Thursday, 13 March 2014
Isaiah Rashad is one of TDE's newest members, and unlike the other Black Hippy members that reside from California, Isaiah is from Chattanooga Tennessee, however it is very difficult to pick up on his southern style. If I didn't know any better I would've thought he was also from California because his rhymes and flows bleed West-Coast Hip-Hop (at least to me). I didn't know what to expect going in to this project due to the minimum amount of material I heard from Isaiah, however the BET Cypher did impress me and the track Ronnie Drake was very smooth and enjoyable so I was hoping Isaiah would turn out to be a star lyricist because of being signed to such an influential rap label. So when the album was released, I downloaded it and listened to it and was pleasantly surprised with what I got.
From first listen, you can easily pick up the theme of father issues and abandonment from tracks like Hereditary, Soliloquy, Heavenly Father and others. Throughout the album, Isaiah raps about how his father has left him and how he learned to cope with a fatherless life. However, he also raps about how he has a son now himself, and how he doesn't wanna become a spitting image of his father. Isaiah does this over smooth and atmospheric production that is absolutely stellar. He doesn't use the TDE producers but has his own team which supply him with the best beats that suit his style. Some might complain the album sounds too samey, but Isaiah's performance on these beats make the album worthwhile. The title track is excellent where Isaiah raps over one of the best beats on the album about his relationships and his new-born son. It has a very catchy hook, which is something I feel the album benefits from - dope hooks. R.I.P. Kevin Miller is another standout track, with the smoothest feel and the catchiest hook. It incorporates Masta P's hook from R.I.P. Kevin and he does it very well. He raps with two or more inflections and layers them on top of each other bring a lot of diversity to the tracks.
Soliloquy is by far my favorite track because it has the most gruesome and hardest beat that is absolutely infectious and Isaiah spits some of the his best bars that include clever wordplay, metaphors and double entendres. Lines like "Don't you put me on freshman covers, I'm posing with lunch", and "If you gon' be trippin' like a bitch, you should be a mom" stick out to me and the way he starts the track off by saying he left his dad was original to me. At less than 2 minutes, I believe Isaiah's skill as an MC and lyricist can be clearly outlined in that track. Another standout track is Menthol with great flow from Isaiah and and nicely sung hook by Jean Deaux. Heavenly Father is also a beautiful song, where Isaiah raps about his fatherless past, his spirituality and his way of life, and its done over a peaceful and smooth beat. The last track Shot You Down with Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q shows how Isaiah can hold his own with heavyweights. However Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q murder their verses and add a lot to the original version of the song. All three of them have ferocious verses, no prisoners were taken. I would've loved to see Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul contribute to that song as well.
In conclusion, Isaiah Rashad managed to amaze me with a completely original project that has great beats, lyrics and flows. It seems like Isaiah is absolutely comfortable making this type of music and I hope he blows up like the other TDE members and gets the recognition he deserves. I still listen to this album and it has great replay value so be sure to check it out. It is probably my favorite release of the year so far!
Favorite Track(s): Webbie Flow, Cilvia Demo, R.I.P. Kevin Miller, Soliloquy, Tranquility, Menthol, Heavenly Father, Banana.
Least Favorite Track(s): Modest
While not my favorite TDE member, I have always preferred ScHoolboy Q over Jay Rock (Kendrick and Ab-Soul are easily my favorites) because I always felt like he was a bit more original and diverse. Don't get me wrong I love Jay Rock, but ScHoolboy had the better album with Habits & Contradictions and has better production on his tracks. I felt like Habits & Contradictions was a great album, but it wasn't one that I revisited much because it did have a lot of filler for me. Tracks like Sacrilegious, THere He Go, Hands on the WHeel, and Blessed were stellar, but many other tracks were forgettable. But ScHoolboy has progressed over the past couple of years and after the set backs for this album, I was getting excited to see how Oxymoron would turn out. And upon release, I was happy with what ScHoolboy Q released.
I would like to say that from the first listen I wasn't very impressed because I thought many tracks were underwhelming, but from the second listen and on, the album clicked with me. The album starts off with Gangsta, a song with a very chilling piano based beat and ScHoolboy goes off and raps about his drug dealing days. ScHoolboy Q may not be the most lyrical rapper, but his enthusiasm and energy make his songs awesome. Los Awesome follows and it is easily one of my favorite tracks because of its high energy. I wasn't hot on it at first because of the way they dealt with ScHoolboy's voice, but it definitely grew on me. The beat sounds like something Swizz Beats would produce, but it is produced by Pharrell and it sounds very dense and energetic. Jay Rock drops a great verse as usual and fits in perfectly with the beat. Collard Greens comes next which features King Kendrick himself who drops a great verse partially rapped in Spanish which sounds fantastic. ScHoolboy does his thing too and the beat sounds experimental, but it works for the album's favor. I wasn't hot on this track at first, but within the context of the album it sounds great. Then the album hits a low point for me.
WHat THey Want with 2 Chainz is probably my least favorite track on the album because because I did not enjoy the atmospheric beat and 2 Chainz had a very weak verse. While ScHoolboy dropped solid verses, the beat and the hook didn't work at all for me and I usually feel the need to skip this track when I listen to the album. The album picks right back up with Hoover Street, a very conceptual track were ScHoolboy displays his lyrical ability. He raps about his childhood growing up in a violent environment watching his uncle steal, do drugs and commit crimes. He also raps about how his involvement in this environment shaped him and his actions. The beat sounds very menacing and ScHoolboy rides the beat very well with a great flow. Then there's Studio which is a great song for the ladies that has commercial appeal. Prescription/Oxymoron follows which is a pair of heartbreaking and emotional songs. ScHoolboy raps about his past drug addiction and seeing his daughter attempting to wake him up from his overdoses and how that almost ruined his life. He then transitions into talking about how he now sells drugs and not taking them, but for the reason of supporting his daughter which bring the concept of the album into fruition.
The Purge is a great dark track produced by Tyler the Creator and features a fantastic verse from Kurupt. However, the next track, Blind THreats with Raekwon, is easily another favorite. ScHoolboy raps about feeling the need to leave the drug-selling lifestyle and praying to God his sins be washed away. However he feels like if God won't help him he'll have to resort to more violence to meet ends meet. Raekwon drops a stellar verse on this track making it even more enjoyable. Break THe Bank produced by The Alchemist is another favorite with a great hook and excellent production. Man of THe Year is a great banger and the album ends on a high note with Fuck LA. (Although I am not a fan of the song His & Her Friend at all)
In conclusion, I feel ScHoolboy Q dropped a very cohesive and enjoyable album that I personally believe outdoes what he attempted to to with Habits & Contradictions. I feel like a lot of people are hating on this album because of the amount of anticipation it had. However, I don't understand why. Did they think this was gonna be on par with good kid m.A.A.d city? I believe that is an unfair thing to do because ScHoolboy is a completely different artist from Kendrick. He does music in his own lane and I believe he pulled it off well on Oxymoron. ScHoolboy proved that he can keep up with legends and his ear for beats still benefits him when it comes to making bangers, slow jams and introspective tracks. TDE is starting off strong this year and it only makes me even more excited for the remaining 4 projects to be released from this label. I also hope Black Hippy does come together and release a mixtape this year.
Favorite Track(s): Gangsta, Los Awesome, Collard Greens, Hoover Street, Prescription/Oxymoron, Blind Threats, Break THe Bank, Man of THe Year.
Least Favorite Tracl(s): WHat THey Want, His & Her Friend