Album Review: Isaiah Rashad - The Sun's Tirade

As far as the artists inked to Top Dawg Entertainment go, Isaiah Rashad would be considered ‘the quiet one.’ Far less socially conscious and civically engaged than the group’s marquee name, Kendrick Lamar, Rashad is also less connected to the street and less volatile than Schoolboy Q.

Rashad could also be considered ‘the quiet one’ simply because of his output, or lack there of—apparently his 2014 effort, Cilvia Demo was not to be considered a proper ‘debut album’; however, he’s rectified this, finally, in the form of the long delayed The Sun’s Tirade, a lengthy and dense affair that finds Rashad, for better or worse, standing on his own and building a name for himself as a TDE artist.

Tirade opens with a self-aware wink at the delay in the project—Rashad opts to begin the album with a voice mail from TDE-head Dave Free, who complains about the fact that he still doesn’t have a finished album from one of his artists, prior to the album seguing into the slow-motion slink of “4r Da Squaw.”

Featuring a whopping 16 songs (with interludes included in between) Rashad, perhaps inadvertently, frontloads Tirade with some of its strongest and most listenable material—many of songs which boast strong grooves courtesy of very live sounding instrumentation, including the album’s jittery single “Free Lunch,” the arrhythmic “Rope//rosegold,” and one of the album’s strongest tracks, “Wat’s Wrong,” which also features a guest verse from TDE’s breakout star, Kendrick Lamar.

Tirade, for the most part, has a relatively cohesive sound to it, which is a fascinating notion given the fact that Rashad worked with a different producer on nearly every song. Outside of the live instrumentation that boosts the accessibility of a bulk of the album’s early material, Rashad also tends to favor a dark and distorted sound—the aforementioned “4r Da Squaw” isn’t exactly very sunny sounding, and neither is the distorted and tortured “Silkk da Shocka,” which arrives after the halfway point.

The album doesn’t so much run out of energy, or collapse under its own weight after a certain point, a big chunk of the songs become slightly less successful in their execution—specifically the insipid “A lot,” and “AA,” both of which features the popular “trap” style drum programming.

As Tirade comes to its conclusion, it regains a little bit of its strengths in “Brenda,” as well as the psychedelic-leaning “by George (outro),” before returning to familiar sounding beats and structure with the album’s final track, “Find a Topic (homies begged.)”

In 2014, I deemed Rashad’s “Heavenly Father” as my favorite song of the year—specifically because of its honesty and depth, and unfortunately, as enjoyable as a large portion of The Sun’s Tirade is, there’s nothing that packs that same, very direct, emotional weight. That’s not to say that it’s a bad album—it’s just a little on the long side and uneven at times. It does showcase Rashad’s natural talent as an evocative performer—his raspy, Tennessee drawl makes him a unique voice in the rap music landscape and if anything, The Sun’s Tirade gave him a chance to battle his demons—prior to its release, Rashad revealed he was almost dropped from TDE due to his struggles with alcohol and addiction to Xanax.

Despite its flaws, The Sun’s Tirade is an impressive “debut” album from a very promising artist—some of it impacts you right away; some of it needs time to grow, and most of it is worth a listen.

The Sun's Tirade is out now as a digital download from all the usual suspects.