Isaiah Rashad is able to turn the small stage inside Toronto’s Tattoo venue into his own castle with his seemingly never-ending energy. The 22-year-old rapper, who is the newest signee to Top Dawg Entertainment, isn’t afraid to show people just why he’s a Top Dawg, having everyone throw the iconic 3s up in the air and jump to “RIP Kevin Miller”. The buzz that seems to keep circulating Rashad is with good reason. One listen to his debut album, Cilvia Demo, demonstrates this. Both in his music and in his live performances, Rashad doesn’t hold back.

“The energy that he put out on stage was definitely impressive; it was hype from start to finish… The big crowd and the big lights are only going to get bigger for him so I’m glad I got to be here for the first show,” says fan Jordan Hayles, proudly rocking a TDE hoodie.

A few hours before the funny and surprisingly humble Tennessee emcee hits the stage, he goes into detail about his relationship with his father, his past thoughts on suicide and what he has learned thus far from fellow TDE members.

WHAT WAS THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT OF CREATING THE ALBUM? The recording part! When you find a song you really like, you don’t want to stop recording. You want to keep adding onto it. You keep trying to find the empty pockets that could be brightened up and refined. That’s what’s most important, masterminding what we we’re doing.

RIGHT NOW IN YOUR LIFE, WHAT SONG ON THE ALBUM MEANS THE MOST TO YOU AND WHY? “Hereditary”. I don’t have any baggage. I’m leaving, travelling, and living my life. I’m not questioning what I want to do. And it captures how I’m living right now. I’m living real modest… but that’s a different track [laughs].

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WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR POPS? I usually make songs for myself. I wouldn’t sugar coat anything. I don’t want you to listen to my stuff and it sounds like I’m holding back… It’s boring if you don’t do it that way.

HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DAD NOW? It’s weird. He never addresses the music. He listened to it, but never said anything about it. We cool though. I tell the old stuff, I’m kinda getting past that. I’m growing up. I don’t have a reason to be mad at anybody. But I gotta learn to call better.

IN SONGS LIKE “HEAVENLY FATHER”, YOU REFER TO SUICIDE, ARE YOU TELLING YOUR THOUGHTS OR RETELLING THE THOUGHTS OF OTHERS? When I was younger, in middle school, high school that was the stuff I used to think about… I felt really low about myself. When I was 13 or 14 years old, I felt I wasn’t going to be anything. I didn’t think I could do anything. I didn’t feel like I had a skill. I didn’t have a purpose in life. Nobody should feel like they don’t have a purpose in life. You should feel like your purpose is to live and to find something to enjoy.

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AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALIZE THAT MUSIC WAS YOUR PURPOSE? I was 12 or 13 when I felt like I had to do something with music, because music makes me happy. I don’t know what I would do without it… I’d probably go nuts.

AS THE NEWEST MEMBER OF TDE, WHAT TYPE OF PRESSURE, IF ANY, DID YOU FEEL TO LIVE UP TO ARTISTS LIKE KENDRICK? I felt like I had to be better than them before I got signed. Now, it’s more like sticking to my principles and not deferring [from those principles] just because I’m around other people. But at the same time, taking in everything that they say so that I could better myself. The pressure is more like a standard. There’s a goal you gotta reach and you shouldn’t be afraid to reach the goal. So, no pressure.

HAVE YOU LEARNED ANY VALUABLE LESSONS FROM ANY OF THE MEMBERS OF TDE? Don’t blow your money. Don’t spend your money like you’re a rock star. Save your money. Invest. Get a house. Get a car. Limit your bills. And don’t have kids [laughs]. And treat yourself!

HOW DO YOU TREAT YOURSELF? I smoke by myself.

Words By. Faduma Mohamed + Photos By. Candace Nyaomi

At a young age, Faduma Mohamed began her journey with writing through poetry and storytelling, but decided to make the transition to journalistic writing in university, where she is now studying English and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. Mohamed is also one of the organizers of local Toronto community arts organization, R.I.S.E. Edutainment.