Isaiah Rashad at The Academy, Dublin, on April 6th 2017
On the week that Kendrick, TDE’s star pupil sent us all into delirium with HUMBLE., one of the label’s younger talents, twenty-five-year old, Isaiah Rashad had the opportunity to remind those who came out to the Academy that K Dot’s not the only one with something to say.
Initially bursting onto the music industry’s radar in 2012 after touring with esteemed rappers such as Juicy J, Joey Badass and Smoke DZA, on The Smoker’s Club Tour, Rashad was then signed to TDE the following year before releasing ‘Cilvia Demo’ and subsequently being included in XXL’s 2014 Freshman Class.
‘Cilvia Demo’ found (the then) twenty-two-year old Tennessee native addressing a series of issues. These included the abandonment and hostility felt from his father leaving as well as his partyboying and the temptations and soullessness that can come with wealth and fame. The EP also touched on depression, anger issues and encounters with suicide as well as his relationship with God.
Received well by critics, it marked Rashad as someone to keep an eye on. It was laidback with its flow yet had wonder and purpose to its confessionals.
But then The Oxymoron Tour came. Rashad was clearly tarnished. He was putting off growing up and his relationship with his son’s mother is speculated to have ended under acrimonious circumstances. And it was around now that he turned to Xanax and alcohol abuse, forcing him to nearly being dropped by TDE and generally spiralling into a life of indirection and hedonism. Fans and music critics alike waited and waited for a follow up, until two years later, it finally arrived.
‘The Sun’s Tirade’ built upon the themes of his earlier work but with an added maturity. Casting some of the earlier adolescent angst and lazy references to weed aside, the album established the rapper as someone who had combated addiction and lived to tell the tale. Someone who was beginning to question his responsibilities and forge a life suitable for fathering his (now) two children.
This wasn’t to say he’d it all figured out. But, perhaps assisted in part by forgiveness towards his father (not to mention the patience of TDE), Rashad was now feeling more triumphant and grateful for the life planned by God for him. Wasn’t a bad album either. Which all led to the excitement surrounding his date at The Academy.
Having grown up on a diet of Outkast, Erykah Badu and Lil Wayne, but to name a few, Rashad’s music is all snarl and just as much groove. And in a live capacity it takes on another lease of life, his mixture of relaxed bars, frenetic energy and explosive hooks rallying a supportive and equally as energetic crowd to a fun-packed hour and a half of infectious and bouncing hip-hop.
Particular highlights include the breezy yet emotive Heavenly Father as well as ‘The Sun Tirade’s’ 4r Da Squaw and Free Lunch.
Though at no point can Rashad’s stage presence, rapport with the crowd and overall delivery be faulted, you can’t help but feel that the show is a tiny bit hastily put together however.
Community and celebrating with the ones you grew up with is a major part of hip-hop and this should continue to be embraced. However, Rashad’s show comes across as more of a premature party than a statement of intent at times, with his posse, although supplying a lot of fun, often distracting you from the main performer.
And despite the overreaching qualities of Kendrick’s Alright, which is played at the end, this merely proves to draw attention to how far ahead of the game Kendrick still is and how early Rashad is in the stage of his career.
Which is no bad thing necessarily. Rashad is already a blossoming lyricist with an inexplicable flow as well as a penchant for a tune.
Yes, his body of work will become more expansive (not that it’s not already packed with belters) and yes, it would be unfair to draw too many comparisons to the greatest rapper in the world right now. But, for as great a performance as this was, it can’t help but feel like an opportunity missed at the same time.