By Joshua St. Hill
In the gigantic rap game we have in America, certain labels stand out amongst others for their uniqueness. In the mid 90’s, it was Bad Boy, and towards the late 90’s, it was Death Row. Moving into the present generation, one label sticks out more than any, TDE. With standout artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and SZA, TDE is doing it’s job leading the pack of rap. Yet with all of their artists that have already gotten into the game, there is one artist who took a step out of the limelight to tend to his own trials, due to a lack of creativity that almost led to his dropping from the label and an addiction that almost cost him his life.
Isaiah Rashad was slowly taking a turn for the worst. Yet just a couple of days ago, Isaiah shocked the world by giving his insight on the longest day in California. The Sun’s Tirade is the redemption story of Rashad, who’s 2014 breakout project, Cilvia Demo, and spot on the XXL Freshman panel made him an underground household name. But just like the closing line of The Usual Suspects, “Just like that, he’s gone,” Rashad left fans scratching their heads in confusion and anticipation for a debut.
What we all didn’t know was that Rashad was battling his own demons of an addiction to Xanax and alcohol. When asked why his fellow members of the label didn’t help, Rashad responded, “At that time we had just met, so we didn’t have the type of relationship where we were checking on each other. They just made sure nobody was messing with me and that I was satisfied.”
Luckily, Isaiah was able to fight addiction, giving a project that told his story of his introduction to fame and the troubles that came with it, all on the longest day of his life.
He starts the album off with a voicemail from Schoolboy Q himself, scolding Rashad for his lack of new music. “Don’t you want people to hear your new stuff? You don’t care that they want more? You’re just that good? I’m giving you until Friday, I’m not asking anymore.” With that the phone call was over, leaving his listeners to start the album with the first song “4r Da Squaw”, with a mellow track produced by FrancisGotHeat. Isaiah introduces himself by talking about the blessings he’s received from his talent, like being able to pay his mother’s bills and help his friends out. In the hook he states, “It was heaven at the bottom and peace from throwing up,” giving insight on how the consequences of his alcoholism saved his spiritual and physical wellbeing.
On to the third track entitled “Free Lunch”, Isaiah delivers his first single on the album, giving us a contagious hook, and a visual masterpiece, showing Rashad sitting inside a laundromat while spectating other people going through their own types of daily struggles. The song in itself worships these hustles, saying “get your meal ticket” which is slang for, “get your money”. Isaiah himself had to struggle day by day to get to where he is, and now that he’s on top, it is amazing to look out on a view of others going through that same process just to get by.
Throughout this album, Isaiah continues to keep this mellow vibe with many soulful beats and hooks. The highlight of the album is an iconic verse from the infamous Kendrick Lamar on “Wat’s Wrong” questioning an artist’s true intentions. Kendrick, questioning the listener, as well as Isaiah, eloquently flows with a series of statements making us think on our intentions in life, while also humbly stating he’s been the best rapper since 25. This was the first collaboration between the two artists, since Isaiah was the only member of TDE that hadn’t been featured with Kendrick Lamar.
At the halfway point in the album, Rashad takes a turn and poetically talks about his relationship with his lover. This song seems parallel to “West Savannah” from his previous project, and goes on to tell the tale of how he left the love of his life to pursue his career. Yet the fame didn’t stop him from missing her and using drugs to cope with the pain, hence his addiction to Xanax. This is the first song where Rashad seems actually vulnerable, instead of giving us a puzzle to figure out his pain and troubles. He directly opens up to us in this song. The icing on the cake is a harmony from Syd, the lead singer of The Internet, and former member of the late Odd Future.
Isaiah continues with this vulnerability on the track “AA” which seems like an obvious remark towards “Alcohol Anonymous”. This song indeed proves this right when Rashad goes on to tell us how his addiction almost sidelined him from making it in his career. In one line he says, “I’m so burnt out, can’t even catch fire no more,” bringing us to the realization that sometimes the same drugs rappers praise for creativity and adventures are the same ones that can almost ruin a talent we all wanted to see.The album comes to a close with the slow mellow track “By George,” as an outro that samples a previous song by Rashad that didn’t make the album cut.
Taking a step back and looking at the whole day pieced together song by song, the repeating subject is, ironically, Isaiah finding a topic. Schoolboy Q said it first, followed by Dave Free, that the beauty of the album is that in his long day, Rashad gained his redemption and won the battle of addiction. From seeing the highs of fame, and eventually hitting rock bottom by sleeping on a friends couch, Rashad reveals that all of this felt like one long lasting day. Thus bringing us to the conclusion that in trying to find a topic for an album, he found himself. Praise God for The Sun’s Tirade. The true meaning of a comeback story.