TDE’s secret weapon has been on ice the past few years, but he was finally set free in 2016. No, I’m not talking about ScHoolboy Q or even Ab-Soul. I’m talking about Chattanooga, Tennessee’s finest – Isaiah Rashad.
In March 2013, it was rumored that TDE had signed a new artist. They were in talks with Chance the “I won’t sign a major deal” Rapper and Mac “I have more talent in my left pinky than most artists” Miller (not actual nicknames) but they eventually wound up with Rashad. His track “Shot You Down” (featured above) got the remix treatment from Jay Rock & ScHoolboy Q (the blood and crip of TDE) and his debut project was heavily anticipated the entire year. This song prompted me to look for more music from Zay, and I found this gem titled “Hii (Fuck Love)”.
His debut project, Cilvia Demo, dropped early in 2014 and I kid you not, I listened to this project every day for an entire year. The album had a vibe similar to early Outkast projects, which was a good change of pace from other current movements in the genre. TDE’s other secret is weapon SZA, who was signed the same time as Rashad. Sza is featured heavily on the project, including the above track “Ronnie Drake”. The album was highly reviewed for that year and led to Zay being featured on the 2014 XXL Freshman Cover.
There was hope in 2015 that a follow up would come, but it wasn’t until late in the year “Nelly” dropped and there was legit reason to get excited for a project. With six artists on the roster and arguably the best rapper in the game (Kendrick Lamar), it’s understandable that the least known artist would have to wait two years for his next project. In January 2016, he released “Smile”, and it’s a shame that this record was left off of “The Sun’s Tirade”.
Even behind the buzz of “Smile”, it wasn’t until he dropped “Free Lunch” in August that he got a confirmed release date and title for his sophomore project. It seemed a bit weird that Zay was dropping hot songs and going missing for six months. It was finally revealed that Top Dawg (the CEO of TDE) had been delaying the project on purpose. Isaiah Rashad had become dangerously addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and he was told to either deal with it or get dropped from the label. Let’s hope that he stays off of the drugs and continues to give us good music, because when you combine talent with that throwback southern hip-hop flavor, you’re guaranteed good music.