It’s been five years since Isaiah Rashad delivered a full-length project. As we would find out, he had been through some personal issues like relapsing and going broke, eventually trying to better himself – post haste. His new album, The House Is Burning, speaks on his quietness, delivering tracks that explain his absence and his growth as an artist.
The House Is Burning is a metaphor that sees Isaiah Rashad’s home burning as he sits there, wondering if he should proceed to leave or not. He mentions in an in-depth interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, claiming: “And if it all burns down, you still going to try to figure it out, right? Because if not, you might as well just lay in that motherfucker. You got to start over.” From start to finish, you get a sense of where his head was the past few years. It becomes a driving force for the music on the album, even though it may drive them off the deep end. This album is about new beginnings; however, these new beginnings sometimes come with scattershot ideas that find themselves back to square one.
This is the case with the lusty song, “Claymore.” It features St. Louis rapper Smino and Isaiah Rashad falling head over heels for their significant other. The implementation of stutters in the verses exemplify these notions, or rather it could be the relativity I have as I stutter when under the same pretenses. “Claymore” is the third most bombastic song on the album, after “From The Garden” and “Lay Wit Ya.”
“From The Garden,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, feels like when the cool teacher resorts to scratching his chalkboard because nobody was paying attention. It could be a problem with Lil Uzi Vert consistently escaping his comfort zone and delivering these awkward and poorly misguided flex raps. It hinders any chance of having an urge to return, despite Isaiah Rashad’s smooth verse. It isn’t like “Lay Wit Ya,” which brings back memories of classic Memphis bounce with tweaks consisting of modern sonic textures. “Lay Wit Me” took a minute to grow on me, but it relays the vibrant sound of the south, which both artists command – Duke Deuce more so than Isaiah. Nevertheless, these aren’t the album’s strengths.
The music on The House Is Burning is a mix of different southern hip-hop influences and elevating them to fit the tonal mood he is feeling. He has tackled nuances of bounce in the production, but it never sounded as fully formed as it does on his new album. It makes the soft-spoken songs have the weight needed to imprint a lasting thought. For example, “THIB” speaks on looming shadows create from an absence of an inner Hyde, while Jekyll remains hidden from fright. It adds validation to the hiatus and contrasts this smooth confidence in his other tracks.
This self-assured nature stems from his insane talent, which has allowed him to stand out amongst his peers. Unfortunately, this confidence is as self-assured as a filmmaker is with the final product of their film — neé David Lowry and The Green Knight edits. Isaiah Rashad has one constant – referencing himself as Mister Miracle and the confidence that comes from that doesn’t overpower the artist inside. There is no denying that The House Is Burning sets aflame his emotions and lets them culminate in the air, but it replicates a mostly broken-calm demeanor. Isaiah Rashad isn’t creating a fully formed narrative that extends from start to finish and instead delivers his feelings on a silver platter. The structure resembles a thought-out project that has its head on straight, albeit missing a few sparks.
The feeling comes from the songs: “From the Garden” and “Hey Mista,” which feel like placeholders. Fortunately the song, “Hey Mista” is a fun song that shows us an Isaiah Rashad that we’ve been missing, aka someone making music and having fun in the recording process. “Hey Mista” is resonant of Conner4Real’s verse known as The Catchphrase Verse, which shifts hip-hop dynamics because nobody had that many catchphrases. As Isaiah Rashad mentions in the liner notes of the song, he made it purely out of fun, as that second verse became a culmination of bars that make him chuckle. It’s fun to have, but it doesn’t fit the big picture despite coming across as unique and entertaining.
The producers Isaiah Rashad works with have somewhat of a telekinetic understanding of his style and vocal delivery without feeling redundant. It goes in tangent with Rashad’s mental process when creating a song. He mentions in an interview with Pitchfork – creating music is like mental gymnastics for him. There is an inner voice that speaks on his love of music, while the other steers him to rap about non-important personal issues, which detracts from the personal side on his last album, The Sun’s Tirade. It makes The House Is Burning feel unique on its own merits.
All of his projects have been different from the previous, and he shines on each project. It isn’t his best work to date, but it offers insight toward a progression with consistent appearances and drops from Rashad. It was as enjoyable as fresh apple pie on a Sunday morning, but with few sections filled with bitters. And if this is your first time listening to Isaiah, there is no better stepping stone than The House Is Burning.