One of the most frustrating acts of life is having to have patience and wait for the pleasures of life that will fulfill you. That could be the job that breaks things open for you in a big way, it could be a relationship, or it could be a piece of music or movie that you’ve been anticipating for a long time. The expression “patience is a virtue” is true for fans of Top Dawg Entertainment roster of star quality artists, because Jah knows they (self included) wait what feels like damn near eons for anything, but what is always known is that quality art always comes into the fold, which is part of the frustration and admiration for the art that they provide.
But when you step back and analyze the fact that in the state of the ‘drop your music and go’ era, more music being churned out for the masses at a rapid rate, means more music happens to fall by the wayside and don’t get the appropriate attention that they deserve, but I felt a shift during the earlier parts of the pandemic, even though the pandemic itself is nowhere near completion, despite how many of us in North America feel – we’ve still got a ways to go, but this is not for the doom & gloom, since we’re still living through it all. Everything was forced to shut down and take a break, and that was no different for the artists in which we praise & admire. That was probably the best thing for a lot of them, because they had to forcibly confine themselves to their own spaces, to really look within and see what they could possibly do better not only for themselves, but for their art. Comedians, rappers, singers, painters, musicians, athletes, etc. – they all went through the process of having to remain still and be within their own thoughts. For some, it was a very groundbreaking experience to deep dive within themselves to address things that they otherwise cast to the side, because they were always in motion, always doing something, and were easily distracted to the point where they left a majority of their problems chilling on the backburner. In the case of Isaiah Rashad, given that there was a nearly 5-year gap between projects, there were a lot of events that transpired in his life that gave him an in-depth form of perspective that he needed to address before he ended up in a far worse scenario than what he was putting himself through. His interviews on The Fader & Complex confirmed that he was living through his own personal hell, and something had to be done because it was a state of chaos that was going to throw him off the rails, and he knew it.
There’s something about hitting rock bottom that is hard to describe to people who haven’t yet experienced their own version of that. When you feel completely helpless and feel as though there’s no way out of the hole that you’ve dug for yourself, to communicate that to a through the form of music, it’s a very cathartic & therapeutical experience, and The House Is Burning serves as a personal redemption story for Isaiah, from the very beginning. Darkseid is a comic book reference that I won’t even pretend on knowing the connection of the character itself to character of his own life, but through analyzing the lyrics, and the OutKast-inspired production of it, it’s a chant that serves as a calling to those to: 1. Not be so hard on themselves when they get into a dark space, because you can always find your way out, but 2. To be aware of your surroundings and the potential evils that you may have to face, because of the consequences of life, or life’s hardships in general. It’s an enchanting way to start off the album, because it draws you into a dark place at first, but the beauty is that, as you go throughout the album, it doesn’t stay there. I also enjoy the subtle nod to good kid, m.A.A.d city with the tape deck at the top, although gkmc was more so a film reel, it still gave me that similar effect.
“Whatever was under the bunk bed, I ain’t scared, I’m ready
They locked the horns with matadors, okay, don’t get too heavy
He shined his fangs and Cuban chain, okay, don’t get too heavy
They dug a grave, he came alive, okay, don’t get too heavy”
There’s a lot of fun happening on this album in comparison to The Sun’s Tirade, and that’s noticeable on tracks like From the Garden, Lay Wit Ya, Wat U Sed being the most standout, and it makes sense that those were pushed as the singles leading upto the album’s release. But within that fun, the introspection of Isaiah (which is pretty much my favourite version of him) comes out in his usual, but more developed form. RIP Young, Headshots, and All Herb are the standouts for me because where he is in a very relaxed form of delivery, he still hits the points within his lyrics that continue to make him a standout, not only in the rap game itself, but on TDE, where there are heavy hitters that he’s blessed to be amongst.
“Screamin’ at homes and at phones, we all hurtin’
Freakin’ ya soul, like the pack, we all herb
Pay me to feel with the funk, we all need ya
Mixin’ the feel with the facts, we all her”
I was very excited about Headshots being released, since spending a good chunk of time watching the replay of the snippet from his IG Live, in 2020. He’d been dropping a lot of snippets throughout the years, especially with his collaboration with Kenny Beats, so I’m glad that at least two of the most demanded snippets to grace the internet, came to be released (Runnin with ScHoolboy Q, was released just as a video).
“It feel good since a nigga been back
But a nigga done changed, changed, changed, changed, changed
Weed couldn’t settle my fire
Couldn’t cover my pain, pain, pain, pain, pain”
The production quality is smooth all the way through, and although it’s still in the same vein of what we heard with The Sun’s Tirade & Cilvia Demo, it’s noticeable enough that the sophomore album doesn’t connect with the same intensity of the predecessors, because the emotional intensity isn’t the same as what it was 5 years ago, but that’s the purpose of growth, and that’s very evident on this project. This album has a lot of Southern influence, because it’s easy to forget that he’s from Tennessee, so it’s great to have many of the reminders throughout. There’s a lot that can be said about the features as well, because to get new verses from Jay Rock & SZA (whom he’s undefeated with as a duo) was a sign of great things to come from that camp. Jay Worthy’s appearance didn’t feel all the way necessary, because I don’t think that much was added from his POV, but for the purpose of the vibe of True Story, and it having a West Coast feel to it, I can understand it. Given everything that Lil Uzi Vert has been part of, his appearance in the middle of From the Garden was pretty forgettable, which is a shame, because it’s a hype song to start off the album. The change-up of energy throughout the album definitely impacted how I received it at first, and will determine just how much replay value it has, for the future. Also, song length on average, in comparison to The Sun’s Tirade is a big change as well, so there’s a lot to adjust to, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still an enjoyable album.
“Don’t die, my dude
They say it’s finna go down, on bloods
Can’t blame your god
Sometimes you gotta maintain your side
My days too long
Sometimes I wanna lay down and love
Vacay, no time
So how you finna vacay? Get high” – Don’t Shoot
(might be one of the more underrated songs on the album after more time passes)
What I’m overall happy about with Isaiah’s return is that he himself is in a better space mentally where he felt ready to share with his fans & peers alike, just what he was dealing with, and also to see that a great sense of joy from a healing place, has resurfaced. Good things take time to create, some people make the things in shorter spans of time, and are still able to create quality, long lasting art that stands the test of time, which is what it’s all about. Top Dawg Entertainment is a frustrating label to be a fan of at times, because of the amount of time it takes to give the people what they want, but there’s very rarely a delivery of failure on their part, and this album is a reminder of why the old adage remains true that good things come to those who wait. Enjoy this album, ride around to it, have it on in the background, or digest it in a way which fulfills you, but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review,
That’s My Word & It STiXX