TDE’s new blood delivers nothing but heat rocks on his debut EP.
Cilvia Demo is the first official body of work from the young Chattanooga emcee. Through the record’s thematic contrast, Rashad constructs the conflicted, contemplative and deeply human image of America’s young black male. The EP is a comfortable listen that manages to balance common rap themes such as women, drugs and money with the dark musings of an abandoned, disenfranchised youth; the “B-Side” of things as Ice-T once put it.
Of course, this abstract stuff is grounded in the project’s technical and musical quality. By the end of the 14th track it’s clear why Rashad was signed. He consistently delivers a sound that’s familiar, yet unique in today’s constantly “turnt” rap environment.
That’s not to say these joints won’t make you move, though. Rashad is a southern artist and it’s apparent in the thick, booming bounce of these instrumentals. From Farhot’s boom-bap esqe “Soliloquy,” to The Antydote’s silky “Ronnie Drake,” to Black Metaphor’s “R.I.P. Kevin Miller,” these beats are as smooth and hypnotic as they are dense and rumbling. “R.I.P. Kevin Miller” in particular is easily one of the hottest beats of the year so far.
Rashad brings essence and character to this dope production through his deliberate, conversational rap style. “Wonder how the fuck you let a nigga make you cautious/ But you jamming out to fuckin’ Marilyn and Ozzy shit,” he raps on “Soliloquy,” after spitting about fornicating with Aryan girls and before questioning his mother about religion and money. These conflicting themes are present throughout the EP and enforce the project’s overall atmosphere of imperfect humanity and coming of age. Beyond that though, the bars on this record are straight up dope.
Rashad continuously demonstrates a solid command over inflections, multisyllabic rhymes and cadence, all while keeping within the beat’s rhythm and count. Rashad also displays an impressive level of vocal talent through the work’s numerous sequences of harmonization. Rashad’s singing talent is most apparent on “Heavenly Father,” the project’s soulful benchmark track.
Rashad delivers all of this without packing the EP with features. Most of the guests here provide vocals for hooks (or a duet in the case of SZA on “West Savannah”) while only two of the 14 songs feature guest verses from other rappers.
Moving forward, Cilvia Demo will stand as either an isolated benchmark of quality for Isaiah Rashad, or simply an introduction to the fresh emcee’s forthcoming work. Given his label and the intense competition from his label mates, the latter is quite likely.