Many times in the music industry, artists aren’t always granted the ability to reinvent themselves time and time again or divvy their musical talents into various wonders of genius, but it’s a different story for Syd “Tha Kyd” Bennett, aka Syd. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter, record producer, DJ and engineer got her first gleam of fame's bright lights as the sole female in the raucous rap collective Odd Future, acting as the group’s in-house engineer and touring DJ. But as the group dismantled into solo acts, fans would soon realize Syd had much more to offer, forming The Internet, a campy R&B band, in early 2011 with fellow Odd Future member Matt Martians.
Purveying radically different vibes than its predecessor, The Internet ushered in a cool, distinct R&B and neo-soul entity that went over the heads of the commercial sound plaguing the genre. And deviating from the norm only assisted in their trajectory, with 2015 being their biggest year yet. That year, the band — Syd, Martians, Patrick Paige II, Christopher Smith, and Steve Lacy — released their third LP Ego Death, which received critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination. During that four-year stretch of exploration and experimentation, Syd, the nucleus and frontwoman of the group, went through her own struggles and triumphs. From finding confidence in her diamond-in-the-rough vocals to deciding to never shy away from her sexuality, to witness her evolution has been one of the most exciting experiences in the genre in quite some time.
But after defying what it meant to be an “R&B chick,” Syd only continues to throw curve balls and surprise with every move. Last summer, the group announced that, after their wildly successful third album, they would take a hiatus to focus on solo projects. While Martians’s The Drum Chord Theory dropped a week prior to Fin, Syd’s solo debut, her release has everyone talking about her glittering future.
On Fin, Syd’s star power soars like never before. Sometimes the intricate live instrumentation of The Internet previously drowned out her capabilities as a vocalist, but this time around, her voice is pitch perfect, crystal clear and at the forefront with zero distractions. And with the spotlight on her, she took the time to venture into the uncharted territory of her persona. Her voice is still demure as ever, silky to the touch and soothing to the ears, but the words that escape her mouth arer filled with raw passion and emotion.
“Young star in the making, swear they sleeping on me / They pump me up to deflate me / I'm so close I can taste it / Boy you don't even know,” she sings on the Hitboy-produced album opener “Shake Em Off,” acknowledging that she’s got the juice.
Throughout the record, Syd double dutches between R&B and hip-hop, making for a modern throwback that speaks to the beloved era of the ‘90s and early ‘00s. There’s moments where her wispy vocals are reminiscent of Aaliyah to the point that Timbaland would be brought to his knees (“Know”). There’s sensuality oozing, too. Songs like “Body” and “Smile More” are hot enough to melt iron to steel. But it’s not forced. Even the 70 seconds of “Drown in It” are tempting. Noticeably, Syd’s lyrics aren’t subtle anymore but slick, brimming with a boldness and freshness that blend seamlessly with her groovy production choices.
Fin also explores a different direction for Syd when it comes to mass appeal. Amongst the super sexy, niche tracks are more commercial hits like “All About Me” and “Dollar Bills.” Both are the striking upbeat tracks of the LP, flirting with self-assurance and cockiness. Yet, the standout gem of Fin actually seduces doubt and indecision. In need of self-medicating the heart, Syd pours her soul into “Insecurities.” “You can thank my insecurities for keeping me around you, babe,” she sings. “I pack my bags but never leave 'cause it's so hard to walk away.”
Breaking away from a group as an artist can be tough, especially when community has nurtured your career from the start. But Fin, a culmination of Syd’s thoughts and feelings on love and life, presents her as a strong act with the ability to stand on her own: poised and prowling towards the title of one of the most promising acts in the genre.
(Photo: Columbia Records)