After a two-year hiatus, Isaiah Rashad has finally reemerged with his debut album, The Sun’s Tirade. His last project, Cilvia Demo, built up the anticipation for more with its riveting production, lyricism, and dark themes. Although fans weren’t exactly sure when he’d put out a new project, our trepidation was put to rest with a release date of September 2nd. With the few singles that Rashad dropped on Sound Cloud, the album looked to be very promising. Although I’m not one for comparison, Cilvia Demo set the bar high for what a musical project, mixtape or album, should sound like. Nevertheless, the Tennessee native keeps his winning streak with this new album. After the first listen, I felt indifferent to his album as there was some confusion in regards to the direction the album was going. However, after a more in-depth listen, The Sun’s Tirade is another great project from beginning to end.
He starts off the album with the question that all his fans want to know, “Where U At?” We hear his label mate, Schoolboy Q, leaving a voicemail on his phone asking for new music. Q questions Rashad’s methods and does not understand what the holdup is for his album. He warns Isaiah that he isn’t asking for the album anymore and that he has until Friday, September 2nd, to release his album. Immediately, this reminds me of the Kendrick Lamar’s first album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The opening track builds on the listeners’ curiosity as one wonders what exactly he’s been up to. Up next is“4r da Squaw”, which discusses his struggle to prioritize between his responsibilities and his social life. In one particular line, he recites “You know I think the sunshine / She feel how I feel”, which indicates that he seems to be stretching himself thin to accommodate the many roles in his life. Just like the sunshine, he’s needed by everybody and represents a form of sustainability. The song also reveals some of Isaiah’s own fears with becoming an adult through the line “Yeah, I was saying you ain’t nothin’ but a baby / Your fear is growing up.” He still seems to be adjusting to all the new changes in his life and adulthood, for anybody, can be a scary feat. Track 3 is “Free Lunch”, the first single from the album. The song seems geared towards making income by any means, hence the repetition of the line, “Meal ticket, ticket, meal ticket, ticket, comma.” This point is furthered reinforced by the video that accompanies the song, which displays the various ways people make money. While one person is a mechanic, another is selling CDs or t-shirts. The outro of the song, which hones in on the lack of heroes in his life, is the perfect transition into the song that follows, “Rope // rosegold” featuring Sir.
This track is actually a bit depressing in nature despite its upbeat and eclectic production. In “Rope”, he seems to take on the behavior of a drunk with the slurring of his words. He misses the good ole days and only seems to find comfort in death. He continuously professes his love to a rope, a reference that hints to suicide. In the second verse, we seem to get a hint of what exactly gets him to this vulnerable place once he mentions a phone call from his dad. From Cilvia Demo, Isaiah has already vented about his issues of abandonment with his father. Not only is he grappling with those issues, but the last two lines of the song indicate he’s also dealing with relationship issues between friends and a significant other. The production seems to mirror that of church music, almost indicating a funeral of some sorts. “Rosegold” is a stark contrast to part one of the song. The beat reminds me a lot of J Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest. Although his focus is still on death, he discusses his fate at the hands of another. The lyrics “Alright scramble, for the ammo / Can we build, can we chill? / Can I live with my kids? / Deuce, poof, proof” indicate just how dangerous the world has gotten and that one can be here one minute and gone the next. Given his newfound status, he could be tried at any time by those who are jealous. He goes on to make a promise that if he doesn’t happen to live long, at least he has his music as his legacy. Rosegold seems to be the shift in status, taking Isaiah Rashad from being a regular Chattanooga native to a rap star. The outro symbolizes that though he has his eyes on the prize, his problems are still looming.
“Wat’s Wrong” featuring Kendrick Lamar and Zacari acts as a dialogue between Rashad and Kendrick. While Rashad uses the first and third verse to vent about his problems, Kendrick recounts his own experience with his new lifestyle. Kendrick has now reached a place where he’s comfortable in his fame and lives a lifestyle that benefits himself and his family. If anything, he seems to be passing his own wisdom down to Rashad. With its slow, melodic production, this particular track is all about letting go of the burdens that plague you. From the chorus, sung by Zacari, Rashad finds comfort in smoking to cope when it gets too overwhelming. The outro of the song is another voicemail, but this time from TDE Co-president, Dave Free. He recounts a story of his father listening to Isaiah’s last project noting his violent nature. This outro, similar to the last, seems to be the perfect transition into the next song, “Park”. This track speaks about stagnation and him being stuck in his violent ways. He begins the song with “Mama I knew I was bout’ it”, which indicates that he always knew he had it in him to fight back if pushed to that limit. He also speaks about certain individuals holding him back as he accomplishes his goals. With a lot on his plate, he has a lot to work for and live for. He ends the song reminiscing about the good old days when he was just an innocent child.
“B’Day” featuring Deacon Blue and Kari Faux, discusses what he did on his 25th birthday, which basically included riding around, drinking, and celebrating all he has accomplished so far. However, the song also seems to pay homage to OutKast, especially production wise. It sort of reminds me of his own modern rendition of their song “Elevator (Me & You). The many references he makes to the iconic duo display the impact they had on him. The lines “Baby, we was like Decatur / We was like Lithonia elevated thinker, bump it” and “Sasha why you gotta leave me? / We was like forever” are references to Outkast’s origins, as well as, their songs “Elevators (Me & You)” and “The Art of Storytellin”. The slow tempo of the song matches the image of Isaiah riding slow through the city. While Deacon Blue provides background vocals on the chorus and a verse of the song, Kari Faux tackles the outro.“Silkk Da Shocka” featuring Syd tha Kid is more of a love song. Syd sings along with Rashad as he recounts a meaningful relationship that ended. The production sounds very melancholy and shows that, whoever this woman was, meant a lot to him. Due to this heartbreak, he has resorted to using drugs to cope. This song, just like the last, also pays homage by recognizing Silkk Da Shocka, a New Orleans rapper signed to No Limit. The outro of the song shows Dave Free criticizing him for not picking a topic in his music. “Tity and Dolla” featuring Jay Rock & Hugh Augustine is another song that is dedicated to Southern hip hop as he recognizes Playa Circle, which included 2 Chainz and Dolla. Obviously, Rashad has bounced back from his numbing his heartbreak by fostering sexual relationships with women. Jay Rock and Augustine contribute verses around the same subject matter. The production of the song is very upbeat, happy, and whimsical with what sounds like someone whistling in the background. The hook epitomizes the typical behavior attributed by rappers as he recites, “I know bitches gon’ be with it, but I love them hoes.” More importantly, Isaiah has now found another outlet to cope with is emotions. From here on, he enters a downward spiral that allows him to feel numb to all his problems.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
Just like “Rope // rosegold”, “Stuck in the Mud” featuring SZA is a song that is two songs in one. This song actually had me excited the most since every time he and SZA collaborate together, they make magic happen. This song is no exception as he talks about the hopelessness he feels, vents about his alcohol and drug use, as well as, his duties as a father and musician. At this point in the album, his issues hit him head on and he has no choice but to address them. In earlier songs on the album, we get a brief glimpse at some of his issues. However, with this track, it seems he has reached his breaking point and turns to the one thing that helps him cope: drugs and alcohol. The song goes from the slow tempo to a more speed up, airy beat, which could signify the drugs actually kicking in. In the second part of the song, he takes on that same slur that is used in “Rope”, but this time he sounds drugged up. He speaks of popping Xanies and drinking to make his problems disappear and numb his feelings. He throws in the towel, stating, “You ain’t lovin’ no mo / So if they pull up on the side, I ain’t duckin’ no mo.” A sense of desolation is implied as he states that his efforts are never enough, especially when it comes to the mothers of his children. “A Lot” discusses his materialistic goals to acquire cars, a house, money, and women. The song is produced by Mike Will Made It and has that same mainstream sound that has been dominating hip hop. It’s further reinforced by the mumble rapping that he is doing. It’s not my favorite track on the album, but the purpose it provides in the big scheme of things allows me to appreciate it.
He continues on his cycle of self-destruction with tracks 12, 13, and 14. On “AA”, which stands for Alcoholics Anonymous, he is still abusing substances to the point that he can’t think. He is so drunk that he can’t function properly and the production seems to mirror that of a bleary mind that can’t focus. Although he is aware of his behavior, he doesn’t seem to care. “Dressed Like Rappers” narrates the typical lifestyle of a rapper. He talks about women and drugs while professing his love for these things. However, in verse two, he shows that there is a method to his madness. He admits to being depressed and using these vices to fill a void. He mentions the line “Little boys dressed like rappers / Can that road make them daddies?”, which highlights the struggle he has with being a responsible adult. Dave Free ends the song as he leaves another voicemail, criticizing the fact that he dates women younger than him. This outro once again transitions perfectly with the song that follows, “Don’t Matter”. The Andre 3000 inspired track is a reply to Dave’s disgust at his taste in women. In the song, Isaiah makes many references to meaningless sex with the repetition of the lyric “Alright pimps, hoes, fingertips, masturbate.” This production is definitely different for Isaiah Rashad, but it’s a difference I actually like.
BACK TO REALITY
“Brenda” gives us a reprieve from his fast-paced lifestyle and is somewhat of a sobering experience. The song is an ode to his grandmother who died right before his last project. The production is very jazzy, but still maintains hip hop elements with the record scratches placed throughout the song. The record seems to shed light on black, southern life in Tennessee. He starts the song off with “I got two cigarettes to my last name / I clock in for the check but I don’t wanna go.” Isaiah feels smothered by a life that doesn’t make him happy. He makes references here and there to his grandmother and keeps with him her words of wisdom. The song seems to be the epitome of home for the emcee. Its production is very smooth, warm, and calming, probably like a grandmother would be. “By George (Outro)” functions as a smoke break from a long, hard day at work and a time for reflection. Just as the song closes out the album, it also serves as the come down from drug and alcohol induced state that he was in. The final song, “Find a Topic (Homies Begged)”, is a reply to Dave Free’s complaint on track 8. The guitar sample on the song gives off happy vibes, which goes well with the conclusion that he loves to talk about money and sex. The subject matter and beat are a huge contrast, but it works well because Rashad is discussing something that he isn’t afraid to admit he loves. The track seems the perfect way to end the album that is mostly depressing, but picks up towards the end. It goes to show that though things are hard, things do get better in the grand scheme of things.
The perfect word to describe The Sun’s Tirade is escapism. Looking at the cover art, we see a cartoon image of Isaiah Rashad jumping or floating, into a car with a blue sky and tall buildings as the backdrop. With all the many problems and responsibilities that he juggles, the only way that he can cope with it all is to run away from it. Drugs and alcohol allow him to be emotionally unavailable and to escape for a while. From beginning to end, we see Isaiah go from venting his problems, drowning his sorrows, and then sobering up. As far as the title of the album is concerned, Isaiah seems to function as the sun that everyone needs something from. Schoolboy Q needs an album, his children need a father, and Dave Free needs him to pick a topic. The sun is escaping these tirades, which we see on the cover art and hear in the music. It’s also why we only hear voicemails left by people with no reply. On a lighter note, Isaiah Rashad does a good job with experimenting with his production and paying homage to a lot of his influences. This album sounds nothing like Cilvia Demo, which shows his growth over the years. Overall, I could have written this album off based on the bottom half of the album and its subject matter. However, taking the album in its entirety, this album is really just Isaiah Rashad for of release from all his demons and I can respect it.