Cilvia Demo heralds a young MC on the rise
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“Just wait till I get this shit perfect!” Isaiah Rashad threatens on the stunning second verse of the track “Banana”; it is the punchiest line from one of Cilvia Demo’s finest tracks and one which really resonates upon repeated listens. For a mixtape littered with innumerable high points and a confidence usually garnered by fully developed artists, it is scary to imagine if Rashad did get this shit perfect, as if Cilvia Demo is not close enough to perfection already.
The 22-year-old Top Dawg Entertainment signee from Chattanooga, Tennessee gracefully employs influence from his label mates while managing to engage in a wholly unique and expertly crafted sound. Combining the flow from fellow Southern rappers — notably OutKast — with Black Hippy’s now signature sound, Rashad’s Cilvia Demo is the kind of mixtape which will likely rub shoulders with major label releases when it comes time to polling end of year lists. Like Kendrick, Drake, Danny Brown, ScHoolboy Q and several others among 2014’s hip-hop royalty, Rashad’s debut mixtape seems merely to offer a glimpse of bigger and better things to come.
Self-depreciation and self-indifference are tangible themes which hold the various narratives of Rashad’s existential study together, enabling a smoothness and wholeness rarely so expertly delivered on debut mixtapes. 2013 was a monumental year for Rashad, not only did he sign to TDE in March, but his long-time girlfriend gave birth to their first child. Cilvia Demo comes at a time where 22 years of comfort and routine have been swept from under Rashad’s feet and the fear, excitement and uncertainty which comes with dramatic change can be heard all over the release.
Cilvia Demo jumps styles and pace from track to track while remaining expertly grounded to one complete idea. Cloudy, downbeat tracks like “Tranquility” and “Hereditary” don’t sound out of place amongst sunny sing-alongs like “Heavenly Father” and “Shot You Down”. Likewise, hard-hitting spitfire verses on “Banana” and “Soliloquoy” are magnificently juxtaposed with Rashad’s sleepy, mumbled flow on “Ronnie Drake” and “Cilvia Demo”. Throughout his debut, Rashad displays an incredible range without ever getting sounding chaotic or incoherent.
As much as this outstanding mixtape is all about Rashad’s abilities as a wordsmith and rapper, much of Cilvia Demo’s appeal comes from its flawless production. Impressively crafted by a whole host of relatively unknown producers and beat-makers, Cilvia Demo’s production combines contradictions of shiny and grimy beats to create sounds which are both tight and loose. The entire EP is shrouded in smog and vapour, as if Rashad and his crew of producers are floating high above us on a cloud of weed smoke.
Now, it doesn’t matter if Isaiah Rashad used to “chill with Kendrick” or “smoke with Q and Dr Dre” as Cilvia Demo is enough to solidify the young MC completely as his own artist. With his debut mixtape arguably tighter than Kendrick Lemar’s Section.80 and far more impressive than any one of ScHoolboy Q’s releases, TDE’s royalty had best watch the throne. Isaiah Rashad is already worthy of the tumultuous praise given to his Black Hippy peers and with a few years to develop his craft he may well evolve into an artist who rubs shoulders with the rest of the modern hip-hop elite. Watch this space, as one of hip-hop’s most exciting emerging artists is paving his way to success.