Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) is a hip-hop label that's pushed the careers of many talented rappers, including Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q. The imprint's track record has placed itself in an elite league and allows it to continue to be a dominant force for years to come.
TDE’s original four members — Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul — share an incredibly strong chemistry. This naturally led to them creating a rap supergroup called Black Hippy whose rare collaborations are highly sought after by fans. Given that it was such a tight-knit group, many people thought the label would never add another artist to its roster. Suddenly, they signed an obscure rapper named Isaiah Rashad. This was back in 2013 and it's safe to say that several eyebrows were raised.
Isaiah Rashad – I Shot You Down | 2013 (Off Cilvia Demo)
The relatively unknown young rapper hailed from Chattanooga, TN and had not even released a mixtape by the time he was signed. It based was solely off the strength of his singles uploaded on Soundcloud. As soon as TDE made the announcement that they had signed Rashad, along with another artist, he became instantly relevant.
The signing happened shortly after he was introduced to the label’s president, Dave Free, who also happens to be Kendrick Lamar’s manager. "I was high, I had been smoking all day, I thought Dave was Big Sean when I met him," he said. "I left L.A. that night and Dave called me three days later. He told me he was going to get me out there…Eventually he brought me out there and I got signed. I had a son on the way so it felt like a blessing."
Isaiah Rashad – Ronnie Drake | 2013 (Off Cilvia Demo)
The rapper hit the ground running, dropping "Shot You Down" (see video at top of post) with a music video and then received a remix by Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock that amassed millions of views. He followed the record up with "Ronnie Drake" (above) in the Fall of 2013 that served as a great introduction to his melodic approach to hip-hop. Rashad shared the news of his upcoming mixtape shortly after.
Isaiah Rashad – Heavenly Father | 2014 (Off Cilvia Demo)
It was Jan. 2014 when Isaiah released his debut mixtape, Cilvia Demo. Named after the artist's busted ’95 Honda Civic, Cilvia had a timeless sound and became one of the year’s strongest releases. It was on this project where he established his signature sound, combining hazy vocals and introspective raps with a touch of classic southern bounce. The 14-track project had limited features with a few duet-styled tracks, which were alongside fellow TDE signee SZA shining as some of the project's standout songs. Listen to the mixtape here.
Isaiah Rashad – Modest | 2014 (Off Cilvia Demo)
Following the mixtape, he became a fan favorite and earned the nickname zaywop, or zay. Fans now patiently await the release of his debut studio album which is set to be released on Sept. 2. Until recently, Rashad has remained fairly quiet since the release of his mixtape aside from sparse singles he's shared "Smile" and "Nelly" (stream both below).
Rashad then released one of his best tracks to date, "Free Lunch", as a strong single along with a music video ending with a message simply reading "9.2.16", which he's confirmed as his debut album's quickly approaching release date.
This catch up guide should bring you up to date on Isaiah Rashad, so familiarize yourself with his latest singles below and keep an eye out for more material from one of our favorite hip-hop artists.