‘You sing, right? Your power is in making anything you say sound good. You don’t have to say things that are nice, because you can make anything sound nice. You can let your true self out.’ And that made me realize I can say whatever I want and just sing it, and that’s how Fuck The World happened. Ironically, women gravitated towards that more.”