Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: N/A
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, Hardcore Rap
The previously Los Angeles-centered TDE crew's adoption of a Southern member isn't so strange. Since they already feel like a modern iteration of the Dungeon Family approach that has seeped into the second-generation Cali gangsta, finding an inverse in Isaiah Rashad makes perfect sense. He's an OutKast fan from the South who's also comfortable in the context of a West Coast that gave us Labcabincalifornia and Me Against the World the same year.
Signing with the hottest label in the rap game brings forth unwieldy expectations. Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Kendrick Lamar have all established their place in the game and have rocketed Top Dawg Entertainment to a position among the elite. While this enables the artists to reach a wider audience than ever, it also opens the door for many more fans and critics to voice their opinions if they don’t feel you live up to the hype, as Schoolboy Q is soon to discover with the release of Oxymoron The newest member of TDE is in the toughest position of all, as he has no major projects under his belt and is being thrust right into the spotlight.
One BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher rhyme is all it took to catapult Chattanooga, Tennessee native Isaiah Rashad into the mainstream consciousness. Ultimately though, it was not a case of what he said, but who he said it with—appearing alongside the rising in Rap prominence, Top Dawg Entertainment crew—that mattered. However, it’s in recalling the moments that made us initially love another rapper (with a government name similar to Rashad’s) once known by two names—Common Sense—that makes his 14-track debut Cilvia Demo a hopeful sign for more intriguing and insightful material to come.
The opening track on Isaiah Rashad's latest mixtape clocks in at just one and a half minutes but still lays the groundwork for the entire EP by sharing lessons Rashad learned - and hasn't been able to entirely unlearn - from his father. In the single verse, Rashad explains: "My daddy taught me how to drink my pain away, my daddy taught me how to leave somebody." The following 13 tracks unapologetically reflect on where the 22-year-old is today. Like TDE labelmate Kendrick Lamar's, Rashad's distinctive voice and raw, heartfelt rhymes hit hard.
Chattanooga, Tennessee MC Isaiah Rashad is the latest recruit to Top Dawg Entertainment, and on a team that includes the likes of Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock, he's clearly the raw and talented rookie. On Cilvia Demo, Rashad isn't trying to hide he's a work in progress — after all, the EP cover features scratched-out titles like "Pieces of A Kid," the name of an unfinished project of his that never surfaced. Over Cilvia Demo's soulful, enveloping ambience, Rashad isn't shy to share his influences either: "Brad Jordan" is titled after rapper Scarface's government name, "R.I.P.
Props to the good people at Top Dawg Entertainment for finding their fifth starter, Isaiah Rashad, in a place nobody else was looking. Chattanooga is known for a few things, probably (nothing springs to mind, honestly), but rap has never been one of them. Despite being just a couple hours northwest of Atlanta, Chattanooga has only recently been placed on the genre’s map thanks to the native it has in Rashad.
Coming out of Chattanooga, Tennessee with a style much wiser than his 22 years would suggest, rapper Isaiah Rashad makes his official debut with Cilvia: Demo, a strange and wonderful EP with some minor reservations. Here, Rashad combines the eye-level view lyrics of Kendrick Lamar with challenging music that takes cloud-rap to another, more abstract level. "I Shot You Down" is the boldest example, with complaints of growing up in an area where the "role models, so hollow" before the rapper erupts in a "you can suck my d*ck!" moment that stings like few others, a learned/gangsta mash-up that's repeated elsewhere and could be considered the theme of this EP.
Major Lazer, Apocalypse Soon EP Diplo's Major Lazer project lends itself to the EP format. Its spastic, booty-shaking, dancehall-tinged music is best in brief doses, and it usually struggles when it is tasked to maintain momentum and attention for thirty-plus minutes. I'm disappointed, then, that Apocalypse Soon struggles to keeps things interesting over its modest seventeen minute run.
Mere moments into Cilvia Demo you get the feeling that young Isaiah Rashad is still searching for meaning. Throughout his pilgrimage, within sundry soundscapes, he grapples with his own existence as a product of both inherited behaviors and conditioned ones. His journey is one of self-discovery; outside of cultivating a rather pious love for the rap of surrounding regions he isn’t actually sure how many aspects of his identity are self-curated.