Since Isaiah Rashad released his impressive debut EP, Cilvia Demo, a year and a half ago, the rapper has been relatively quietly. During his absence, Top Dawg Entertainment has dropped a barrage of projects from its entire roster, including Kendrick Lamar's groundbreaking sophomore album To Pimp A Butterfly. While the Los Angeles based label has always been seen as an example of camaraderie and artistic collaboration, Zaywop, its lone Southern born and raised MC, is still growing into the folds, attempting to find his exact role. Although, his name has popped up on a few of his colleagues' projects, he has chosen to focus on his music and explore different subject matter.
Thankfully Rashad has returned, just in time to make his impact on an unbelievable 2015. On "Nelly," the Tennessee Titan continues to delve deeper into themes that appeared on Cilvia Demo, specifically his artistic independence and familial relationships. The tracks title is an homage to the St. Louis rapper of the same name, which is seemingly ironic choice given the songs somber tone. However, Zay subtly warps the St. Lunatic's smash single, "Number 1 (#1)." Instead of boasting about his current position in rap's elite, Rashad celebrates not seeing mainstreaming success, which is often fleeting. He takes pleasure in being able to make the music that he likes and knows that there are people who appreciate his hard work.
Isaiah Rashad's lyricism is always layered and in need of unpacking to fully understood, and "Nelly" is no different. Unfortunately, his delivery is a combination of near lullaby singing and monotone rapping, which sounds great, but is even easier to get lost in. There are moments in "Nelly" that will need to be replayed multiple times to get the lines full impact. Thankfully, the production is matches his vibe and will be a great reason to return for more listens.
TDE's latest signee is still going through some growing pains, but Isaiah Rashad is one to keep an eye on regardless. His style of MCing and songwriting is wholly original, even compared to his labelmates. "Nelly"is a solid showing and reiterates that the artist on Cilvia Demo is not a one-off or a fluke, but a full blow musician with something important to say. You can give the song a listen above and check out his soundcloud for more.