The latest release from Compton-based label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) is Isaiah Rashad’s debut LP “The Sun’s Tirade,” a hazy and dense production addressing topics like fame, addiction and depression. Throughout the record, the slow hip hop instrumentals complement Rashad’s flow and knack for lyricism, with frequent shifts in vocal inflections and singing styles keeping the experience varied yet cohesive when viewed at as a whole project.
Isaiah Rashad shares stylistic similarities with labelmate and good friend Kendrick Lamar. Instrumentally, “Tirade” sounds reminiscent of projects like “good kid, m.A.A.d city” with beats that have a vinyl distortion track underlying them, giving the album a distinctly lo-fi feel that contrasts Rashad’s modern flows throughout the record.
In “Free Lunch” and “Wat’s Wrong” Rashad showcases his vocal versatility while throwing down some melancholic lyrics about the struggles of his past, from being on free lunch programs while in school to feeling like his progress is stagnating. The latter track features Lamar with a fiery verse that feels right at home with the hazy instrumental that is decidedly one of his stronger environments musically. The guitar and sample heavy instrumentals make for a musical experience reminiscent of Flatbush Zombies’ last album. Rashad’s flow cements “The Sun’s Tirade” as a trademark TDE project.
Lyrically, “Tirade” explores various avenues of Rashad’s psyche, addressing topics from growing up in an underprivileged environment to struggling with depression and addiction. Before this project, Rashad struggled for years with an addiction to Xanax and alcohol, and his journey to sobriety and success is documented in songs like “Rope // rosegold.” The album shifts emotionally between melancholic reminiscence and celebratory tracks which help to balance the otherwise heavy subject matter.
While “The Sun’s Tirade” has many positive traits, it falls short on variety of style. The whole project is mellow, and while this isn’t necessarily a problem, the album loses some steam as songs start to sound a bit too similar from track to track. The instrumentals on the album, while smooth and well produced, share similarities to the point where it can be hard to remember which song is which.
Overall, on this latest album Isaiah Rashad delivers an admirable collection of tracks with mellow instrumentation, deep lyricism and a variety of flows and vocal styles. However, this cohesiveness comes more from the lack of stylistic variety throughout the album than an actual thematic thread.
Rashad’s talents are on full display in “Tirade,” though he is outclassed technically on some songs with features. On “Wat's Wrong,” Lamar’s verse overshadows Rashad’s parts.
In general, not many of the tracks on the album are particularly memorable or exciting, and as a result the album itself feels ultimately forgettable for all but the staunchest of hip-hop heads. Despite its downfalls, “The Sun’s Tirade” is still worth a listen if only for the vibes that it exudes and the classic hip hop instrumentals on display, even if you won’t remember too many specific moments or songs.
Tracks: “Free Lunch,” “Rope // rosegold,” “Wat's Wrong”
If you like: Kendrick Lamar, Flatbush Zombies
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment