Isaiah Rashad Tattoo, Toronto ON, February 27

Isaiah Rashad Tattoo, Toronto ON, February 27
Photo: Kevin Jones
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It took a couple of false starts before Isaiah Rashad's first headlining show in Toronto was off and running, but that's one minor drawback to being young (22) and eager.

First, the breakout rapper's DJ had to rewind his entrance theme, "Hereditary," because he wasn't quite ready for his cue. Then, when Rashad did take to the stage 20 minutes past his scheduled midnight set time, his microphone was turned off. Such technical difficulties might've been death in the Screwface had the intimate crowd of TDE diehards not been so firmly in Rashad's corner, willing to chant along loudly, arms upheld, to every hook on Rashad's month-old Cilvia Demo EP.

"Since y'all know my songs, I'm a little less nervous," admitted the affable Rashad, who bounced and bounded across the stage like he couldn't wait to open his Christmas gifts. After one song, his striped button-down came off and he got down to business in a paisley tee. Fans begged him for high-fives before he had spat a single couplet.

His hair twisted up top like Busta Rhymes circa Tribe's "Scenario" video, Rashad brought dungeon dragon-like energy to the stage, ripping through the bulk of his stellar January 2014 release, including "Modest," "Cilvia Demo" and the impeccable "Menthol." The EP's woozy hooks and smoked-out, jazz-touched beats rang all the more addictive blasted loud over Tattoo's crisp sound system.

But it was Rashad's personality (his surprise at the outpouring of love was genuine) that smoothed over any hitches in the show. The wide-eyed energy this Tennessee kid brings to the already-established Top Dawg Entertainment movement (he'll open for first-stringer ScHoolboy Q on his forthcoming international tour) is not unlike when Young Buck gave G Unit a second wind ten years ago (albeit less knife-wieldy and gun-clap-y, of course).

Even when the rookie's unpolished set ended after 1 a.m., some fans requested "2x Pills," a pre-Cilvia track from his mixtape days. He said he hadn't performed the song in a while, but gave it a whirl anyway.

He came in humble, not expecting anyone would demand an encore, but delivered anyway. Word will travel. When he comes through next time, Isaiah Rashad will need a bigger venue.

Read an interview with Isaiah Rashad here.

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