T.D.E’s output arguably defined the latter half of the 2010s. It’s not hard to recall how artists such as Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and SZA became cultural icons in real time, earning critical acclaim and unbelievable commercial success in just a few short years. But it sometimes feels as if the label’s other excellent acts are overshadowed by the stardom of their peers – take the case of Isaiah Rashad, for example. The Chattanooga rapper has had a surprisingly quiet career thus far – 2014’s Cilvia Demo mixtape and 2016’s The Sun’s Tirade bubbled over with promise, showcasing an artist with the clear potential to make it big. His unflinching honesty, illustrative lyrics, and ability to shift his cadence and tone at a moment’s notice garnered him a dedicated fanbase, who promptly sold out his nation-wide tour and streamed him half a billion times. Much like the flagship artists on T.D.E’s roster, Rashad was poised to become a household name as well.
Rashad had teased the follow-up to The Sun’s Tirade as early as 2017, leaving fans waiting with bated breath – but nothing materialized. Rashad largely disappeared from the public eye, going through an intense period of personal growth and recovery. That is, until Rashad suddenly returned earlier this year, dropping several singles before finally announcing the release date of his highly anticipated sophomore album The House is Burning.
The 5 year wait between albums has not dampened the enthusiasm of Rashad’s fanbase, as evidenced by the sheer length of the snake-like line that stretched out the doors of the House of Blues – a line so long that it literally took me 5 minutes to walk from back to the front. The crowd’s anticipation was palpable – after all, this show was a first in many ways. It was the first show of Rashad’s new Lil’ Sunny’s Awesome Vacation tour (and thus, his first time performing new material.) It was Rashad’s first show in over 3 years. And for many in the audience, it was their first show in well over a year. Before the show had even begun, it was already destined to be momentous.
Up-and-comers Childish Major and Ray Vaughn – T.D.E’s newest signee – opened the show, delivering fireball vigor in spades and multiplying the crowd’s energy tenfold. After a short intermission, Rashad took to the stage wearing a Red Sox jersey (of course) to rapturous applause. After taking a moment to savor the fanfare, Rashad launched into his set, kicking things off with album opener “Darkseid.”
The ensuing show was an Isaiah Rashad highlight reel – with a setlist consisting mostly of songs from The House is Burning, Rashad managed the crowd expertly, hopping between his distinctively smokey and laid back songs like “Headshots (4r Da Locals)” & “Claymore,” and frenzied bangers – a new direction for his sound – like the distinctively Southern “Lay Wit Ya.” The crowd alternated between light communal swaying and rowdily jumping about, effectively displaying Rashad’s sonic versatility. Rashad makes impeccably slick, lucid, and sobering meditations on life as well as mosh-worthy anthems, and sticks the landing every time.
Rashad also peppered in old hits from The Sun’s Tirade and Cilvia Demo, as well as a singular loosie in the form of “200/Warning.” “Free Lunch, ”“4r Da Squaw,” & “Heavenly Father” were particular standouts. He closed the show out with “From the Garden,” a highlight track from The House is Burning, sending the crowd off into the lingering summer night with one final high-energy hit. The Lil’ Sunny’s Awesome Vacation tour was a long time coming, but was undeniably worth the wait.