Throughout the years, one half of the duo The Underachievers, Issa Gold has always presented himself as the most sincere and conscious rapper of the two. It adds equilibrium when performing with his counterpart, AKTHESAVIOR, whose reality-driven apprehensiveness is reminiscent of the early days of reality rap (Gangsta Rap). This constant from Issa has made him stand out amongst his New York peers, who deliver with heightened personalities from the production. It breathes with the way he delivers his verses with a heightened focus on the themes, ranging from depression, suicide, drug abuse, and more. On his new album, Tempus, Issa takes us on a journey of self-exploration as he breaks down his stories to deliver proper relativity.
Issa Gold calls Tempus a self-conscious rap album, which by my understanding is less social commentary and more personal. Unlike conscious, backpack rappers of the 00s like GLC and Kanye West, it isn’t using social commentary to buoy his themes, and instead, he uses it as pen and paper to evoke what he feels as if it were a personal show without the preachy therapy part. This music speaks to a deeper audience who deal with constant self-doubt, trying to find understanding within the good-bad parts of life. He reflects one aspect of it, by detailing these varying actions that have affected many relationships down the line, like on the track “Regret,” which has Issa mounting these things he regrets like lying to his parents and skipping class to take prescription drugs and get faded off liquor.
This introspective journey goes deep into a lot of rooted issues of the common man, broken into squadrons filled with remnants of stories that don’t morph together in a tangent timeline. Instead, they are seeds that grow quickly as you pick each one like it was a sample CD player and headphones at your local record store. Issa Gold brings attention to this with the fluctuating production that flips between slower-tempo ballad-like hip-hop and more energetic doubt with the dark instrumental overtones. He benefits from the producers who graced him with beats to boast his themes. Many of them stemming from the localized-hip hop tree as they have a history of working with artists more in tune with their geographical representation in style, opposed to universal appearance. It’s this morphed chemistry that allows him to find ease when inflecting his words with emotional grit in rhythm and flow.
Fortunately, Issa Gold doesn’t deviate from his sense of focus consistently, except for the times he flexes his provocative technical skills. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything ad the range of his verbiage, as is evident with the few tracks that open the project, like the aforementioned “Regret” and “Withdrawn,” which expresses his weaknesses with being as open as he thinks he should be. It morphs around relating to people who carry with them a reserved demeanor in life. It’s an inflection that surrounds him with doubt, despite any form of reassurance. It creates staggering ideologies; specifically with how he implements his views on Christianity in his verses, attributing spurts of assurance that human’s basic timeline is more than bleak.
Issa Gold processes these ideas further on the track “Fictions,” dividing thoughts about the subjective perspectives that define good and evil, as parts of evil remain dormant within like he mentions in the opening lines of the first verse: “I heard God love his children, even Satan got his heart / So why everybody ’round me walk around inside the dark? / I heard life is like a beach ’til you learn that there was sharks.” He raps about this constant turmoil with himself that swims around his being with a snapping nature of a silent ocean killer, like a shark.
If there is anything to strike Tempus with is the swiftness of the ending, as the last track and a half swiftly move in pace and you’re right away taken to the start – “Envy,” beginning a new cycle. However this can be a minimally consistent issue, the tracks don’t lose sight of the delivery. You could be going through two to three tracks at 2 minutes 30 seconds each, and despite a moderate pace, there is rarely a moment you forget what Issa Gold is rapping about. It’s ever so rare to see an album with enough purpose and direction, that one iota is to contain enough relativity that an artist reaches beyond the measures of the technical walls that split them from the fans – i.e. sending direct messages on social platforms.
Tempus exceeds beyond the parameters of the walls it imposes on itself for a marketable reach, but Issa Gold has never been one to glamorize success as his mental health still hits him in strife. These recurring themes have been a looming shadow on the rapper as he comes to grips with the way life changed. He may not have the appeal of New York rappers who encompass, the currently trendy, New York Drill sound and expand it to fit the unique niche of their verbal artistry.