SYD THA KYD first entered the public eye in 2010 as a resident DJ for the Los Angeles indie hip-hop collective Odd Future. Practically speaking, this meant Syd spent lots of time producing beats for the group, as well as goofing off in the background of photo shoots and videos while more animated members like Tyler, the Creator mugged for the camera.
But Odd Future was a unique beast born and bred in the internet age, and in the internet age, 2010 was a loooong time ago. Which is why if you ask Syd about her excellent soul band—confusingly named the Internet—and if its affiliation with Odd Future ever causes confusion, you'll get a polite but pointed answer.
"The only people who really still mention Odd Future to us is journalists," she says. "It's great having a clean slate."
Cue the burning cheeks of shame, but also, fair enough. In June, the Internet released its third album, Ego Death. Musically, it's silky and sophisticated from top to bottom, and lyrically, it's such an authentic exploration of love, loss, and lust in the 21st century, you might just find yourself feeling your skull for the port that Syd used to plug into your unconscious.
She wastes no time establishing Ego Death as a work threaded with modern-day breakup politics. Over a buzzy bass line and muffled, martial beat, the first verse of the album's opening song goes like this:
Now she wanna fuck with me
Live a life of luxury, models in my money trees
Such beautiful company
Fuck a nine to five, I'm seeing dollar signs
But I'm still driving around in my old whip
Still living at home, got issues with my old chick
She blowin' up my phone
Talkin' 'bout some bullshit
Like, "Who's this? Who's that?"
However, Syd—born Sydney Bennett—coolly sidesteps any talk of a unifying theme on Ego Death.
"It's just a collection, really," she says. "This is the first album I've written being single, and I think that had something to do with the song topics."
Syd and fellow Odd Future associate Matt Martians (AKA Matt Martin) met on MySpace in 2008 and started the Internet a few years later, releasing their debut album, Purple Naked Ladies, in 2011 and a follow-up, Feel Good, in 2013. The duo has since enlisted four friends as official Internet members, and together they offer a highly evolved take on hip-hop-flavored soul music, with skittering beats and rapped vocals nestled comfortably among lush arrangements of bass, guitar, and keys. The band cites Digable Planets and Erykah Badu as influences—big britches, but ones that the Internet is clearly growing into.
Speaking of which: Syd is growing into a compelling vocalist, too, though she says she's still not totally comfortable as a singer.
"I don't think I ever will be. I started late," she says. "This tour has helped a lot, though. I try to make up for my voice with my stage presence."
And that's because she knows soul—as with any kind of music—is not all about chops. It's about what's happening on the inside, and getting that stuff moved over to the outside. It's about matters of the heart filtered through the mind and the mouth. It's about turning the unspoken into sounds—at least to the extent that such a thing is possible.
"Soul music to me is music that tugs on your heartstrings," Syd says. "It's something that you can only describe by the feeling it gives you."