Finally coming out of his exile and straightening his life out, Isaiah Rashad released his first studio album, The Sun’s Tirade, to the delight of many loyal Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) fans. This album is more than a statement of Isaiah’s return; It is the journey that he took during his hiatus from music, a journey that started with his addictions to Xanax and alcohol almost getting him kicked out of TDE. A journey that culminated with him becoming a rising star in his own right. The songs on this album can be broken down into two main categories: Isaiah’s drug addiction and his growth from overcoming the addiction.
Xanax and alcohol caused Isaiah to almost get kicked off his label, and it is the same substances that gave him inspiration to rap. The first song from the album, a skit, “Where U At?” gives a little glimpse of what the aforementioned drugs did to his life as Top Dawg, owner of TDE, calls Isaiah’s phone asking when he’s getting the album. He then delves back into the subject on “Wat’s Wrong.” Rapping over an eccentric snare drum beat, Isaiah lets his regret and disappointment in himself shine through as he talks about how his substance abuse led to him almost being dropped from the label and losing everything. The next time he talks about his substance problems is on the song “BDay.” He juxtaposes the effects that the drugs have on him as they make him happy but also scare him as he feels that they take away the control his has over his life. In “Stuck in the Mud” Isaiah talks about how his drug addictions and psychological problems have left him all alone, proverbially stuck in the mud by himself.
All is not lost for young Isaiah, his redemption lies ahead of him, as the drugs and alcohol addiction fades in the rearview mirror. On “Rope // rosegold”, Isaiah talks about his addictions using a rope as a metaphor. He can either use these experiences to hang himself with, or he can use these experiences to get himself out of the hole he finds himself in.
“Park” shines through as the main piece of his comeback. He raps about how battling and defeating his addictions gave him the strength to get over the rest of his problems. “Tity and Dolla” is the first song where Isaiah gets his mojo back. It’s a “stereotypical” rap song in which he and his TDE cohorts rap about their rag to riches life, and how the riches they have out shine to anything else they had in their life before.
An important song in Isaiah’s quest for redemption is “AA”. The song simply talks about his time in Alcoholics Anonymous, and it shows with his friends and family, he has a good support system in place that will ensure that he doesn’t fall into his old rut again.
But at the end of the day, is The Sun’s Tirade a good album? In my opinion, there are two broad criteria that an album has to meet to be a good album. Firstly, is there a message or story that the album is trying to tell, and if so, does the album do it clearly and efficiently?
And secondly, the music. Does the album have intriguing beats? And do the verses have enough substance to them where I can listen to them more than once and not get bored? Like his TDE counterpart, Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad’s first studio album clearly satisfies both stipulations of being a great album. He clearly, efficiently and captivatingly tells us about how his battles with substance abuse made him a bigger and better person. And secondly, he uses overlays an eclectic array of beats with rap lyrics from the heart that combine into phenomenal music that can be listened to multiple times, and that could be used as inspiration.
The album, out of five stars, gets four and a half. It’s not a flashy album — the only features other artists under the TDE label, but Isaiah’s expressiveness, his ability to calmly convey the strife he was under during the two year hiatus he took, pushes the album into an echelon of its own. It has staying power as it is a great album to listen to, but you can also turn to it as a source of inspiration when your own life is full of strife and uncertainty — namely during the semester.
Isaiah Rashad’s first studio release was 2014’s Cilvia Demo (featuring songs like “R.I.P. Kevin Miller “ and “Heavenly Father”). This followed his appointment as one of 2014’s 12 XXL Freshmen (a list of 12 newcomers that hip-hop magazine XXL think will be the next heavyweight rappers).
Currently Rashad is in-between the process of the aftermath of the album’s release and the beginnings of what some think will be a tour (following on the heels of fellow TDE rapper, Schoolboy Q’s Blank Race tour). Nonetheless, one thing can be sure. 2016 has proven to be a good year for Top Dawg Entertainment. With three terrific releases down (and one potential from singer SZA on the way), they’ve made their mark.