WASTELAND by Brent Faiyaz
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Fans of Brent Faiyaz love him for his shamelessness, and on his second album, he leans all the way into that. Opening with a collage of clips that address his reputation (aptly called “VILLAIN’S THEME”), he sets out on a quest in search of honesty—an answer to the question “What purpose do your vices serve in your life?” That tension between vice and intent—between love and a lifestyle that actively discourages it—is immediately introduced on “LOOSE CHANGE” and snakes its way through the album. Three skits at the beginning, middle, and end provide an underlying narrative of baby-mama drama and betrayal that culminates in a devastating turn of events; it’s all fun and games until people get hurt. But the cost can’t be known until it’s known, and so Faiyaz barrels towards romantic oblivion. All of his sweet talk comes affixed with disclaimers. On “ALL MINE,” he tries to get his girl back—despite the fact that she may not even be available. (“You told me your new man don’t make you nut, that’s a damn shame,” he coos at one point.) “WASTING TIME,” which features fellow toxic king Drake, doesn’t even try to hide its here-for-a-good-time-not-a-long-time attitude, while the album’s centerpiece, an apologetic ballad titled “ROLLING STONE,” could also double as its mission statement: “First I’m exciting, then I’m gaslighting, make up your mind/I’m rich as fuck and I ain’t nothing at the same time/People hate me and they love me at the same time/I guess I’m everything and nothing at the same time.” But to only appreciate the persona of the music is to miss the atmospheric details that give it shape. His production choices—the expansive creep of “PRICE OF FAME” or the anthemic swirl of “GRAVITY” or the plodding drama of “ROLE MODEL”—help to keep listeners off balance and cultivate an air of mystery that furthers the impact of his lyrics and brings the lothario to life. It becomes difficult to tell where the line between fantasy and reality exists, whether this is a character or Faiyaz himself. One thing is certain, though: It’s impossible to turn away, repulsive and alluring at once, like the best toxic relationships are.
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