GREATEST: Brent Faiyaz
The R&B wonder reflects on overnight stardom, the influence of DatPiff mixtapes and retreating into himself to avoid the spectacle of celebrity.
Brent Faiyaz still has to take out the trash when he’s at home. Dialing into Zoom from Baltimore (his hometown of Columbia, MD is about 20 miles south), he talks about how so little has changed within that small bubble of those who knew him first. There was a time when he didn’t return home much, but these days he tries to visit every few months, grounding himself, perhaps, as his star continues to grow. “If you were to even ask me where I’m at now, I don’t really see it,” he says of his ever-increasing fame. “I look in the mirror and I see my mama’s son.”
The thing is, he never wanted to be a superstar. Growing up in the mixtape era, when downloads on DatPiff were more engaging than anything that could be bought in a store, he formed his idea of success around that of underground rappers. (Faiyaz was a rapper before he realized his gifts as a singer.) “I thought being a big-time artist was wack because they made trash music. When you listened to shit on the radio, it was always bullshit, and then you would listen to your iPod and that’s where you got all the heat,” he recalls. His thought process was that he didn’t need millions of dollars—just enough fans to do shows. The universe had other plans. “I fucked around and started singing and then shit blew up bigger than underground, so I had to recalibrate and figure out what I was going to do.”