Perhaps we hold Isaiah Rashad to a higher standard simply because it’s easy to compare him to the already established bigger brothers of TDE, yet all of the Black Hippy crew had slow starts too – even Kendrick had to make (O)verly (D)edicated before he got to Section.80, and while that one might’ve been the best or second-best hip-hop release of 2011, it wasn’t perfect.
But it does not help that TDE seems to demand their artists deliver albums that “optimize” the available space of the compact disc: the worst example was Ab-Soul’s clueless These Days… and only Jay Rock’s 90059 seems to be exception so far. But albums like ScHoolboy Q’s recent Black Face LP, Ab-Soul’s Control System and Kendrick Lamar’s albums manage to justify their runtimes through great beats and rapping. This one has a comparatively lower average on both fronts.
Put another way: this is Isaiah Rashad’s version of Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, a debut album that had a longer than normal gestation period due to personal reasons from both artists after a hyped breakthrough (the EARL mixtape versus the Clivia Demo EP/album). Both Doris and The Sun’s Tirade are filled with sleepy beats, are overly long, and while Earl Sweatshirt sounded mechanical and detached through most of that album, Isaiah Rashad has yet to really develop his persona/presence. In other words, background music with enough “umph” on the drum to keep you awake, and definitely not deserving of the “new [insert rapper] got me like [insert dance gif]” or “new [insert rapper] is [insert fire gif]” memes that always get circulated whenever something new drops.
Specific examples? Sure: Isaiah Rashad wastes a Mike Will production with his zoned out flow; “Dressed Like Rappers” is dark synths and the lines, “I can’t admit / I’ve been depressed, I hit a wall, ouch”, could have been a revelatory line about Rashad’s battles since Clivia Demo but ends up unintentionally hilarious due to the zoned out delivery; “By George (Outro)” is even more dark synths and even more zoned out rapping (“I heard the moon ain’t got no sandwich?”); “Park” and “Find a Topic” are filler, etc. And the bipartite “Rope // rosegold” isn’t actually bipartite: it’s two songs stitched together by some silence; more Chance the Rapper’s “Pusha Man” than a smooth beat switch.
Not to say that there aren’t highlights: Rashad finally wakes up in the presence of Kendrick Lamar on “Wat’s Wrong”: there’s no real point to singling out a line or two as Rashad shoots a steady but rapid clip of syllables throughout the entire verse but my favorite is the way he leaps from “If we honest, you gon’ miss a nigga / Twisted with ‘em, this the isms” to “See your bitch might kiss a nigga, which nigga? Get specific.” And of course, Kendrick Lamar hooks Rashad up with a show-stealing verse with unique rhymes and rhyme schemes: “homonyms” with “mom ‘n’ em” with “haunted him”; “Gemini” with “He and I” with “criticized.” It helps that the chorus is a catchy melody and the beat is gorgeous: a wafting female vocal that reminds me of RZA’s “Ice Cream.”
Other highlights include the jittering guitar sample of “Free Lunch” and how Chris Calor channels Sounwave with the interplay of the starry synth and reverberated saxophone on the night-time jazz of “Brenda”; “Don’t Matter” is a much-needed shot of adrenaline in the sleepy second half of the album. And sometimes Rashad’s zoned out flow manages to work with the beat or the surroundings: the backing vocals repeating Rashad’s lines on “Rope” or when he’s joined by Syd (from the Internet) on love-song “Silkk da Shocka” (produced by Steve Lacy, responsible for a handful of tracks from the Internet’s Ego Death) or SZA on “Stuck in the Mud.”
But overall, I don’t find there to be enough of anything to justify the length, or, I’m sure, the praise this one will receive. A tirade indeed… there’s more to the night than the lack of sun.
EDIT (August 25, 2017): underrated this one: the four track run from 2-5 is hooky (“If I can pay my bills, I’m good, I’m comin’ over”; “Meal ticket, ticket, meal ticket, ticket, comma, uh”), rhythmic (the jittery guitar of “Free Lunch” to the drums/bass combination of “Rope”) and on “Wat’s Wrong,” the best rapping on the album from both Isaiah Rashad and Kendrick Lamar. To say nothing of how those tracks manage a practically tangible night-time (ie. the string detail on “Free Lunch”). Overall, I think more of his voice than his ability to rap.