Written by Alexander Chrisostomou
The wait was worth it (for the most part). Well over 2 years ago now, Isaiah Rashad of Top Dawg Entertainment dropped his first extended play Cilvia Demo. Critically acclaimed, it debuted at number 40 on the US billboard 200 which earnt him a place on the 2014 XXL Freshman class, Isaiah was the name on everybody’s tongue. As noted, it has been a while, but on the 2nd of September, Isaiah released his debut album The Sun’s Tirade. With guest appearances including TDE label mates Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and SZA, as well as rising rappers Deacon Blues and Zacari, we have been given a gift with this 17 track-long album (which maybe should have been a bit shorter).
The 45 second introduction, Where U At? conveys the amount of pressure put onto Isaiah to release the album; Dave Free (co-producer of TDE) had vented his frustrations to Isaiah for failing to feed on the hype from his initial EP. Though, it turns out that there may have been a clear reason why we had to wait so long. In an interview on the Juan Epstein podcast, it was revealed that Isaiah had been battling with a severe addiction to Xanax and Alcohol, to the extent that TDE had contemplated dropping him as many as 3 times. They will now be relieved that they haven’t, as Isaiah neutralises the struggles he faced with the art of his music in a clear-eyed way.
The second track of the album 4r Da Squarw is one of my favourites as it comes from the heart. Throughout the album, Isaiah essentially steps through many stages of self-discovery; full of tension he reveals his deepest concerns and his problems with uncertainty. Knowing of his battle with addiction helps make the message of this song more clear. A father of 2 young children, one thing he has learned is that he should not be wasting his talents as he “found the message in his bottle” to remind him that his son is coming up. He knows he needs to put down the drink and perform to the best of his ability as his son is growing up and is in need of his father.
Free Lunch follows, which had been released as a music video on the TDE YouTube channel in early August as the album’s lead single. The positive vibes are easily sensed in this chilled, soulful track; Isaiah called it a “shout out to his crib” as he reminisces on his life before rap. In a discussion with Sway he claimed that he now thinks of million dollar tickets rather than the meal ticket he received for his free school lunches, highlighting his acknowledgement of his beginnings and his growth. What we see from this opening is Isaiah expressing his gratitude towards the good things in life.
Rope/Rosegold includes further self-reflection, maybe from a less positive position, but it remains “music for the vibers”. The styles used make for an interesting route for Isaiah to take, as The Sun’s Tirade is consistently heavy with subject, yet this album is far from disorientating; more so sobering.
Wats Wrong? featuring King Kendrick gave us a slightly different side to Isaiah; full of syllables and intense word play, from both artists. Of course we got the trademark show-stealing feature from K.Dot but it isn’t him alone that makes this song great. Alongside a beautiful beat and a melodious hook from Zacari, the artists reveal many more thoughts and it is the overthinking that energises both rappers, it is as if Isaiah wakes up a bit at this point.
Isaiah shows further versatility as although he had already established himself as skilled in regards to the love song department in Cilvia Demo (think West Savannah), he again demonstrated his skill on Silkk Da Shocka as he effectively shares a poetic description of what his lover means to him. She is the “start of his day” and “see’s the world” from her eyes, so they’re very much alike and see the world similarly, making her a necessary component of his life.
My only criticism is that the album seemed to wither away; many of the latter songs were either forgettable or just of poor quality. I feel Isaiah lost himself a bit too much with songs such as A Lot and AA; he appeared a shadow of his Cilvia Demo self here, contrasting to the strong beginning of this album.
I believe that the album maybe could have been better if it had been condensed to around 12/13 songs, although this album is still a great triumph over his battles which threatened to have him kicked off of the label. He will have come out of this with a stronger sense of identity, and it is well worth the listen.
Check out the videos for Free Lunch and 4r Da Squarw below
Credit: Top Dawg Entertainment