Isaiah Rashad pays homage to Tennessee hip hop throughout the album
Right off the bat, the Chattanooga native incorporates Dirty South hip hop to jumpstart his third album, sampling classic Tennessee artists Project Pat (on RIP Young) and Three 6 Mafia (on Lay Wit Ya) within the first four songs. He stays true to the fundamentals of his predecessors’ music, while reimagining trap beats and the chopped-and-screwed aesthetic to fit his own artistic vision.
Isaiah Rashad is at peak form on melody-driven songs where mellow raps blur into soulful whispers
You might still refer to Isaiah Rashad as a rapper, but the songs on THIB will make you seriously question that label. On his last album, The Sun’s Tirade, Rashad thrived when he mellowed out and recorded music that sounded like he was rapping himself to sleep late at night. He found his voice through these hazy and hypnotic deliveries on standout tracks like Bday, Silkk Da Shocka, and 4r Da Squaw. On THIB, Rashad chills out even more, relying on his knack for writing hooks to steer his strained whisper-raps. The Score, All Herb, Headshots, and HB2U are just some of the prime examples of Rashad’s ability to craft an unmistakable post-rap ambiance. (Check out our recent article breaking down the evolution of GoldLink’s music, and how, like Rashad, he’s expanded his sound by shrinking his voice).
Closing track HB2U is a highlight, with Rashad optimistically wandering outside of hip hop and into Tame Impala’s world of psychedelic rock
HB2U (happy birthday 2 u) is on our short-list for favorite songs of the year. Partly because the raps at the beginning are dope (and personal), but mainly because the second half of the song appears out of thin air, with Rashad blessing us with something unlike anything we’ve ever heard from him before. The first half is basically Rashad rapping over an R&B slow jam (his newfound sweet spot), before it transforms into him declaring his rebirth over music that drips with psychedelia. Not only is it exciting that he ends the album by giving us a taste of this new style, but it’s also intimately hopeful, especially coming from someone who has battled addiction in his past, as tells himself: “you are now, a human being.”
THIB is Rashad’s most cohesive album
You could argue the peaks on THIB may not be as high as those on his other albums (Wat’s Wrong, Shot You Down), but as a holistic project, it’s Rashad’s best achievement yet. In what could be considered a risky move, he pivoted away from rapping and fully committed to utilizing his voice as a mood-setting melody-manipulating instrument. Thanks in part to a portfolio of smartly-curated production and a complementary guest list, the music on THIB is extremely cohesive without ever being dull. And yet, THIB’s greatest strength is its ability to replace Rashad’s vivid personal narratives with a more casual chilled-out aesthetic, while not sacrificing any of the intimacy.
TDE has been quiet. Is Rashad spearheading a new wave of releases?
SZA has had 2 excellent singles recently (Good Days and Hit Different), but there’s still no word on a release date for her new album as of writing this. Kendrick has been radio silent since his Pulitzer prize-winning DAMN. Ab-Soul’s last album came out in 2016, and even Schoolboy Q’s most recent album Crash Talk came out over 2 years ago. Maybe Rashad is batting leadoff hitter for a stacked TDE lineup that’s ready to come out swinging in the second half of 2021? We can only hope so.