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‘The House Is Burning,’ the album is perfect: Isaiah Rashad graces Spokane with a concert at Knitting Factory

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 23, 2021

Oh, Spokane, we’re so lucky.

Rapper Isaiah Rashad will take the Knitting Factory stage Tuesday night as he tours for his most recent album, “The House Is Burning.”

Released July 30, “The House Is Burning” is currently going toe -to -toe with the fantastic Vince’s Staples self-titled album for rap album of the year. “The House Is Burning” squeezes by very tightly.

Rashad separates himself from Staples with relatability. Unfortunately for Staples, not everyone can recall tales of life as a Crip nor as a Long Beach native. That’s where Rashad reels us in with stories of childhood, relationships and pure talent. Precise beat selection serves as the backdrop of the 16-track album.

“The House Is Burning” is an ode to the artist’s Southern background. Born Isaiah Rashad McClain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rashad doubles down on his Southern roots with bass-knocking songs and a clear sense of childhood. Rashad takes us to his adolescents at Mulberry Skate rink.

“We got, uh honey buns, hot chips and cheese, Kool-Aid pickles,” says DJ Mister Lou on “From the Garden’s” outro. “We got everything, just make sure you do not eat on the skate floor. We ain’t got time to be slippin’ on no cheese and chicken.”

We see Rashad in different lights within the album. Sometimes Rashad smudges his voice onto the beat while the samples and production shine. Other times, he is precise with lyrical patterns. Rashad raps in a catchy, tit-for-tat manner on the album’s third song, “RIP Young.”

“RIP Young” should be up for song of the year for both its lyrical and production output. During the song’s intro and chorus, producer Kal Banx samples “Cheese and Dope” from Project Pat, a Memphis-made rapper and member of Three 6ix Mafia, a rap group Project Pat shares with his brother, Juicy J. Rashad also pays homage to the late Southern rap legend Pimp C. Born Chad Lamont Butler, he was part of Houston-based rap group UGK with Bun B.

“If I wasn’t rappin’ baby, I would still be ridin’ Mercedes,” is part of the chorus of “Chad,” “The House Is Burning’s” 12th song. The line is from Pimp C’s iconic verse on Jay Z’s 2000 hit “Big Pimpin’.”

Even without beloved Southern sentiments, “The House Is Burning” is another amazing album within Rashad’s discography and another win for his label, Top Dawg Entertainment.

Rest assured that excellence permeates the album in part of his TDE teammates’ appearances. Kal Banx produced nine of the 16 songs, and TDE vet Jay Rock is icy as he slid through “The House Is Burning’s” ninth song, “True Story.”

Rashad listed his special guests to be announced, but I’m sure, even without a surprise Jay Rock appearance, concertgoers will be word for word on Jay Rock’s verse. It was a common display of his lyrical excellence, something he’s been sporting since he began at TDE during the Black Hippy days.

SZA, the queen of TDE, also made an appearance on Rashad’s album. She graces the 11th song, “Score,” a conversation between lovers in a cat-and-mouse game, in and out of the bedroom.

Aside from TDE, the technical sound of Doechii, whose vocals swing between half-electric and half-human as she cruised through her bouncy feature on “Wat U Sed.”

I can truly pray that we get older Rashad songs throughout the Knitting Factory show. A few days ago on Twitter, Rashad released a clip of his concert at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, from Sept. 11.

“This a good set,” Rashad says. He then dropped fan-favorite “Wat’s Wrong.”

Homesick and a sucker for nostalgia, I erupted with the crowd gracing my square screen as I plopped onto my rectangular couch. It’s one of the best songs from “The Sun’s Tirade,” his second, critically acclaimed album under TDE that released in 2016.

I’m begging for Rashad to drop songs like “Shot You Down” from “Cilvia” or “Park.” Park, another banger from “The Sun’s Tirade,” would allow concertgoers to gauge not only Rashad’s growth but the guarantee that he will continue to only elevate in his career, a solid promise he’s made with “The House Is Burning.”

With his individual success, Rashad is catching fire as TDE enters a new chapter. Kendrick Lamar has served as the label’s crown jewel, and it’ll feel awkward not hearing prideful remarks about representing them after his upcoming, untitled album, his last under TDE. (K. Dot’s verse on “Wat’s Wrong” was god-like).

But, rest assured, TDE is in good hands. Rashad’s lyrical ability continues to elevate. His connection to his own life holds others close to theirs. His storytelling tactics are only tightening.

Among vets such as ScHoolboy Q, SiR and Ab-Soul, Rashad has a sturdy grip on his artistic future. He and “The House Is Burning” represent the emerging class of TDE, which he is absolutely driving forward.

It is a sunny place, maybe the same sun as the logo for “The House Is Burning.” Come Tuesday at 8 p.m., Rashad will illuminate the stage of the Knitting Factory.

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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