Monday, September 5, 2016

Isaiah Rashad - The Sun's Tirade Review

The Sun's Tirade, Isaiah Rashad's first album in two and a half years following Cilvia Demo, his first that put him on the map, begins with a spoken word intro from an agitated individual questioning Rashad's whereabouts. Context is key, as this isn't just an impatient fan caught up in the swirling mixtape age of gimme gimme gimme. It's Dave Free, co-president of TDE, the record label Rashad gained his fame through, irritated that the Tennessee native hasn't submitted his album yet. Struggling with a serious Xanax addiction, Rashad was almost dropped from the label numerous times, with The Sun's Tirade acting as his official statement to not let go just yet. As a substantial treat to his fans, the 17 full-length tracks here fully douse themselves in Rashad's typecasted Southern dialect, nestling in the corners of Hip-Hop, and the country, as one of the last bastions of true Southern-based Hip-Hop that hasn't gone Trap. Taking major cues from his fellow TDE partners, along with a continued worshipping of Outkast, The Sun's Tirade is a strong follow-up that appears weak only by way of a bloated tracklist.

The great appeal of Isaiah Rashad is his vocal delivery and production style, both unique in the game today with the absence of Andre 3000 growing stronger by every sensationally elusive verse. In fact, the only other Southern artist making moves within the same lanes as Rashad is Big K.R.I.T., whose recently taken a back seat thanks to a slowly evaporating fan base who've pointed out the failed evolution from an artist whose strongest works were his earliest mixtapes, his weakest official albums. With TDE in tow, Rashad's foundation will prove vital in the long run, even if the quality doesn't outweigh the quantity. That's the biggest flaw of The Sun's Tirade, a worthy successor to the surprising Cilvia Demo had the fat been trimmed. Instead, much like K.R.I.T., and the rest of the South, or the entire genre, Rashad fails at sustaining decent quality control, pushing 17 tracks with reasonably similar sonic and lyrical aesthetics against one another without much affixation to speak of. The ideas present on The Sun's Tirade, which let's be honest, aren't all that revolutionary, deserve a dozen tracks at most. Rashad's attempts at conjoining his Southern Hip-Hop with that of the mainstream on the album's second half easily its most notable misstep.

The three-song stretch of 'A Lot,' 'AA,' and 'Dressed Like Rappers' fits this bill, stalling The Sun's Tirade's previous hot streak. You see, while the songs may be similar in content, structures, and styles, how Rashad accentuates his best assets proves a vital source of the LP's worth. There isn't a bad song ten tracks in, and while the final 25 or so minutes don't have as many highs ('Don't Matter' and 'By George' excluded), they certainly don't nullify the worth of everything found beforehand. From the three lead singles, 'Free Lunch,' 'Park,' and '4r Da Squaw,' which all showcase Rashad's intricate tenacity when it comes to hooks, to the super smooth 'Bday' and 'Silkk Da Shocka,' to the well-rounded verse-centric 'Wats Wrong,' the first half of The Sun's Tirade is a beefy palate of high caliber Southern Hip-Hop material. The only downside to this widespread quality is the fact that no track here matches the heights of Cilvia Demo, that being 'West Savannah,' 'Heavenly Father,' and potentially 'Banana.'

A cohesive project, The Sun's Tirade is not. Consistency wise, the musical merits are well established and fruitful, but there's nothing holding the meat and bones together. If the singular works hold up though, that can be mistaken, even if Rashad falls into the TDE trap of two-parters that exist without rhyme or reason (looking at you 'Stuck In The Mud'). So while conceptually The Sun's Tirade holds few redeemable factors, the invested journey into the lore and mystery of a Southern Hip-Hop world invigorates those unaccustomed to the styles, especially listeners predisposed to the West Coast styles of TDE. Here more than ever, Rashad has emphasized his southern hospitality, where days spent driving in Cadillacs or chilling on the porch are a dime a dozen. In this sense, he borrows heavily from Outkast. With 'West Savannah' existing, there's no denying his admiration of the group, and on The Sun's Tirade he's taken it even further, culling inspiration from their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmusik, and their last, Idlewild. That's right, the ultimate twang Hip-Hop and Blues record finds a new home on tracks like 'Rope Rosegold' and 'Don't Matter.' To those who loved that aesthetic but couldn't get behind a soundtrack feel and Three Stacks' singing, look no further.

Truth be told, my complaints of the album, which are easy to pinpoint due to redundant Hip-Hop tropes, don't outweigh the quality of work present in many of these songs. Rather than being a harsh critic, The Sun's Tirade sulks me back into the chair, compelling me to enjoy the smooth, chill, laid back vibe. The south thrives off this attitude, using vocals as a mere substitute for another instrument, causing poor emcees like Travis Scott, Lil Yachty, and Young Thug to excel because of their commitment to rattled flows and impressionable vocal deliveries. Isaiah Rashad has that in spades, with the added punch of steadfast lyrics propelling his career. I'm never floored by what he says, or questioned by an idea I haven't heard before, but when I want to look past the cigarette-burnt, syrup-engulfed voice I can usually find something worth investigating. The Sun's Tirade, given some harsher restrictions, could've been TDE's best non-Kendrick Lamar project since 2012. Instead, we're greeted with a lopsided affair that captures the true essence of Isaiah Rashad one side, with sprinkles of it on the other.

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