Top Dawg Entertainment breeds greatness. Or at least that’s been T.D.E.’s reputation thus far.
On a cold night in Toronto that could only be described as excruciatingly bitter, one of Top Dawg’s newest signees, Isaiah Rashad was slated to perform material off of his EP, Cilvia Demo alongside homegrown Tre Mission. Before Isaiah goes on ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron Tour, before releasing his first studio album and before blowing up within the mainstream hip hop sector (much like Kendrick did with GKMC), he was going to give an intimate performance, one that wasn’t to be missed. Die hard fans, the ones that years from now will pride themselves on being the first – before The Source and Pitchfork ever took notice – to give the young artist a chance packed inside TATTOO almost immediately after doors opened at 9PM.
According to the set list, it would be three hours until Isaiah took the stage in the early hours of next day. This left concert goers somewhat impatient as the initial thrill of listening to DJ Freeza spin club bangers slowly wore off and people resorted to furiously scrolling through their phones or discreetly trying to catch a glimpse of who else was in the room.
At 11PM, Tre Mission came on stage and performed Come Right Back and Tell Me (with Julian) which were very well received. Tre punctuated each performance with some light banter about his album, smoking the herb that Toronto is well known for with Isaiah and so on and so forth. Seeming very at ease, Tre’s music had managed to crack The Screwface as cheers were drawn from every corner of the room. My favourite part actually came towards the end of his set when Tre claims he noticed a young woman in the front row “feeling Julian’s likkle ting” and promptly called her out on it. Although I sympathize with her for being the sacrificial lamb of the night, I did find the whole thing rather funny, especially when Julian began to thrust his hips on stage, mimicking intercourse and trying to further seduce his “fan.” I suppose he didn’t get the memo that you’re sexiest when you don’t try.
After Tre departed from the stage, we were left to wait some more. This time around, DJ Freeza took more liberties in actually mixing his music and blended sounds from late 90s instrumentals with eponymous lyrics from the likes of Jay-Z and Drake. Once midnight had passed and T.D.E.’s DJ had set up his equipment, the crowd began to get restless. A few false announcements of “Are y’all ready for Isaiah?!” only amped up the anxiety as everyone eagerly looked to see if he was headed our way. And then, amongst a screaming pandaemonium of fans rushing to the stage, arms extended, Isaiah appeared.
Sporting a giant grin that went from ear to ear, it was obvious that Isaiah Rashad was very happy to be there. “Y’all know my shit! Y’all really know my shit!” Isaiah exclaimed in pleasant surprise.
As an artist, he’s still in that infantile stage where the greatness on the not-too-distant horizon has yet to touch him in a profound way. Thus, the wonderment that he displays in the fact that there are people all over that adore his music is unadulterated, genuine and endearing to witness.
Performing Hereditary before quickly moving on to RIP Kevin Miller, the audience was absolutely bouncing off the walls, their three T.D.E. fingers up in the air whilst unsuccessfully trying to capture shaky videos on their smartphones. Weak Shit, Hurt Cobaine and Soliloquy proceeded before Ronnie Drake once again caused the audience to erupt. Throughout this time, Isaiah ran back and forth on the modest stage in a frantic pace as if trying to absorb every fan’s reaction; trying to permanently commit it to memory.
Banana was cut short just after the first verse because he wasn’t “feeling it” before moving onto Webbie Flow (U Like). This was followed by my personal favourite, West Savannah where Isaiah repeatedly serenaded his fans with “I travel for you.” He revealed to us that he had just obtained his passport and gotten his first international stamp. Once again, his honesty was shining through and you really got the sense of how appreciative he was of that moment.
Isaiah went on to perform Modest, Heavenly Father, Brad Jordan and Shot U Down, holding his own in the absence of Q. He did a repeat performance of RIP Kevin Miller and the audience really responded to the chorus, “Y’all live for bitches and blunts/ We live for weed and money.”
Isaiah then went on to take a request from a fan for his track Like That, which is not off the Cilvia Demo. It took his DJ a hot minute to find the music buried in the back of the archives but once the song began to play, Isaiah exploded in a burst of energy, jumping vigorously as he bounced from one end of the stage to the other. The first few rows were subjected to the bodily fluids – sweat and spit – that were emitted from the very turnt Isaiah who seemed to be running out of breath. As he let the audience belt out the majority of lyrics, I began to understand the informal layout of TATTOO which permits fans to be so close to their favourite performers,that a barrier between the two almost ceases to exist.
After Like That, Isaiah said a hasty goodbye and was shuffled off stage by his team. Although his performance was a little over half-an-hour (shorter than his opener) it became apparent that this would be one of those concerts we would look back fondly on a few years from now, with a sense of satisfaction that were there with Isaiah from the beginning.
Thank you to Mehek Seyid for her assistance.
A special thank you to Ronnice, Richelle and INK Entertainment.
You can check out our gallery of the show here.