Tirade isn’t a word most of us associate with the sun. His debut EP, Cilvia Demo, put his name on the map in a big way, but two and a half years have passed since. The artist’s struggles with addiction and depression have routinely derailed his creative process – putting him at odds with his record label, Top Dawg Entertainment.
The intro skit on the album is a voicemail from TDE Co-President, Dave Free, demanding Rashad’s new album by September 2. Another voicemail from Free appears on the album insisting that the artist simply chooses a topic. The album sounds remarkably triumphant considering pressure on the artist and his own vices have been bad enough to make him feel oppressed by the sun.
The songs on Cilvia Demo discussed issues in society with this beautiful indifference that belied the depth in his analysis. The success of that project turned Isaiah Rashad into a name to watch out for, but he seems uncomfortable with the persona his fan base has made for him. On one hand, he’s an infinitely relatable person. On album opener “4r da Squaw” he says, “if I can pay my bills I’m good; I’m coming over,” – a familiar sentiment for college students. On the other hand, he has a tough time being what people expect of a rapper because he still feels the pain of a hard time growing up. It seems he feels like that’s not what people want to hear and asks, “How ya tell the truth to a crowd of white people?” on the atmospheric mid-album cut “Bday.”
Rashad’s music this time around is marred slightly by his efforts to question how his art is received. When the art you produce is a meditation on how your art is accepted, you could argue that there’s actually no substance there. Rashad seems prepared for that audience reaction to, but gives us a hint to decoding his craft on the second part of “Rope // rosegold.” “I got the music for the vibers and we don’t usually talk about it.” Isaiah’s more concerned with aesthetic than thematic cohesion which is probably how we let him get away with making an album about how hard it is to make an album. This could be why the mellow “Free Lunch” was chosen as the only single instead of one of his amazing collaborations with his TDE label-mates, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock. Both “Tity and Dolla” and “Wat’s Wrong” are project standouts and Rashad easily holds his own when he steps it up to match the veterans. If he could stay on that level for a whole project his next one might just be a masterpiece.