By: Jonina Diele

“I got the music for the vibers”—this line comes skillfully weaved in the second half of “Rope // rosegold”, the bipartite joint that serves as track four on Isaiah Rashad’s latest project, The Sun’s Tirade. And he’s right—this isn’t an album of bangers. It isn’t a set of politically charged introspective anthems, as we’ve grown accustomed to from Rashad’s labelmate Kendrick Lamar. It’s one you play in the background of a smoke session, appropriately laced with feel good rhythms and thought provoking rhymes.

The Sun’s Tirade, released under Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) on September 2nd, is an album of self-discovery. It comes nearly two years after the rapper’s debut project, Cilvia Demo, and had quite a transformation leading to its release—as did Rashad. In this gap between projects, the Chattanooga, TN native battled depression and coped with Xanax and alcohol addiction—resulting in him nearly being dropped from TDE on multiple occasions. The tension between the rapper and the label comes to life on the record with skits featuring Dave Free, TDE’s co-president, essentially telling Rashad to get his shit together and make this album. Free sets the tone for the whole project on the first track, “where u at?”: “I still don’t got your god damn album, I don’t understand this process dog… you got until Friday bro, I’m not asking no more dog.” Luckily for us, Rashad came out the other end a more refined and honest artist—and found a sense of self that’s apparent in the album’s lyricism.


“Dressed Like Rappers” gives us some of this sense of self and honesty with lines like “real life / what does it feel like / I got my pills on / you know I’m real numb” and “I can admit / I’ve been depressed / I hit a wall / ouch.” On his personal growth since Cilvia Demo, Rashad tells Complex Magazine that he’s “not as thick skinned,” and that he believes he’s “more sensitive than [he] used to be.” In this sensitivity, though, comes this aforementioned honesty and his willingness to share his darkest moments—something that was alluded to but arguably missing from Cilvia Demo. While these themes are maintained throughout the album and provide it with necessary focus, it isn’t short of variety. “Silkk da Shocka”—a nod to the New Orleans rapper which follows Rashad’s theme of title allusions to other southern rappers (“Tity and Dolla,” “Webbie Flow,” “Brad Jordan,” etc.)—is a velvety, bass-filled love ballad that features that rapper’s singing skills alongside The Internet’s Syd, whose bandmate Steve Lacy produced the track.

Sonically, Rashad describes the album best himself: “mix that Boosie with that boom-bap” (via track 15, “Brenda”). The boom bap resides mostly in the beats, whereas the Boosie lives in the flow—but the overlap is undeniable. In a time where discussion of influence in hip hop is thriving and reviving the notorious old school versus new school debate, Rashad shows us there doesn’t need to be an either or. His traces of old heads like Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest are obvious, but so is his appropriately modern flow. The jazziness of the beats is silky and relaxing, and paired with the simultaneously raspy and sharp qualities of Rashad’s voice the tracks come out balanced—they’re soothing, but urge you to bob your head to the bass. The features are well mixed, too, giving some visibility to smaller acts like Hugh Augustine while still including big names like Kendrick.

Isaiah Rashad is quite possibly just what the rap game needs right now—a poetic blend of the old and the new, the conscious and the mindless. And while definitely reigns higher than it’s predecessor, it’s likely that the best is yet to come for Rashad. Still, this project is all at once introspective, therapeutic, aggressive and soulful—and it’s every bit worth your listen. So sit back, light up, and dive into the heat.