By Thomas Lange, Contributing Writer
Back from an almost three-year hiatus after releasing his debut EP, “Cilvia Demo,” Top Dawg Entertainment rapper/singer Isaiah Rashad returns with his debut 17-track LP, “The Sun’s Tirade.” From start to finish, the album is a smooth listen, with Rashad’s mumbled, almost lazy rapping and singing flowing dreamily over minimalist, jazz-influenced production. Cuts like “4 Da Squaw,” the album’s opening track, are perfect to sit back and vibe with as Rashad flows all over the simple kick and snare beat.
Despite the somewhat laid-back vibe throughout the project, it’s clear that Rashad has been through alot in the time since the fairly well-received “Cilvia.” In a recent interview on The Breakfast Club Rashad was incredibly candid about his struggles with substance abuse, even acknowledging that he was almost dropped by his label three separate times because of problems with Xanax, something he addresses throughout the album. Songs like “Silkk da Shocka” provide a heart-wrenching look into Rashad’s darker side, where he raps, “My weed habit so close to snortin’ powder / Got a few gripes but it’s only about a dollar / Feel so hollow unless you’re usin’ narcotics.” As would be expected, the album is dotted with features from fellow Top Dawg signees Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and SZA, each bringing their own unique sound to their respective songs. Kendrick lays down yet another unreal feature on “Wat’s Wrong” (because, why wouldn’t he), and SZA adds her haunting vocals to back up Rashad on the hook for “Stuck in the Mud,” a seven-minute journey into Rashad’s love-hate relationship with fame that quickly turns into a brutally honest analysis of his Xanax abuse.
As a whole, the project is a great listen. The production is crisp, Rashad’s wordplay is clever and the features add just the right amount of flavor. However, where the project loses its appeal is the lack of diversity throughout; after two or three listens, the only way to distinguish between songs is the different features. While Rashad is very good at what he does, he rarely steps outside of his comfort zone, instead choosing to remain comfortable with what he knows best. As a result, the album begins to blend together in a way that can be pleasing to listen to, but also somewhat frustrating. A few tracks aside, the only deviation from Rashad’s signature style comes from the features, as each artist puts their unique sound into the project. However, with only nine features (six of whom share a track with another feature) over a 17-song album, it’s not quite enough. In the end, however enjoyable it may be to listen to, this album feels a lot like a more-polished “Cilvia Demo.” Anyone looking to hear the same Isaiah Rashad from almost three years ago will be happy, but those who are looking for a significant change might come away feeling a bit disappointed.