Brent Faiyaz: Photos From the Billboard Cover Shoot

At just 10 years old, Christopher Brent Wood’s metamorphosis into indie disruptor Brent Faiyaz began.

As he collected CDs by D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill and Joe, among other R&B/hip-hop artists, the youngster would steadily pore over album liner notes, absorbing the behind-the-scenes details of how his favorite albums were made. By middle school, he had set up his first home studio, with a USB mic and downloaded software — the start of his shift from music fan to music-maker.

“I was making money selling beats; that’s how I got a lot of my friends when I was younger,” Faiyaz, 28, recalls today of his teenage years in the Baltimore area. “It’d be like grown motherf–kers coming to the house to get beats off me. My parents were like, ‘Who are these grown adults coming by the house? What’s going on?’ ”

Faiyaz’s parents had once pushed him to attend college. But eventually, that morphed into, “Can you just please graduate [high school]?” Faiyaz recalls with a chuckle, “because my grades were so bad. It was like you can do something all day every day, but if it’s not bringing no money to the house, they figured you needed a plan B or C. But music was all I wanted to do. So I kind of had to prove them wrong.”

Faiyaz has done just that. Since he began releasing his own music on SoundCloud over a decade ago, he has upended the contemporary R&B scene with his raw, frank lyrics and ’90s-vibed alt-R&B sound — and become a bona fide mainstream hitmaker in the process.

Read the full Brent Faiyaz Billboard cover story here.