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“The House is Burning” and Isaiah Rashad’s Return to Relevance

     It’s been 7 years since Isaiah Rashad dropped his phenomenal debut album: “Cilvia Demo.”  Two years later his follow-up: “The Sun’s Tirade” dropped to critical acclaim.  It appeared Isaiah Rashad was set to follow in the footsteps of his TDE brethren straight to the top of rap superstardom.  But then he didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, Isaiah Rashad didn’t “fall off”, go crazy or lose fans.  In fact, his fans are some of the most ardent in the game. He just sort of disappeared.  At a time when he could have rocketed up the charts, he decided to take a step back.  And I love him for that. It’s what makes “The House is Burning” such a pivotal moment in his career.

     “The House is Burning” is a carefully crafted and relevant work of art.  Rashad is honest, real and most importantly, vulnerable.  Every choice feels like a struggle within his own mind and that struggle is what makes this album so great.  Join me as we break down the nuances of “The House is Burning” and what it means for the young rapper from Tennessee.

  • “The House is Burning” by Isaiah Rashad
    • Released July 30, 2021
    • 48:26, 16 songs
    • Standout Tracks:
      1. “RIP Young”
      2. “Headshots (4r Da Locals)
      3. “HB2U”

The House is Burning”

“If I was you, I’d be dead”

– Darkseid

     Listening to Isaiah Rashad is like getting on a roller coaster.  Sometimes it starts off slow as the listener eases into the song. The beat slowly builds to a crescendo as Rashad’s voice rumbles along with us to the top.  Other times, he starts spitting immediately on arrival leaving us gasping for breath as the song trucks along.  This album is full of those moments.  Rashad has mastered the art of fitting his unique style to any beat and riding the melody in a way that only he can.  On “Lay Wit Ya” he croons “Last year you was my bitch now you my baby girl” in such a smooth way that his voice is in lock step with the beat.  By the time his verse hits, your head is already bobbing to punchlines that haven’t even left his mouth yet.  

     That type of ability is what made Isaiah a rising star in the first place.  He accomplishes a similar feat on “Headshots” as he croons a chorus that is both macabre and uplifting:

“Okay, you caught me by surprise in my brand new whip, baby

Peep me in the scope, if I’m gone, don’t trip, baby

Bringin’ back the strong, up to bat, all hits, baby”

– Headshots (4r Da Locals)

Two Sides, One Coin

On one hand, Rashad has accepted the inevitably of death with lines like “If I’m gone, don’t trip” but he’s also flexing his skills with his “up to bat, all hits” line. He fits this dichotomy in an incredibly catchy hook over one of the smoothest beats on the album.  Then follows up it up with one of his best verses on the album starting off with “Who want a shot, wanna die? // Lemme know, I got two on the hip and the knot, no diggity.”

     It’s not a surprise that “Lay wit Ya” and “Headshots (4r Da Locals)” are the first two singles off “The House is Burning“.  They encapsulate everything that is great about Isaiah Rashad. Each song is a mirror into his psyche and also his upbringing. Zay will always be an amalgam of the music he grew up listening to.  At times you hear Andre 3000 in his crooning, 3-6 mafia or Big Boi in his verses.  UGK in the way he cruises over the album’s production and Scarface in the way he keeps it real for his listeners.  However that’s not to say Isaiah is a copycat.  He uses those influences to amplify his voice not steal what’s already been done.  This is very evident on my personal favorite off the album: “9-3 Freestyle.”

Evolution and Finishing Strong

Zay chews on the beat and switches his flow so many times on “9-3”, it’s dizzying.  The track is an adrenaline induced thrill ride that doesn’t let up.  A stream of consciousness flow that continues to build on itself.  It’s followed by one of the smoothest cuts on the album in “Score” featuring SZA & 6LACK.  The dichotomy I mentioned earlier is even more evident in the transition between “9-3” and “Score”.  Make no mistake, “Score” is an RnB song on a Hip Hop album but it feels right at home among Rashad’s catalog.  Zay is crooning next to two of the best in the game currently and he holds his own and never manages to lose the spotlight.  It’s the most unique moment on the album and might also be its highest. However, fans of “HB2U” might have an issue with that statement.

“If you don’t ever get yourself straight, who the fuck is you gon help, mane?”

HB2U

Ending “The House is Burning” with “HB2U” is a masterstroke. This is Zay unfiltered and uncut wearing his heart on his sleeve and ending the album on a note that sees him deal with the dueling sides to his personality.  The outro sees him croon lines like “I should just pack up my bags and get loaded // she sick and tired of distance, I’m a ghost”; “Have I been cheatin’ myself? I’m implodin” and “This ain’t the time of my life but I’m still on drugs.” The level of vulnerability on this song is staggering yet Zay still manages to make it feel catchy and uplifting.  Isaiah Rashad is a “human being” and he’s back and ready to pick up right where he left off. 

Rating: 4 out 5 (superstar)



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