The Hip-Hop label Top Dog Entertainment has a habit of transforming unknown rappers into bonafide superstars. It’s thanks to TDE that Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q have graced our itunes playlist and given the hip-hop genre a much needed boost of fresh talent. It’s no surprise their latest signee Isaiah Rashad is following in the success of these two rap giants. Five months after the release of his debut single ‘Shot You Down’ which features Q, Rashad has dropped his new EP ‘Cilvia Demo’. In just two weeks of release it has garnered a lot of hype, reaching no. 2 on the US itunes chart and no.8 on the Billboard Chart.
At 14 tracks, the album can seem a little daunting at first. I was unsure if I wanted to let myself endure such a lengthy marathon but Rashad’s mix of deeply autobiographical rap alongside vintage samples proved his debut is a triumph. This is evident from ‘Ronnie Drake’ and ‘Menthol’ where nostalgia saturates the hooks and harks back to the early nineties. When it comes to lyrics, Rashad writes from experience and nothing is off limits. A running theme throughout the record is exploration of origin. Lines such as “Came a long way from a boat and an auction/now we got names and a vote, then a coffin” not only effortlessly summarise Black American history into four powerful lines but demonstrate Rashad’s passion for accessibility between the listener and the artist. What stands out most on this record is Rashad’s self-assurance. ‘Brad Jordan’ best conveys Isaiah’s ballsy confidence and it would be easy to think he is a lot older than his tender 22 years. However, it’s his youth which also gives the album a sense of vulnerability, on ‘Modest’, “Modest, I, be interviews/…I no have no clue that I’m the greatest/…Need a baby cause I’m too young and wild to be the savior’ Rashad understands the pressures up against a young MC in the music industry yet in ‘Heavenly Father’, where he ponders the possibility of burning out at such a young age, shows that in confiding to his listener his most hidden anxieties he takes this business of ‘show’ all in his stride.
If you aren’t the biggest hip-hop fan you will appreciate ‘Cilvia Demo’ for its soulful intelligence and absence of facade. If you are? Then your Kendrick collection will soon be replaced by Isaiah.