The Dose: Isaiah Rashad’s debut album is hip-hop at its best

The Dose: Isaiah Rashad’s debut album is hip-hop at its best

September 14
17:27 2016

Garrett Long

At last, after a turbulent hiatus following the release of “Cilvia Demo” nearly three years ago, Isaiah Rashad finally delivered a full-length album for his fans this month. World tours, paternal issues, crashing on couches, and ultimately struggles with Xanax and alcoholism painted the landscape of Rashad’s mind since the well-received 2014 EP. It was the overcoming of these issues that dominate the subject matter of “The Sun’s Tirade” — an album I’d say was well worth the wait.

The 17 track, 63 minute album tackles many of the issues we’ve heard in his previous work: substance abuse, growing up and above all, a father who wasn’t there for him. We see these same ideas cycling back into his life as he begins to drown in the bottle himself, struggling to become the father he needed to be for his own children. The title of the album carries multiple meanings, not least of which is the ongoing struggle for Rashad to come to terms with his father, or become a father himself. Hence, a son’s tirade.

Rashad and his Top Dawg labelmates (like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q) sure know how to start an album off with one of those classic voicemail rap skits. Within the first 45 seconds, we hear Schoolboy Q echoing the sentiment of Isaiah’s aggravated fanbase. Aptly titled “where u at,” Q questions Rashad as to where he’s been all this time, and why he can’t get over himself and make the music he owes his fans.

“4r da Squaw” might very well be my favorite on the album. Rashad tackles his demons head-on, and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his shortcomings as a parent. It was a refreshing change of pace from his previous work’s criticism of his own father; instead the blame falls on himself. He goes from assuming the perspective of his baby mama telling him he “ain’t nothing but a baby, [his] fear is growing up” to using “talcum powder” as a childish euphemism for cocaine.

But the real reason I wanted to spend time on this song was because of the music video. Please, please watch it. It’s not just hoes, clothes and cars. The video features a heartwarming day on the boardwalk with his son, Yari, in which everyone is brandishing a digital display of a dollar amount. Isaiah has $0, Yari has $2, but they enjoy themselves all the same.

Out of the four most recent singles released in the interim, “Free Lunch” was also the only one to make it onto the LP. And deservedly so, it’s an instant classic. Littered with references to Chattanooga (Highway 58, where the music video for “Ronnie Drake” was shot, Kanku’s Store, some drug dealer named Phil and so on), this track felt like a song dedicated for his friends back home, which is refreshing. In a genre full of rappers who move out to California and completely change their style — ahem, Wiz — Rashad sticks closely to his Southern roots.

While “Squaw” might be my favorite, “Wat’s Wrong” is the most important. It’s the first time Kendrick Lamar has featured in any of Rashad’s work, and the significance of that can’t be ignored, and here we see Kendrick gracing him with his presence. Just a few months prior, the young MC was sidelined by TDE, considering dropping out of the label entirely. A christening, if you will, of mad bars.

Now that doesn’t mean Kendrick bodied him, per se. Rashad injects truth in his lyrics from the first line: “Cut my hair and bump my head and fell on top.” He’s referring to his mother cutting the year-or-so’s worth of hair that he had grown out, claiming there was bad juju in them. According to his interview on “Sway in the Morning,” Rashad’s mother proceeded to burn his hair in a jar. He considers this event to be an effective break from his past self, leading him on a path of clear-headedness that culminates in this entire album.

The “Dressed Like Rappers” track will certainly be underrated by listeners. True to Rashad’s straightforward style, we see more honest depictions of his relentless issues and the lyrics pretty much speak for themselves:

Boarding pass, pass my troubles
High as f–k, lost my wallet
Going back, back to Cali
Saw my son, miss my daughter

While some songs are weaker than others, there are bits of genius and sometimes tragically realistic instances poured into every song; where confronting his father’s tear-filled reaction to his music in “Rope // rosegold” being one of the standouts. “Stuck in the Mud” brought instant flashbacks to “Cilvia Demo” with the return of SZA as an outstanding vocalist and collaborator. Unfortunately, this left Syd (singer and member of Odd Future’s The Internet) a little outshined on “Silkk da Shocka,” but it’s whatever. She’s not that great.

What I’m trying to say is that there isn’t a real low point in this album, as most of the songs have some level of holistic importance. All except “Tity and Dolla.” I don’t know who Hugh Augustine is or where he came from, but I don’t care. His verse blemished an otherwise great album.

At just 25, Rashad has already seen the effects money can have on a person and how quickly it can squander. Most importantly, he learned what he can achieve for his family when he has money. He’s just a man who wants to live comfortably and provide for his family and friends, and to do that he needs money. Hip hop gets him money. In the end, that’s what “The Sun’s Tirade” is all about.

@garry_berry

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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