Where in the World is Isaiah Rashad?
Most mainstream rappers nowadays have predictable trajectories, returning year after year to push the boundaries and present their newest project to the public. You’ve heard it a hundred times before. It’s rare for artists to slow their roll as fame increases and the demand rises for their art. Unfortunately this has created an unhealthy expectation for most high-quality musical acts in our day. Breaks, hiatus’, even departures from previous sounds are rarely met with praise from the fandom that successful artists build. Isaiah Rashad is no stranger to this phenomenon. After 4 years of sparse releases following incredible hype, his cult following- and the rest of the industry- is on the edge of the seat waiting for Rashad to re-enter the scene.
Early September in Chattanooga, Tennessee saw Isaiah Rashad McClain born to a small family. With his father leaving early in his childhood, the young man spent his growing up with street and religious influences on both sides. A gifted copy of Outkast’s ATLiens would change his path forever, giving him the inspiration needed to begin working on his rapping talent, eventually breaking through the local scene, joining grassroots collectives and expanding his network. This led to him landing a spot on the 2012 Smoker’s Club Tour, with fellow contemporaries like Juicy J, Chip Tha Ripper, and Joey Bada$$. Quickie growing a fanbase, Rashad would continually drop singles here and there to feed the growing demand, but his projects to follow would propel him to heights much greater.
Top Dawg On The Scene
Following his rapid ascent to the headlines of concerts and hip hop sites alike, many labels attempted to recruit the exciting prospect to their roster. Although at first he was hesitant to sign with anyone, the famous Top Dawg Entertainment label led by Kendrick Lamar was able to scoop him up and provide him with the ability to produce at a more deserving caliber, on top of even more exposure. Soon after, his debut EP Cilvia Demos would be released under the new deal. With limited features (including two from label mate SZA) and lyrics bursting with personality, Isaiah would go on to place 40th on the Billboard 200 chart, introducing the rest of the world to his bouncy, captivating tracks. With winding vocals and the perfect ratio of swagger to vulnerability, all eyes were turned to the rapper as he was hard at work touring and preparing his debut album.
The Sun’s Tirade was released in 2016, and subsequently shot up to 17th on the Billboard 200 chart, followed by an extended 24-stop tour across the United States. Gaining followers at breakneck speed, Rashad watched his audience grow rapidly. Having found his signature sound, he was able to present a mature, cohesive project that showcased his strengths. Rashad is more than just a rapper, he’s a vocalist. Bending his bars around the ebb and flow of the curated instrumentals, the emotion and pace conveyed in each song is unique, touching on subjects such as drug addiction, broken relationships, and the struggles of fame mixed with family life. Isaiah Rashed was your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, and he seemed destined to go only upwards, but then, unexpectedly, he went dark.
Where’s The Album?
The culture reacts to artists in select ways these days. While everyone wants to hear their favorite act’s newest projects, expectations can vary wildly from musician to musician. Kendrick Lamar is known to take his time between albums, maintaining little media buzz while still being held on a pedestal by most hip hop heads. Meanwhile, if Lil Mosey dropped off the face of the earth for a few years his entire career would be in jeopardy. Isaiah Rashad is a unique case in which he is an artist who is respected for his talent and musical skills to the point where people understand that time is necessary for him to perfect his craft for each chapter; despite this, it only takes one glance at his Instagram comment section to see the attitude that awaits him from his fan section. To save you the time, I’ll sum it up: “WHERE’S THE ALBUM BRO,” “GIVE US THE MUSIC,” and “THE WORLD NEEDS YOU.”
Despite the security that comes with knowing you have an eager cult following, one can only imagine how an incessant and loud fan base can affect an artist’s mentality when they are clearly unable, or not ready to showcase their newest music. During the course of these two projects, Rashad has been through dramatic lifestyle changes. From kicking addiction to becoming a father to a young son and daughter, he has been experiencing both pain and growth behind the scenes, as his stans pound at the door to his personal life, demanding that they get the content they “deserve.”
A New Era
On top of this, Isaiah has commented on previous label difficulties in the past. While admitting that it was not one-sided and that he was at fault many times, Top Dawg Entertainment is a label known to make interesting scheduling choices when it comes to their roster of rappers and singers. To help sate the hunger of its fan base, the California based record company unveiled a Fan Appreciation Week, which included Isaiah Rashad’s first single in 4 years, Why Worry. With a nostalgic sounding sample and an edge to his voice, the man reminds us that he’s still here, and emerging from the hiatus as powerful and capable as ever.
The media aims to depict real life but anyone truly in touch can understand that you can’t take any post of story without a grain of salt. Rarely do we know the true story going on behind the scenes! It’s important to tread carefully when giving your thoughts on the events of another person’s life that you see only through your screen. Gratefully, we get to see more of Rashad nowadays. With new posts hinting at upcoming music, encouraging comments from fellow label mates, and even a new alt account on Instagram (the casual @growuprashad) we are finally able to see a future again with Isaiah’s work. With experiences to convey and stories to tell, we all wait – patiently – for his next move.
While we wait for Rashad to join the upper echelon of rappers, check out who we look up to in our LNN Top 5 Rapper’s of all time picks.