Isaiah Rashad will end his two-year hiatus on Friday with the release of The Sun’s Tirade. Long-awaited would be an understatement, the anxious anticipation for his follow-up to Cilvia Demo has felt more like ten years of waiting than two.
Patience is a difficult virtue on the internet, especially when one of your favorite artists is completely off the grid—no features, no tours, no nothing. Just a few scattered songs to remind us he's still alive. For two years Isaiah felt like TDE’s black sheep that somehow got lost within the cattle. I made an assumption that he was stuck in the Top Dawg cycle—the label tends to focus on one artist at a time—and I could only hope that his time was near.
It’s been a long time coming but it is finally his time. During a promo stop for his new album, Isaiah dropped by the Juan Epstein podcast and revealed the real reason we haven’t heard a new album in two years—he had developed an addiction to Xanax and alcohol.
The problem started on the Oxymoron tour—a rapper on his first major tour with unlimited vices available and no real supervision. There’s some irony in the fact that he left the Oxymoron tour addicted to a pill, and not in the way that Future is an addict, but to the point there were major repercussions—he did damage to his stomach lining and almost got dropped three different times. He was in L.A.and Chattanooga, yet isolated from everybody. When Top realized what was happening, Isaiah was placed on the bench. While on this tight Top Dawg punishment, Isaiah was restricted. It wasn’t until he started to get himself together was music released—both “Nelly” and “Smile” signify recovering.
Isaiah admitted that he was a late drinker who waited until 21 to taste the Devil’s water, and drugs weren’t even used on a recreational level. The change in lifestyle had its impact—he had the money to buy liquor and someone to supply his pill habit, it wasn’t difficult. Isaiah also mentions his father’s addiction to crack and pills, which reminds me of “Hereditary” from Cilvia Demo where he confesses all the things his father taught him. “My daddy taught me how to drink my pain away,” rapped Rashad. Alcoholism and addiction—he inherited both traits from his father. Luckily, Isaiah was able to conquer his demons. He’s no longer taking Xanax, and only drinks on a social level. With his health intact, he’s ready to prove himself to the world.
"I just know I got a bigger goal to do. I got example of the outcome of that shit is. I just don't want to be one of those niggas. Especially when you coming from Chattanooga, when you coming from a small ass city, when you not doing some shit, I could feel my clout going away and I like my clout. I could feel my little power of words going away. Not putting out no music, niggas wonder what the fuck you doing. You either making the biggest shit ever or you fucking off. So everybody either knows or giving me the benefit of the doubt."
This new generation of rappers and Xanax have been intertwined for what feels like the last two years. The anxiety med is mentioned so often that it has completely replaced Molly as the hot drug reference, but unlike Molly, Xanax is addictive, and rappers are getting hooked. Chance The Rapper recently admitted in his GQ profile that he was dependent on the pill when he moved to Hollywood. There are a few references to the drug habit on Coloring Book but very little depth is given. Just like Isaiah, his life changed and so did his lifestyle, and the effects that come with drugs could’ve ended his career and his life. The pill is almost inescapable when listening to a majority of trap rap music, but there’s a big distinction between those who rap about it and those that are actually taking the tabs.
As more and more stories are shared, it has become evident that most rappers don't fall victim to drugs until their lives begin to change—the lifestyle comes with a temptation. Mac Miller was a drug addict, ScHoolboy Q was a drug addict, A$AP Yams has passed—the list goes on and on. It's tragic.
“I had the pool. I had the movie theater. I had the basketball court. I was doing it real big. I was Xanned out every fucking day. “I was just fucking tweaking. I was a Xan-zombie, fucking not doing anything productive and just going through relationship after relationship after relationship. Mind you, this is six months. So think about, like, how could you even do that?” —How Chance the Rapper's Life Became Perfect
Drugs aren't new to rap culture, there was a time where it felt like every rapper was selling some kind of drug, but the trend has shifted away from distribution and toward usage and addiction. All the lean, pills, weed, coke, and even alcohol are starting to sound like unbreakable habits and not celebrative vices. I remember how cool Lil Wayne used to look with his double cup, I remember how much I liked the song “Me & My Drink,” and I also remember thinking he’s going to die every time he has a seizure. I still worry about the martian turned mortal every time I see his styrofoam cup.
Addiction isn’t cool, or trendy—lives are being affected and lost due to drug dependency. I’m glad Isaiah and Chance are open about their problems with addiction, more rappers need to follow in their footsteps. Songs make drugs sound like the gateway to pleasure, but hearing a rapper talk about how that gate almost ended his promising career is way more impactful. Can you imagine if Cilvia Demo was the first and last time we heard Isaiah? Would've been a true hip-hop tragedy.
Be safe with your life, not your art. Protect your magic, and live like there’s a tomorrow. Isaiah Rashad got his shit together and without drugs bringing him down, best believe he has the chance to soar beyond the sun.
By Yoh, aka D.A.R.E, aka @Yoh31