“Do you know what makes this world go ‘round?/Around/Think it through/What it means to you/And everything you do/Don’t affect just you.” Evergreen. Brent Faiyaz immediately grabbed our ears by the lobes with this fluid falsetto opening to “Skyline” — the captivating start to his second studio album, Fuck The World.
It is the chilling icebreaker to an open roundtable discussion that many may not be ready for — and not the discussion they are thinking of. Think about it. What makes the world go round? Money and love are the easy answer, but they do not exist without us — human beings. We all occupy this country’s plane, and everything we do has an impact on others in some way, big or small. Since this territory was first discovered, there has been a clear power struggle between multiple demographics. Men and women. Black people and White people. So on and so forth.
Since the album’s February 7th release, it has thrust Brent into the conversation of being as toxic as anti-hero Future. Hedonism, selfishness, and brutal honesty are just a few of the overarching themes that R&B fans favor. The 10-song, 26-minute project under the Lost Kids label immediately tuned my ears to not get fully caught up in his beautiful harmonies as it was important to key in on each raw, unfiltered line he dropped. The 24-year-old did not hold his tongue, nor present a misleading perception of his interpersonal relationships.
Fuck The World evoked a specific aura of transparency — the ugly side. Faiyaz bore the type of vulnerability that our former lovers unknowingly yearn for, and future flames may fear. Like many listeners, I was stuck on the imagery. Having tough talks and reaching up to hand them their panties after floor sex. Feeling lost in a loveless world. It hit the soul much harder than any of his previous, albeit quality, projects.
It is still Brent’s reality, one that is not limited to the woes caused by cupid’s bow and arrow; thus, quite the project to release a week prior to Valentine’s Day. Fuck The World felt like the opposite of a sour patch. Sweet on the sonic surface, but enough digging reveals an acidic lyrical core. Not necessarily one that cannot be consumed, but digestion does not come so easily.
It speaks to a painful awareness of the larger world. One that I did not fully possess, even upon releasing during a particularly trying Black History Month. He has never shied away from his Blackness in his music. “An unapologetic black man,” as Nation of Billions writer Sam Fleck calls him. Now, with the global pandemics COVID-19 and persistent ass racism joining forces, the world feels especially fucked.
There is a strong sense of wisdom here. The project released a month prior to stay-at-home orders, four-hour unemployment calls, stimulus checks, and a magnified view of the socioeconomic disparities plaguing this country founded upon race. Oh, and we are still reminding our counterparts that Black Lives Matter, in addition to their own. Certain lines feel coded to illustrate the various parallels between Brent’s personal life and Black people’s larger struggle for basic human decency.
Brent appears pessimistic toward most things and people, carrying a sense of clarity despite admittedly fighting against his own turmoil. He isn’t surprised by people’s bullshit. We have scrolled through an endless amount of poorly-worded, insensitive statements from companies and celebrities raving about how much they value our melanin.
For some, this is the first time they have ever expressed their allyship. While we acknowledge it is not easy to own their privilege, see things from the other side, and actually make that effort, it does not erase the truth. Statements aren’t even the bare minimum. You cannot erase centuries of systematic oppression and internalized hatred with a Notes app press statement. The recent “This you?” phenomenon revealed many of those who “stand with us” have been knocking our people down for a long time.
Do they really care to do more? Is this all just a front? Well, it calls to mind “Bluffin.” Brent finds himself and a lover at a crossroads. “Either you’re bluffin’ or you just don’t care (You could be bluffin’ or I could mean nothin’ at all)/Either there’s something or there’s nothing there.” He wants the truth to come out, but that falls on the other person. A lot of people are not prepared to see the world for what it is. Most don’t want to. Some do, but because they benefit more than they suffer, they turn a blind eye.
The raconteur’s lover has the best of two fucked up worlds. A baby father who is putting her through hell, and then him; the guy who won’t let her bring the baggage to him. Not ideal, but she has options. Those who enjoy the duality of existing in this shared space experience the opposite. They can pop into the rest of the world, enjoy its spoils, and retire to their privileged safe haven as they please. Brent speaks for us all when we say, stop texting us. Stop the performances. Be honest, and do what is right.
The title track’s refrain “Fuck the world, I’m a walking erection” is as firm a statement as the line’s final word conveys. I interpreted Brent’s meaning as having sex with all of the women he pleases because of …yeah. For Black people as a whole? We continue to spread our culture, talent, flavor, and graciousness to the masses. Like some past lovers, the effort is not appreciated by all. In fact, our counterparts have continuously become aroused soon after we hit a creative climax, muddying what we have built. Our music, fashion, lingo, and…general safety. They have tried to take it all.
“Fuck The World (Summer In London)” is a goldmine right from the beginning. “Your nigga caught us texting/You said, ‘Baby don’t be mad, you know how Brent is.” Admittedly, the line drew a laugh because there’s no shot that response calms anybody down. Thinking deeper, it stings. For a long time, we have been told to deal with how we are treated because it is just the way life is. True, not all people will be good, but a focused effort on shrinking the influence of a particular group does not sound like a situation they should be content in.
“Don’t open your mouth if you ain’t speaking good to me/I ain’t built like him/You fuckin’ with a G.” “Don’t come around, if you ain’t close to me
I ain’t built like them, you gotta work for me.” This is Brent’s defiance. He is not easily impressed by any woman, nor is he yearning for love. Thus, he urges women to move correctly. As far as the diaspora goes, we are not settling for mediocre support and permitted inequalities anymore. The proper actions have to speak.
Over the course of our history, we have seen many of our beautiful people use their large platforms to build their communities. These platforms have not been built overnight, and many have had to leave home first before returning to make it better. “Been Away” is Brent explaining to a woman that his absence is because he has been out working hard to make money. She should not go looking elsewhere because he plans to come back and treat her. Just be patient.
In an ideal world, we can all get rich quick, buy our parents’ mansions, donate to major causes, and more. It is difficult to do for others when you cannot sustain yourself. There are many who feel that pressure, and seeing how many people have kept their word, it is worth remaining optimistic that more Black people will step up.
Unfortunately, not all skinfolk hold their ground with such fortitude. We’ve seen the coon chip activate in some of the culture’s most dear personalities, and some not-so-surprising individuals sipping the Kool-Aid per usual. Brent depicts this weighted narrative within the album standout “Clouded” — one minute and 50-seconds of scary relevance. The other side of being “canceled.”
“I gave it all for a fantasy/Is anybody gon’ remember me?/If I go tonight, I doubt the world would change/I just pray they don’t forget my name.” Brent confronts his reality — being a musician makes him a celebrity, and not by choice. Chasing his dream puts him in an uncomfortable place. Some of our own, in the hopes of being successful and widely accepted, have given up a portion of themselves. In doing so, they gave up their credibility in the community.
Many find themselves scurrying to right their wrongs and preserve an already tainted legacy. Much like celebrity status and successful artistry go hand-in-hand, one’s flaws interlace with their achievements. We may never forget a classic album or movie someone took part in, but we will always feel the pain of their betrayal. Similar to the tension fans sometimes feel when their undiscovered gems become widely known. Brent and some of the many people we will never look at the same unknowingly walked into trying situations. There is no playing the fence in 2020. In any regard.
He firmly asserts “Her nigga wanna be me/But they don’t know I’m fighting demons.” This line was a reminder that even though there has always been an agenda against us, we have not always been unified. Our people have competed with one another, gone to great lengths to gain advantages, and lost sight of the bigger picture — often completely unaware of the fact many our toughest battles are occurring within. It makes our enemy’s job easier when we cannot stand together.
The eerie part about this album taking on new life recently is the question of whether Faiyaz intended to be this conscious. Certain concepts feel too aligned. That’s the beauty of music. Brent had been recording these records for around a year prior to release, as told to Kemet High for Complex. Did he know this was inevitable? Should we have known the world was bound to cave in?
Fuck The World felt like the diary of a black man who had seen it all. It is. Only, it is a thought-provoking commentary on the blazing soil surrounding us. By no means would this be called protest music. It actually takes on a more painful effect when applying it to the world today. Difficult times yield connections to anything that makes you feel a certain way. While a major fight is happening, we are in our individual spheres battling troubled relationships, identity issues, and more. We always have been. Through it all, we press onward. “I’ve been down/Oh oh oh/But I hope I make it out…”