Isaiah Rashad Is at the Top of His Game on 'The House Is Burning'

BY Wesley McLeanPublished Aug 4, 2021

Top Dawg Entertainment has had a stranglehold on hip-hop for about a decade now, proving time and time again that their roster contains some of today's most creative and forward-thinking hip-hop and R&B artists. From SZA and ScHoolboy Q to Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar, the label's output has consistently been tremendously successful and incredibly impactful, with Kendrick cementing his legacy as one of the greatest rappers to ever do it — but their roster has always had more to offer beyond just their biggest stars. 

Since 2014, Isaiah Rashad has been the label's secret weapon, with his debut Cilvia Demo and his 2016 follow-up The Sun's Tirade being two of TDE's best projects thanks to Rashad's clear understanding of his strengths alongside his innate aptitude for creating and curating an atmosphere. With his latest project, The House Is Burning, Rashad has delivered the most complete depiction of just how well those qualities come together.

Beyond just a style or a sound, there's a certain texture to every song on this LP that is unquestionable and undeniably Isaiah Rashad. His music manages to be distinctly and unapologetically Southern while basking in a hypnotic, borderline-psychedelic ambience, mixed in a way that makes it feel warmly lo-fi while also maintaining a crisp and precise sound quality that maximizes every aspect. His vision is so clear and concise that it brings every track together, creating an incredibly enjoyable experience that feels complete, thoroughly conceived and just as well executed.

This would be an impressive feat for any other album, but what makes The House Is Burning all the more impressive is that it does it all while juggling various features, shifts in style and changes in tempo without Rashad missing a step. Nothing on this album feels out of place, no matter how drastically different one song might be from another — it's sequenced that well. Even songs like the crunk-tinged lead single "Lay Wit Ya" featuring Duke Deuce or the Lil Uzi Vert-assisted banger "From the Garden" manage to feel right at home sandwiching the smooth, laidback "RIP Young," regardless of the differences in tone and energy.

This isn't new for Rashad, but it's much more refined here. It's the result of years of mastering and perfecting his craft. He knows what sounds suit him, emphasizing his ability to use his voice as yet another instrumental layer whether rapping or singing. The album's fantastic production is elevated by Rashad's level of comfort, and the fluidity of his rapping and singing styles complement the beats perfectly.

It's normal for an artist who disappears for five years after an album to have a lot of heavy expectations placed upon them and their return, and in a lot of cases, that expectation becomes their greatest adversary. With The House Is Burning, however, Isaiah Rashad has returned as sharp as ever, delivering an album that houses some of the best material that he's ever released. The album never lulls over its 16-track runtime; instead, it finds an artist who's taken his time away from the spotlight back in a good space, building upon an already strong foundation to result in with the most complete project he's released. Isaiah Rashad is now three for three, and only getting better.
(Top Dawg)

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