Fionn McCausland reviews Isaiah Rashad's first European stop on his world tour.
Last weekend, Tod Dog Entertainment signee Isaiah Rashad came to The Academy for a night and what a night it was. The first European stop on his worldwide ‘Lil Sunny Tour’ was an impressive display of crowd engagement, gleeful exuberance and technical prowess.
The opening act, Jafaris, was a lesser known British emcee who set the tone for evening with a sound that was not dissimilar to that of Rashad’s typical style. Jazzy beats, well sung hooks and flows that switch from animated double-time to drawn-out and emphatic.
The DJs riled up the crowd wonderfully with chart hits and T.D.E classics such as Collard Greens, then came Rashad. Immediately after his DJ announced his name, Rashad came out waving and spitting vigorously.
Cilvia Demo’s ‘Menthol’ set the night off, followed by a brief introduction and a statement by Rashad that anyone acting-out would be promptly removed from his show. ‘Wat’s Wrong’, his Kendrick Lamar collaboration from his latest project came after this and Rashad could barely get a word in edgeways at times, as the crowd rapped most of the song along with him.
Rashad’s performance was near impeccable. Though his music is typically laid-back jazz rap, he displayed versatility with the stark contrast of his performance of these songs.
The show was primarily energetic and noisy but it was split at intervals where one of Rashad’s jazzier cuts would provide him with a brief reprieve and the audience with a chance to catch their own breath.
With no hype man to break up his verses for him, his ability to maintain his flow throughout each song was spectacular. The other performers were well received but Rashad made certain everyone knew that this was his show.
A great deal of energy was shared from artist to fan that night. Rashad fed off the crowd and they in turn were empowered by his electric performance. Considering that it was his first time in Ireland, perhaps he wasn’t sure what to expect from an Irish crowd. I like to think we pleasantly surprised him. Showing great command of the audience and the stage, he pointed to members of the audience, slapped hands with the kids in the front and stopped briefly to make sure the smokers in the middle didn’t forget to share.
His crew threw bottles of water to the crowd as well as items of clothing, including one pair of decidedly slick T.D.E flip flops that were generously donated by the DJ.
Rashad did not neglect his audience throughout the night. He looked to the top tiers of the room to try and illicit engagement from every section of arena. Toward the end of the night, he even tried to hop the barricades but was regrettably prevented from doing so by The Academy’s security detail.
‘Heavenly Father’, ‘Wat’s Wrong’ and ‘Shot You down’ were personal highlights, as they invoked the most participation from the audience.
Toward the end, the stands began chanting ‘For the Squaw’, a fan favourite of Rashad’s. He then proceeded to close his set with the song; whether upon request or coincidence is unclear.
A show is always worthy of the ticket price when it ends with the “one more tune” chant. Rashad didn’t perform any more of his own tracks. Although he did play some popular chart-toppers, removed his shirt, invited his crew on stage and danced like his life depended on it. Even when he wasn’t rapping or signing Rashad held the audience in the palm of his very sweaty hand.
After approximately 75 minutes on stage and the aforementioned botched crowd-surfing attempt, he left the stage with no encore. The crowd then flocked to the streets to embark on the rest of their night, most of whom appeared content with the evening’s events.
Overall a worth-while purchase if Isaiah Rashad comes to your city. A talented performer who is one cart on the musical freight train that is the T.D.E camp. Hopefully he will return to Ireland following his next project. In the meantime, we have two mixtapes and an album to keep us busy and if you haven’t listened to Rashad’s music I recommend you do. Rashad is a stand out in an oversaturated market. Check him out if Hip Hop is your go-to genre, you won’t regret it.