– By A.
Rapper Isaiah Rashad knows how to rap about his demons. Signed to label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) in 2013, the Chattanooga, TN. rapper stands among the likes of ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and Kendrick Lamar, the latter considered one of the best of the current generation. Clearly, Rashad has quite the shoes to fill. And with The Sun’s Tirade, Isaiah Rashad’s album debut, he’s out to prove that he can wear them.
Two years ago, he released Cilvia Demo, his debut EP under TDE. On it, he earned his spot on the roster with the greats, showcasing a distinctive style and energy. A worthy introduction from a young but experienced rapper.
As such, it’s no surprise that all eyes were on Rashad after such a fulfilling and cohesive project. What would he come up with next?
For the next two years, the answer was a hard nothing.
In fact, it got so bad that he was threatened to be dropped from the label three times, for not releasing any music. Rashad attributed this to a phase of drug addiction and alcoholism, and it was this pressure that fueled this new album.
The album opens with a recording from label-mate ScHoolboy Q, berating Rashad for not releasing any music for years, before demanding that he release something soon. Rashad ultimately delivers The Sun’s Tirade, and with it, he steps out of the shadow of his vices.
While this album stays close to familiar musical territory from Cilvia Demo, Rashad brings with him the dark edge he developed since his debut. The song “Stuck in the Mud,” is a good example, with the second half of the track featuring hazy, gloomy production, and Rashad’s vocals sounding muted and distant, like he’s trying to converse with himself in the middle of a drug-fueled stint.
Many of the songs on this album attempt to bring across this atmosphere in the music itself, a great case of showing and not telling, letting the listener hear just how bleak his lows are through the music then simply having Rashad rap his pain away.
However, this does have the potential to alienate fans of Rashad’s previous EP. What made Cilvia Demo so special was his aggressive vocal delivery and energetic flow over smooth, chill, jazzy beats. On The Sun’s Tirade, he tweaks his formula, bringing his energy level down on more songs to bring across a uniquely dreary tone.
While a creative risk, the subtle soundscape can serve as a detriment, with not enough moments that immediately grab a listener’s attention. This may turn off some fans who were looking for that distinctive presence Rashad has on a beat, but the more cautious listener may find something worth the entire album experience.
But that doesn’t mean Rashad’s energy is wholly absent. Song like “4r Da Squaw,” “Free Lunch,” and “Wat’s Wrong” all feature what made Rashad successful in the first place. Music that’s as easy to vibe to as it is lyrical.
A recurring theme throughout The Sun’s Tirade is Rashad’s struggle to find a topic to rap about, coming to a head on the final song, “Find a Topic (Homies Begged).” In it, he jokingly resorts to rapping about money, a well-worn trope in hip-hop. But a thorough listen of the album reveals much more than that. Depression, addiction, along the difficulty of making this album in the first place.
If The Sun’s Tirade was Isaiah Rashad with nothing to say, then it should be promising when he does find something to shed light on.