If you think Top Dawg Entertainment is going to let a few high-profile Grammy nominations change the way they serve underground rap fans, then you don't know TDE.
On Tuesday (January 28), the California-based label that made Kendrick Lamar famous, dropped their first 2014 release in the form of newcomer Isaiah Rashad's independent debut EP Cilvia Demo on iTunes. It's the first of six albums the label promised to drop this year, one from each member of the roster, including Schoolboy Q's upcoming Oxymoron and (hopefully) Kendrick's next LP.
The project's title is inspired by Rashad's old car, which he affectionately named Cilvia. "It's the car that broke down on me like three or four months before I got signed, on a f---ing mountain," the Chattanooga, Tennessee, MC told MTV News. "A lot of sh-- happened in that car, a lot of stupid sh--."
Throughout the course of the project, Rashad chronicles the childhood stupidity that ultimately defined the man he has become. All of the skirt chasing, weed smoking and underage drinking, should make Isaiah's story relatable for many. He opens with the calm and mellow "Hereditary," where he starts off embracing his vices in an attempt to explain his shortcomings.
"My daddy taught me how to drink my pain away, my daddy taught me how to leave somebody," he sings rattling off a list of detrimental lessons passed on to him, while never sounding too broken up about it.
The title track, "Cilvia Demo," is a smooth ride on Rashad's "rimless Bentley," while "R.I.P. Kevin Miller" is a heartfelt and clever ode to the rapper's southern roots. The Black Metaphor-produced track eulogizes Master P's brother Kevin Miller who was killed in the streets years before No Limit Records set a new rap standard in the late 1990s. "I need diamond teeth, living like it's 1998/ Like when Percy was the king, back when Juvie was the great," he raps putting his own twist on P's famous rap drawl.
"Brad Jordan" pays homage to Scarface, another of Rashad's rap influences, and he continues to chronicle his come-up and issues with his dad on "Soliloquy." He then ponders his relationship with his own son on "Tranquility."
By the time Rashad gets to "Heavenly Father," he begins to focus on his salvation. "I been tired of f---ing all these girls/ And I been tired of spending all my dough," he sings in a folksy tone before he comes full circle and confronts his demons.
"Daddy why you call me while you drunk/ And why you never love me when I need it," he questions before finally declaring: "I don't wanna be like you no more."
By the time the 14-track project winds down, Isaiah Rashad slowly doles out his own coming-of-age story using introspective raps, melodies and, at times, good old southern bounce.