Isaiah Rashad, a rapper who also often sings, is finally able to take a breather after two difficult years of making and releasing an album. His breather is somewhat short, though, because soon enough he will be on tour, including a Jan. 21 date at The Sett.
North Carolina-born Rashad said he’s spent the past two months enjoying downtime with his two kids during the holidays, while also preparing for his upcoming performances across the country.
He’s completely cut out red meat, a move that he’s found has led to an unexpected boost in energy. Perhaps more than the widespread acclaim he’s received for his dazzling The Sun’s Tirade LP, Rashad is also psyched that his daughter has completed potty training at an early age.
This calm after the storm, with another one looming in the near future, has given the 25-year-old some much-needed time to appreciate the present as well as take a look back and ahead.
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While Rashad’s songs have a living, breathing quality that erodes the wall between him and the listener, he said a key process in making his two records, The Sun’s Tirade and 2014’s sleeper Cilvia Demo EP, was actually adding a layer of separation between himself and his surroundings. As in his lyrics, Rashad was quick to offer a simile, comparing this process to being like a journalist.
“I gather my resources. That’s what I mean as far as like, disconnecting,” Rashad said. “I can’t get away from everything. But I can take a step back from it and try to look at it objectively.”
These “resources” are an interesting facet to Rashad’s creative process in their own right. He said he’s trained himself how to think in lyrics, which allows him to go through his daily life constantly in search for sequiturs, punchlines or whatever he needs to aid him in his professional life as an emcee.
He’s now able to be in this state, he said, because of certain years at a young age where all he wanted to do, and did, was write.
“It came from always trying to keep rhythm to a rhyme, always trying to freestyle and writing in my head,” Rashad said. For a while everything kind of felt like it was a poem — I was just spitting all the time.”
This focus on the everyday seeps from his creative process into his output. One only has to look at his “Free Lunch” music video for a prime example.
The visual depicts everyday folk going to the laundromat to exchange cash, not for clothes, but for the objects that represent their aspirations, whether that be some groceries or a platinum record. He said the concept for the video came from his desire to show what thoughts and dreams lay below the surface layer of people’s everyday lives.
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Still, even though these “resources” are extracted from his everyday life, Rashad writes about them in ways that are relatable, but not generalized. His own struggles stand in for those of the listeners—his successes even more so.
Rashad pointed to comic book writers as some of his inspiration for how he’s able to accomplish this. He explained that comics depict complex characters and worlds in simple language so they are relatable and easily digestible for the reader. Rashad then emulates this method in his lyrics, he said, by placing a ton of thought into what he’s writing, his own complicated characters and situations, while keeping the literal wording as simple as possible.
The process for The Sun’s Tirade also featured many firsts for Rashad in general. He got to release “Rope,” a song with no rapping. He was also much more hands-on in the post-production mixing phases, and he got to work with many more people than in the past due to his gained resources.
If 2016 was a big year for Rashad, then 2017 is poised to be even bigger and better. He’s stoked for his show in Madison, and he affirmed his audience should be as well.
In his typical concise, yet resonant style, he offered simple instructions to all of us in Madison.