Apologies for the recent hiatus. I’ve been listening to this album for about a month now (shout-out to Hip-Hop Still Has It for putting me on to it), and attempting to write about it makes me appreciate that I have three different review formats, all without scores. In other words, Isaiah Rashad, and his TDE debut album, Cilvia Demo, perplex me, just like Kendrick Lamar‘s Section.80 did a few years ago. Both were my introduction to their artists, and both have a vagueness about them that simultaneously stimulates me and gets on my damn nerves. Section.80 wavered between pseudo-celebrations of gang life, a young kid just having fun, and observant storytellings with a possibly feminist leaning. This left me very confused about the rapper that Kendrick would end up being, and I’m still worried that Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City‘s consistency was a fluke. As for Cilvia Demo, I like the idea of simply writing a short piece about it because I can’t tell if Isaiah is a southern version of Ice Cube conscious, an insightful, extremely honest introspective psychologist, or just an emcee whose music is built for drivin’ slow.
What I can tell is that Isaiah’s a good emcee with a very solid foundation of lyricism and songwriting. Each part of his songs, from the delivery to his not-very complex lyrics to the bluesy beats, works together to build a mood. And while these songs’ moods can range from calm anger to calm reflection to calm…boasting, their consistency never becomes tedious. Instead of being 3-5 feelings mashed into one cd, fitting multiple moods but demanding you skip those songs that don’t fit today’s vibe, Cilvia is just multiple variations of one calm yet infectious blues mood. So the whole thing is the perfect groove for driving or relaxing with your favorite intoxicant.
Surprisingly, given the opening of the last paragraph, my biggest problem with Cilvia is the lyrical style. The often-sung hooks are perfect but on verses Isaiah uses that stream-of-consciousness style that I mostly hate. But I’ll excuse it this time, because the beats are impeccable, and when I do catch what he’s saying, it’s usually semi-interesting like him complaining about police harassment, or refreshingly honest like the admission that he used to cut himself. It’s possible that I just need to listen more, or read the lyrics, to find the clear meanings of every verse, but I doubt it. I think Isaiah needs to pull some more songwriting lessons from his obvious early Outkast influence, but he should stick with Aquemini as opposed to the less grounded Atliens.
Verdict: Overall, what’s most interesting about Isaiah is that he has the ingredients to be the next Scarface or Outkast, southern artists who pretty much always appealed to hip-hop heads everywhere. He wears his southern background on his sleeve with his accent and song titles like Brad Jordan (Scarface’s real name) and R.I.P. Kevin Miller (Master P’s late brother), but his lyricism (Soliloquy) and honesty (Heavenly Father) make sure that he can’t be easily dismissed as another nameless sub-Mason-Dixon Line rapper. And the cherry on top is that he never pretends to be a thug!
- Cilvia Demo
- R.I.P. Kevin Miller
- Heavenly Father
- Brad Jordan