Following the cultural movement that Kendrick Lamar crafted with To Pimp a Butterfly is a monumental task, add on top of that following the critical darling that Schoolboy Q created with Blank Face LP just this year and you’ve got an uphill battle against Mt. Vesuvius. Despite this, there’s a certain artist hailing from Chattanooga, TN begging to take on the Herculean task of following two of the largest artist not only on his record label, but in the rap industry.
Isiah Rashad is the static definition of a great background player, especially in today’s ever-evolving music industry. A great background player, within any boy band, girl group or hip-hop collective, knows when to let their fellow star players shine and when to accept the spotlight, something Rashad knows how to do. With effortless jumps to the foreground in the wake of the Cilvia Demo, an eye-opening BET Cypher and an international tour, Isaiah Rashad has finally returned from the shadows, this time armed with one of the year’s most solid efforts.
The Sun’s Tirade begins with TDE President Dave Free questioning Iasiah Rashad about his absence following the critically acclaimed Cilvia Demo, stating that he’s got until Friday to drop this next project and he isn’t asking anymore. That semblance of self-awareness is only the tip of the proverbial sword when it comes to this project, as Zawop moves onto construct one of the most well-crafted albums heard in 2016. From the artwork, production, titles and even atmosphere, The Sun’s Tirade captures an attitude that’s reminiscent of the Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest and other acts of the 90’s, albeit packed in a contemporary seal. The first 10 tracks of Tirade are a thumping, smooth compilation of jazzy inhibitions and synths. Rashad is comfortably at home here, utilizing his voice in a variety of ways and cadences like an instrument as he spits lyrics about his travels, his children, depression and stuntin‘. From opener 4r Da Squaw to SZA-assisted album centre-piece Stuck in the Mud, the variety and intensity that Rashad ushers in – with help from artists including label mates Jay Rock and Kendrick, and The Internet‘s Syd – is awe-inspiring. Free Lunch, the back track rosegold, Wat’s Wrong, Park, Bday, Silkk da Shocka, Tity and Dolla are phenomenal and if just the front half of this project was an album alone, then we’d probably be looking at a very serious rap album of the year contender – though sadly, that’s not the case.
The transfer after Stuck in the Mud alters the stream of consciousness to a much different narrative, one that’s more selfish, more introspective and more self-destructive, as the songs ramp up in thuggish ignorance and intensity. It’s interesting change, especially when you learn of Zawop’s dependence on Xanax and alcohol that almost got him kicked from the TDE Label, but it’s a slight stumble in quality from the strong first half of the album. Tracks like AA, Don’t Matter and By George (outro) aren’t bad tracks in any respect, it’s just the production on these tracks as well as the subject matter don’t gel with the album very well. But the seventeen track album ends on a healthy note with Find a Topic (homies begged), effectively ending Rashad’s run in the sun, soaking up the rays and looking towards the future.
Name any background player from any hip-hop collective, boy band or girl group that could emerge as an underdog within their crew with an effective project of their own. The answers are few and far in between, with many falling into a cacophonous pit of half-baked noise and forgettable trends, but not Isaiah Rashad. The self-proclaimed preacher’s son effectively followed up the releases from his two biggest label-mates with an ambitious effort of his own.
Isaiah Rashad has, for now, earned a beautiful moment in the sun.