16. Brent Faiyaz, 'Sonder Son'
A year prior to his full-length debut, Baltimore newcomer Brent Faiyaz went platinum with D.C. rapper GoldLink on their collaboration "Crew" — which later got a leisurely remix endorsement from Gucci Mane. But Faiyaz takes that sparkle and buffs it to a shine with his remarkable work on Sonder Son, an enthralling piece of musical memoir. By the grace of his buttery falsetto, Faiyaz levitates ordinary scenes like being scared to give a bad report card to his mom ("I could see the tears fall from her eyes/Her child was always in something," he sings in "Home"). The vulnerability in his voice goes stern during the guitar-driven "First World Problemz/Nobody Carez," where he mulls over consumerism after a hard day at work ("We keep on trying/To have everything/We'll end up dying over anything.") The grit subsides in the Usher throwback "Talk 2 U," as Faiyaz lets a lover know he isn't here to finesse; he's just here to be real. A regular dude who has lurked on the margin between rap and R&B, Faiyaz is maturing as a musician and as a character with every record he releases. S.E.