Monday, November 4, 2013

"Ronnie Drake" ft. SZA- Isaiah Rashad

TDE's headline-grabbing session at this year's BET Cypher mostly revolved around Kendrick Lamar's continual evisceration of the rap game writ large, but to hone in on that assault ignores the other bruises TDE left behind. Ab-Soul wove through his verse in serpentine fashion (promising not to curse for his grandma's sake), Schoolboy Q was his brash but loveable self, and Jay Rock kept up his concrete-pounding delivery. But the hidden-gem performance came courtesy of native Isaiah Rashad. You couldn't just hear the recent-TDE-signee's hunger, you could see it. The rest of the crew was content to slink back and forth, but Rashad wove across the stage "finding a second home in Southern California" as he punctuated every line with the wave of an arm or a glare at the camera. 

New single "Ronnie Drake", featuring a cooing SZA, settles into the TDE aesthetic of blending down-tempo soul with self-conscious gangsterisms; simultaneously aiming to set Rashad apart. On first-listen, Rashad's Southern-delivery separates him from his Black Hippy brethren. As excruciatingly detailed as the lines "Came a long way from a boat and an auction, now we got names and a vote then a coffin" read, his laconic tone atop fidgeting keyboard and vague jungle sounds projects a certain spontaneity. Comparatively, compatriots Kendrick or Ab-Soul's lines could never be confused as in-the-moment; too tightly coiled to unravel on the spot. But like his new-found family, Rashad can drop the tough-guy personae to ask personal questions "I wonder why we killers, why the killing us?" "Ronnie Drake" proves Rashad's found a second home and he's fitting in just fine. 


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