Isaiah Rashad | Cilvia Demo [Album Review]

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2013 was a good year for Hip Hop.  Yeezus rose again, Drake’s junior [album] was “meaner”, Hov went platinum.. again. Meanwhile Chicago youngsters Chance, the Rapper and Vic Mensa were seeing more and more of the spotlight, the former now a roommate to James Blake in LA, the latter currently on tour with the biggest name in EDM- Disclosure, who also had a fantastic year with their debut album Settle.  But through all this was TDE, the west coast label who essentially has remained silent since the release of Kendrick Lamar’s GKMC in October of 2012.  Releasing not a single project last year, it seemed TDE was spending its time not in the studio with its current talent, but rather in search of new, raw talent.  Enter 22-year-old, Chattanooga native Isaiah Rashad.  TDE signed the rookie rapper last September and have broken their built up silence with the first of six supposed projects all to be released this year.

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Cilvia Demo acts not only as an introduction to a new name, but also to yet another new perk that sets apart the rappers signed to Top Dawg.  K-Dot brought forth various voices to his flows, where Ab-Soul broadened the boundaries of lyricism in Hip Hop with talk of the pineal gland, third eye, etc.  Isaiah Rashad keeps his focus on pondering themes and vocal layering, often bringing two separate flows that are played out in sync, resulting in a demanding sound that matches his vocal themes which all have one thing in common: to make a statement.  The tracks are all sewn together with this certain glow that streamlines the album and presents itself with ease, a delicious meal to be consumed.

Track 4 being “R.I.P. Kevin Miller” is no accident, as listeners will well be into rotation by the album’s eighth minute.  Here we are presented with a subtle hook, but more importantly a relentless MC that goes about it with a low and direct flow – matched with a distorted ride, making his rhymes bolder; firm enough to make sure he gets his point across.  “I got dreams, I got bitches, I got hooks you can buy em” he taunts his crowd; his confident diction demands attention.  But for a rapper of such charisma, he rarely gets in anyones face – always intimate but not always obviously intimate.  See “West Savannah” where he stays in the background the whole time, riding the track with little to no apparent effort, “I travel… for you.”; this red sunset hazed setting crushed immediately by the steady, swollen bass, flirtatious piano keys, and the ever-present, hookless Isaiah in “Soliloquy”.

Production throughout Cilvia Demo falters almost never, every sound carefully placed into its rightful position.  Notice the culmination of sounds on “Tranquility”, where Rashad cushions the track’s gorgeous keys with the albums most intimate moment yet – a hook that includes a paradoxical statement “Thank God for the shooter, and thank God for the leader” and revolves around us being “tranquil for a Brutus”, it being a “hard road for a Caesar”.  Et tu Brute?  Turns out the man on top and the man that kills him both play their own part.  Hip Hop has been loaded with ignorance for too long, missing this type of warmth; funny that Zay refers to classic poetry to remind us that Hip Hop is poetry in our modern world.  Who’s the Caesar of tomorrow?  He’ll surely be conquered.

“I came, I saw, I conquered.. I shot you down”, Rashad wraps up the project with the albums first appearance of any TDE teammates – Q and Jay Rock.  As the track’s gentle ghost of a flute carries the seven minute closer, Isaiah Rashad  leaves his listener in a state of bewilderment, with curiosity,  better for the experience.  Cilvia Demo paves the path for TDE in what will be their biggest year yet.  Lest we forget that this is Isaiah Rashad’s debut project and stands out with clear originality, needing not/ having hardly any guest slots, and holds to damn near flawless production consistently, leaving the bar set at high stakes for any following acts. – Seth Litz

9.5/10

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