Brent Faiyaz – Larger Than Life

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Marketed as his debut mixtape, alt-R&B titan Brent Faiyaz follows up last year’s highly successful and even more highly uneven Wasteland album with a sample-heavy project paying homage to his DMV upbringing, inviting quite a few upcoming artists and established legends of the area for guest spots. Thankfully cutting down on some of his overlong and self-indulgent tracks, Faiyaz instead goes too far in the other direction, with many songs here feeling underbaked and unfinished. Some of his other negative tendencies, like a gleeful insistence on presenting himself as a character so toxic that even Future would look the other way, and a half-hearted vocal delivery that doesn’t measure up to some of his contemporaries, remain. It’s not quite as offensive as Wasteland – but it’s mostly just a boring listen.

Two of the DMV’s most notable contributors to hip-hop culture appear on the first two tracks – the intro is mostly just a Timbaland beat, sounding like his classic self complete with his beatboxing in the mix. Interspersed with Faiyaz’s vocalizations and a brief verse where he calls himself “99 overall” as if it were an EA sports game, we eventually hear the classic melody from TLC’s “No Scrubs” underneath. The other one is Missy Elliott, reprising her hook from “Crazy Feelings” on “Last One Left.” The legends provide some of the album’s best moments – that soulful harmonized melody still goes over well, but Faiyaz himself can’t be bothered to put in much effort, even when the instrumental rolls out the red carpet for him. He found someone equally as dead-eyed in local rapper Lil Gray, who drops a verse on the back end. We then get three tracks in a row with only one barely breaking the minute and a half mark. The beat on “Forever Yours” definitely had potential – it’s a glitchy little swung synth part that’s a definite earworm but Faiyaz doesn’t offer much in the way of a hook. It’s mostly subpar vocal runs, ending before it begins. “Best Time” has a Kelis sample for Faiyaz to play around with until he gets bored, repeating the sentiment of Drake’s famous bars on “Girls Want Girls” but without the joking wink in the eye along the way. Of course, one of the three is a skit – where Brent always reveals some of his most unlikeable tendencies. He himself doesn’t appear on this one, but I don’t really want to hear another toxic argument anyway.

Faiyaz attempts to go toe-to-toe with Coco Jones – someone with real vocals – on a sensual duet on the track “Moment Of Your Life.” Bolstering his part with three-part harmonies on one of the more memorable hooks on the album certainly helps, however, as do some of the glitchy quirks in the guitar-based instrumental. If Faiyaz wasn’t so concerned with being the coolest guy in the room, this one could have been a smash hit. “Outside All Night” genuinely begins sounding a little like a Christmas song with its strings and twinkles. Faiyaz’s harmonies aren’t always as successful as they were on the last track, though – these ones sound ever so slightly atonal. A$AP Rocky makes a rare appearance, but he’s not as impactful as usual, repeating a couple of his bars like he just dropped a verse because he happened to be around the studio that day. The thing is that most of the tracks on Larger Than Life come across like “Wherever I Go” – there’s really nothing that’s that bad on this album, it just sounds like someone tried to make a trendy, standard-issue alt-R&B album on an off day. It hits all the checkmarks its supposed to, but nobody making it did anything with the competence of the stuff that really hits hard. There’s nothing good, bad, or notable about it – it’s just boring.

The biggest evidence of Faiyaz’s complete apathy shows up on the track “Upset,” as he laughably builds a song around the central lyric: “I be like f**k it, at the same time I don’t say f**k it.” A verse from DMV artist Tommy Richman takes over after the chorus, and it’s filtered and mixed just about as badly as that NAV verse on Astroworld that we all made fun of. “On This Side” is essentially just a chorus from Faiyaz with some guest rappers in between – A$AP Ant kicks it off with a blunt, choppy verse without much semblance of flow, while local act CruddyMurda (which might be one of the worst rap names of all time) at least picks up the energy with some speedier flows, despite struggling to stay on beat. Another skit features the voice of someone named TTM Dawg, flexing about how much they’re “shining.”

The track “Belong To You” shows more of Faiyaz’s potential when he puts in the effort – when he hits the right places in his falsetto, he has the same kind of tender tone as The Weeknd. This track certainly showcases some of his best vocal moments on the album, as he interacts with a pitched-down 90s R&B sample from the artist Rome – although the sample takes up a lot of space and makes the track feel a little empty. Faiyaz isn’t a bad singer, he just clearly thinks it damages his image to appear like he’s trying, and that’s quite sad. The final two tracks “WY@” and “Pistachios” mostly find him continuing to meander around without a catchy melody in sight, the former falling into overt repetitiveness and the latter finding Faiyaz almost making it through the whole album without dropping a very outdated slur.

It’s tough to imagine who Faiyaz’s audience is – it shouldn’t be music nerds, and it certainly shouldn’t be anyone looking up to him as a hero or a role model. Regardless of whether he labels his project an album or a mixtape, there’s not much you can do to overcome so much unlikability and lack of effort.

Favourite Tracks: Moment Of Your Life, Belong To You, Last One Left

Least Favourite Track: Upset

Score: 3/10

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