Isaiah Rashad

Chill gets thrown around a lot. Whether it be a euphemism for hooking up while The OA plays confusingly on in the background. Or a student telling a teacher to do so after they didn’t pass in their homework. Or a describer of somebody who is easy to hang out with.

Isaiah Rashad’s The Sun’s Tirade is a chill album. There are moment of this record that feel like his lyrics aren’t going to catch up to the beat. But then you realize that the beat isn’t exactly breaking your neck and he’s going to be fine. The song and his flow are reminding you to chill. Whether he is rapping about just trying to stay happy, or rapping about just trying to hook up with a girl or rapping about how chill he is he is an embodiment of practice what you preach. (That last one about talking about your chill is usually a dead give away that you’re not that. However that’s just how good he is at it. I’m so chill with him being chill and talking about it.)

Okay enough of that word I promise. Isaiah Rashad is one of the many handpicked artists out of LA that seem to be low key killing it. They may not be the biggest in the game, money wise, but their breadth and rep are definitely, like the label says, Top Dawg. Between Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q, Isaiah has a nice cornerstone of mentors to look to. He also has the freedom to do and say what he wants and have all of those creative juices flowing nearby.

Even with all of the marijuana smoke around Rashad is a breath of fresh air. He can make a hook nonsensical like in his song “4r Da Squaw” or he can have you putting the song on repeat like “Wat’s Wrong” which also happens to feature Kendrick and Zacari. The album is all over the place, with trap beats, soul-fusion  and even some jam band type grooves. Yet it all fits.

At 25, Rashad along with many other artists of his generation are affirming that genre is a thing of the past. It is either what’s good, what’s bad and whether you tried hard enough to make that. His contemporaries are all killing it in their very different avenues and its all meshing well together. Whether it’s Kamaiyah or Frank or Lil Yachty (YEAH I SAID IT) these kids are giving us their creativity. Their hands are up in the air quite literally waving them like they just don’t care, saying its done, you tell me what you think. You tell me I’m doing well. I’m going to just keep making my shit and you can drop me a line and tell me its good, but I’m moving forward.

I like the company he keeps too. Like Zacari and Kendrick he also has SZA, Syd, Deacon Blues and Kari Faux. And unlike some tracks where it feels forced. Whether that forced is: “hey check out all of my friends,” or “hey check out who my producer knows,” or “hey Avicii made this a pop hit,” “hey I don’t know why he’s on here either,” or my personal favorite “hey Nelly said it was a good idea.”

The Sun’s Tirade isn’t a perfect album, when you’re so goddamn chill why be perfect? (apologies for word use) It is however a statement of what hopefully is to come. The issue is what will that be? What more can we ask of him? Is he going to have to make a #1 to get him to be more loved? He can’t make a Kendrick album full of social awareness and venom. So what is Isaiah going to have to do to be more than a critic’s darling? That seems to be the problem with great music. We don’t want the same thing again, but we don’t want drastic change either. We a progression. But can you progress and stay chill? If there is one person able to pull it off, Isaiah Rashad just maybe the answer.

From the Archives. (8/17/2010)

I had a previous blog. I am very proud of it. I started it to live up to the quote I was always repeating: “Making good stories, not good choices.”

Every Wednesday I will be posting older entries. This one goes back to August of 2010. I was 23 years old. I had recently moved back to Worcester from Cambridge. Previous posts on this blog were stream of consciousness messes about Oprah and what girl I was being pathetic towards.

I can still remember this being the first entry where I started to take writing and storytelling seriously. Its not my best work but it’s definitely a slice of me at this time:


My front tooth is missing.

Number 9 as the dentist calls it.

All I can think about is when John Lennon keeps saying “number 9” over and over again on the White Album.

After 23 surgeries, narcissism, constant belligerence, and plenty of pain; all inflicted by previous dental “professionals” I now have the my left, your right tooth out of my skull.

The fake one that was in there was slipping out of my mouth.

My jaw in the particular area didn’t have enough bone for the screw that had to be put in there to hold onto.

The guy who originally started this insane trip of tooth follies is now dead.

I’m not happy that he is dead.

But I was happy I never had to see his name anymore.

And I’m not saying that his death equals the college tuition-esque bill I had to pay, or the gun shot wound like pain I had to endure, or the proud self-assuring experiments he tried out on me, or cigar-stained fingers that went into my mouth, or the young asshole endodontist that was straight out of an “E.R.” type show (the kind of guy that had to prove he was better than everyone else because of daddy issues or some bullshit) or even just embarrassment of the absence of a tooth. What I am saying is that I hope he regret it right before his last breath.

I’ve never taken Vicodin before.

Can you tell?

I once took a bite of a sandwich with french bread and found my tooth in that meal.

I once sneezed, with my eyes wincing of course and upon opening them seeing my tooth on the ground.

I once had to walk around my college campus for 2 months and star in a play with a missing tooth because he couldn’t fix it yet and my insurance couldn’t go anywhere else.

Now I lay here.

Mouth swollen. Head clouded. Saliva bloody. Gums tender. Smile like a fucking jack o’lantern.

The surgery today was all but painless.

Half-way through my procedure the Novocaine wore off.

Because of all the previous surgeries my body is immune!

My gums were too exposed to filler up again.

So there I just had to “grin and bear it” as some trite people say.

There were people observing my surgery today.

Some company that has to to deal with my particular type of surgery.

So there were three people standing there just watching.

They weren’t just people either, they were beautiful.

Two square-jawed, fair haired, muscular build men, whose chests were so big and strong that some realtors in Manhattan could get away with calling it a studio apartment.

There was also this little blonde girl there. All dolled up.

During one of the breaks of the surgery in the haze of the blood, numbness and shock I told her that we should go out because she’s seen me at my worse.

She laughed.

Then I coughed.

Blood landed on her leopard print top.

I laughed.

She left.

I cried from the pain today.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I cried from pain.

I once cried when I badly sprained my ankle, but that was because I wasn’t going to be able to play the one game I loved.

I was literally sobbing on the car ride home, and when I brought the prescription to the pharmacy and when my mom held me.

I’m fine now.

Just another story to tell, right?


I have a real problem with Worcester. That is to say I can’t stop thinking about it. I work in Boston, and on my lunch break I walk to all the way to Back Bay or the North End. Everything I see from tourism, to restaurants, to food trucks to public transportation I am asking myself how can we apply this to Worcester?

The beauty of the city is that you can’t just take the idea in Boston and apply it to Worcester. That would be dumb. Boston would tease you for it and Worcester would reject it almost from the start. The real key to Worcester is that it makes something its own immediately.

A month ago I visited Detroit for a weekend. Brad Petrinec, a Detroit native, who for a time lived in Worcester is now back in the Motor City. Brad and I met while he was running Beard Competitions in conjunction with the Boston Beard Bureau at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester.

At the time I had never experienced any sort of beard competition. And despite my pretty open imagination couldn’t wrap my head around exactly what it would consist of. Turns out it is one of my absolutely favorite things to be apart of. It is part wrestling match, part punk show, part sideshow act, part safe space, part fashion catwalk, part cosplay convention. One by one I call up a bearded man or fake-bearded woman and they show off their beard or costume to fit the theme of their beard. Some play to the audience, others just stand as you look in awe of their fantastic facial structure while others stay in character the whole time dressed as a clown or a pirate. Some are Santas, others may be in a ZZ Top cover band, others may listen to way too much metal and others might have thought they were going to a Phish show. Its a mosaic of every type of person.

After hosting my fourth “Whiskered Wonderland” and my first with Brad living back in Detroit, Brad asked if I’d like to come on out and host the city’s Circus of Whiskers. I had to say yes.

I knew about Detroit and its failures. A once great manufacturing beacon full of entertainment and cars and sports now a city of fire with no money and no infrastructure. I knew about Detroit and its future too. About its cheap real estate and open lots and urban farming and booming art and culture. However I knew about it’s crime and wasteland feel too. But it was just things I read. Just a conversation piece at a party:

“You can buy a house there for like a dollar, everything is so cheap. I want to go there and start a studio to just [insert pipe dream of playing musical or painting].”

Seeing though, as they say, is truly believing. I believe guys. I love Detroit.

Don’t get me wrong, its scary and sad and dilapidated:

There was supposed to be off street parking for the venue at the event, with a hired guard who had a semi-automatic in case anyone tried anything funny. That plan fell through and there was only street parking for the night. “Only one car was broken into,” was considered a win.


We went for tacos over past a newly gentrified area of Detroit called Corktown. Honestly like 6 or 7 blocks from a hipster distillery and a wine bar among others. I went outside after we were done eating and someone from the area rushed outside to make sure I was alright. Even in mid-day you have to worry apparently.


The foundation we were the beard competition was raising money for was the Detroit Animal Welfare Group because the city literally still has packs of wild dogs all over the city.

I feel like I’m writing smut when I share those stories. Like some kid trying to one up the other on the playground to show how tough he is. I’m only trying to explain the severity of the situation there. It is one thing to read a sentence that says, “giant buildings are either empty or gone from fires.” And it is another to drive up down streets and highways and see empty spaces upon empty buildings constantly and all over.

The first thing we did after I landed was to take a look at the old Packard Plant. It is about 3 and half million square feet or just over 80 acres of land. It is all empty and it is covered in art. The only way I can explain the extensive blight is if we were somehow able to watch a dinosaur deteriorate in front of our eyes. Except this dinosaur was being guarded by a privare security company because there was a Banksy inside.

That is a perfect metaphor for current Detroit. A giant reminder of what was once great with a new objective creation on its inside. Whether it’s the gentrified bought up building of QuickenLoans downtown or Corktown or what seems to be every old warehouse or manufacturing building being turned into high-end lofts or galleries, the city is changing.

Its real beauty is in the people. Everywhere there were people smiling, spending money and making things. Not everyone knows everyone but everyone knows what’s going on. Yeah I know that’s hyperbole but it helps get the general feel of this pace across. These people care about this place. The politicians and business men who left it high and dry clearly didn’t. But those who are there now, whether born and bred or transplants are trying to make this a better place.

Try and say you don’t believe that to all of the beautiful murals over near Eastern Market. Or to the booming hip hop and punk scenes. Or to all of the breweries and distilleries. Or even to Belle Isle Park out on the lake. Detroit however the media will try and play it, is definitely sad and frustrating. But there is beauty poking through.

I visited Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project. Which are installations and creations of an old neighborhood block. Some of the installations no longer exist in their original form because of fires. But still lying there among an old foundation is a new one, partly it is of what once was, partly it is of what it is now and we as the viewer don’t know what it will be.

Which brings me back to Worcester. Detroit, whether they know it or not is stealing from Worcester. Banksy may not be bombing the old courthouse and The Temptations didn’t sing there when they were 20. But Worcester is climbing up the ladder quick and boastful. And while it is a bigger project Detroit seems to be right on our heels.


Top Albums of 2016

10. Pinegrove “Cardinal”
I was listening to this record earlier this year in my office when a co-worker walked in. She immediately perked up when hearing the music and said, “Who is this? It sounds like high school.” That perfectly sums up Pinegrove’s sound. If you were deeply immersed in the early 2000s emo scene, on the fringes or mocked it from afar you understand the reference upon first listen. The whole thing drips with earnestness. Lead singer Evan Stephens Hall looks like your friend from high school or at least the kid you look back fondly at, saying something to the effect of “Evan was always so nice.” His lyrics ring true and the music wraps around you like a warm blanket at Friday night’s football game, for which you can’t explain why you’re there. While this records does not match up to their compilation tape “Everything So Far,” its a fine album with well executed songs.

9. The Hotelier “Goodness”
I hesitated to go back to back emo bands. But there is more of an expansion here with The Hotelier. I also questioned my love for this record because of where the band is from, Worcester, MA. Despite the bias this whole album is a real representation of discovering adulthood. The record is complete. Every song moves into the next one into the next poem into the next clang of guitar. It’s a reflection on who we used to be and how we can use the reflections of those older than us to make our best selves. Christian Holden’s lyrics leaves it on the table, its their for you to dissect, read and put back together. Plus “Piano Player” was also one of my favorite songs of the year one of the few I listened to for an entire day.

8. Danny Brown “Atrocity Exhibition”
Danny Brown sounds grounded and unhinged all the time. Is it planned? Does he just snap from lucid to insane moment to moment? Up until this album I never knew how to follow a Danny Brown verse. In 2012 he had that song “Grown Up,” and I was convinced Danny knew what he was doing. But then he kept featuring all over everyone’s mixes and songs and he sounded like an open mic comedian with great potential: the premises are there, he just can’t stop himself from making it about his dick. To keep up with the metaphor Atrocity Exhibition is his best joke, for a lot of reasons. People didn’t expect it, the music is syncopated and jarring at moments and it fits well with Danny’s odd flow and there also great grooves to get comfortable with him until he slaps you upside your head again. For reference, “Really Doe,” don’t really use this phrase, but the track is fire.

7. Bon Iver “22, A Million”
I didn’t want to like this record. The previous two records were great, his work with Kanye was great. Then I was reading about how much more expansive he was getting with this record. He used something like 50 saxophones and even more vocal distortion and he was being a crazy artist talking about math as harmony and infinity and space. But this record is beautiful. Truly. If it were a painting I’d stare at it. If it were food I’d order it again for take out. If it were any smell I’d buy it as a cologne. Its been said, I understand, but his voice is another instrument. He is first Justin Vernon in the orchestra that made this record. Every song is still sad, it is still recorded specific to his voice and yet still it is universal a gift, it seems only this guy can do.

6. Culture Abuse “Peach”
Fun, that’s what this record is. And its a dosage of fun prescribed by a doctor to a aging punk who is depressed or got sober or is a family man. This record is just fun. It’s quick and hard hitting and catchy. There’s nothing hyperbolic about it. When you have a song called “Yuckies” on the album you know you’re not smearing any bullshit on your ears. Hell, just for the fuck of it they throw in a little SoCal ska breakdown. I don’t need to wax poetic too hard on this own because I can really only write and explain fun so many times before its not fun anymore.

5. Whitney “Light Upon the Lake”
I hate to admit I first listened to these guys after reading about them in the New York Times Fashion Magazine. It’s okay if you stop reading now. But, if you like dreamy, infectious pop music with saxophones I think you should stick around. These sad songs made up of good hooks can satisfy anyone looking to find someone who has a similar aesthetic to midday outdoor beer garden. The songs have meaning and aesthetic its no wonder they were having a discussion with Elton John in the NYT. I have always been a sucker for “la la las” and Whitney does not disappoint there. It was one of those records I didn’t want to end so I’d put it on full repeat, so that “Light Upon the Lake” never had an end or a beginning.

4. Kamaiyah “A Good Night in the Ghetto”
“Oh shit!” That’s been the repeated phrase for me as it is for Kamiayah all over this record. Straight out of Oakland, CA and only 19 years of age Kamaiyah talks real. Fuck what you think about a millennial, this girl has been through some shit, worked out of it and worked through it. When she says “How does it feel to be rich/ how does it feel to just live?” I am simultaneously feeling that and boppin’ my head to it. Damn, that’s good. She talks about taking advantage of thirsty dudes and unsupervised nights all in a breath and throws down just as hard about not having as those rappers who are considered great rap about having. The beats all remind us of a time just before Kamaiyah was born (’95) and yet she still sells it like she was there with us. Yet also telling as to get the hell out of nostalgia and think about her more!

3. Frank Ocean “Blonde”
Worth the wait. I get it. We live in a hyperbolic age where everything is bae and lit. Beyonce might as well have beheaded Zeus and Kanye is at the same time the greatest and garbage. But Frank Ocean’s long awaited album is great. The album previous “Channel Orange” was also great. The little I caught of “Endless” his visual Def Jam dump was pretty sensational. But this, this album came at the right time. It has signature stuff like his loose delivery bouncing back and forth between rapping and singing. It has him playing with pitch and harmony and composition. And it also has him giving us what he’s feeling. As a single white male I realize that this album probably even isn’t really for me. And yet at the same time it speaks to me. Either its empathy or a true connection, but Frank actually tells it like it is despite what another recently elected asshole says.

2. Chance the Rapper “Coloring Book”
At one turn a party, at another spiritual, the next sexy, then he starts talking about his grandma. Chance has blown up since I listened to only “Sunday Candy” for days on end. He had arguably the best verse this year on arguably the best song this year, designed a hat for the Chicago White Sox, charmed us all on those Twix ads and is changing America’s mind that they should help Chicago’s murder problem and not ignore it. Much like his resume he is all over the map on this record, which I guess technically is a mix tape, but in the digital age who cares about titles? Song in and song out Chance discusses his true beliefs in God and people and Chicago. As a man who would do anything for his hometown too, I feel this dude. And, it seems, a lot of America is too.

1. Anderson .Paak “Malibu” and “Yes Lawd!”
I know one is him and one is him with the producer Knxwledge but come on this is the year of Anderson .Paak. He features on Mac Miller’s “Dang!,” he is in car commercials, he is nominated for best new artist, he features on one of the best tracks of the year: “Glowed Up” by Kaytranada and still put out two amazing acts of R&B, hip-hop and soul. He is the future. This is the sound that he has not created but he did make in his image for the year 2016 and beyond. Horns, piano have always existed in pop. However they took a break when we became obsessed with technology. And while he wasn’t the first to bring it back he has made it sound the best. I haven’t even started on how he can kill a verse and kill you with his raspy, soul-filled voice. My favorite track of year is his “Celebrate.” The structure is a throwback with a simple bass-line and piano and the bridge even gives a taste of those driving Motown drums. The lyrics however are very of the now. He admits things are rough right now, but they used to be worse and yeah they could get bad again but we might as well enjoy it now, in the moment. Much like art or music or even the year 2016 itself: yeah it sucked and it seems like its going to get worse but right now? There’s a lot of good happening too.

Honorable Mentions:
Hockey Dad “Boronia”
My pop rock summer album. The summer began with Malibu and bookended with this infectious collection.

Blood Orange “Freetown Sound”
Expansive and new sounding high art project that also has one of my favorite tracks of the year, “Best To You.”

Sturgill Simpson “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”
Country music done right.

YG “Still Brazy”
“Fuck Donald Trump”. And other bangers.

Oathbreaker “Rheia”
Metal at its best. You know when a horror movie shows the monster and the monster’s origin story is just sad? That’s this record.

A Tribe Called Quest “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”
Instant classic.

Modern Baseball “Holy Ghost”
A great take on mental health.

Childish Gambino “Awaken, My Love!”
Funk is back baby!

Angel Olsen “MY WOMAN”
Lyrics that slap you in the face, making you readily turing the other cheek pleading for more.

Car Seat Headrest “Teens of Style”
Who is he? Why is it good? “Killer Whales”? Yes.

Solange “A Seat at the Table”
Not for me, but again empathy.

Kanye West “The Life of Pablo”
Its a mess, but man I wish I could make messes like this.

Stay tuned for me to be posting weekly takes on music, movies, culture and more. Plus I will be re-posting some of my favorite pieces from my old blog for which I am locked out of:

Can you believe that?

That is the quote of the year so far for me. Every time something cool is happening in Worcester I have people come up to me asking that question. The first dozen times I answered politely, “I know, it’s so awesome!” And then another really fun and inclusive thing would happen and they’d say it again. I would agree. Finally though, this past weekend as I was sitting in Joe Weiss’ spot over on Jackson St. Where upstairs a DJ was spinning dance hall records while world renowned artists tagged a wall for 90 minutes in black and white with free seltzer and beer being served. And downstairs there were three fully functioning workshops for furniture and motorcycles, a stocked scotch bar and more world renowned artists discussing and finishing their murals on the side of the building where all of the magnificence was happening. Friends old and new and on the spot were all saying the same thing, “Can you believe this is Worcester?”


Of course I can, it has only been my vision and dream since I was old enough to think I appreciated art and music and love. It was me and my friends that were subconsciously angry at Worcester simultaneously destroying property and building up and continuing a hardcore punk scene. It was me who would walk and bike all over the city to try and appreciate what the city was trying to give me, from all ages shows, to art openings, to parks to late-night coffee shops and Tortilla Sams. It was me, once, when coming home from college on the outbound train from Boston where I berated a Holy Cross student who was complaining that there was nothing to do in the city and I then listed off event after museum after happening for the hour and 20 minute ride back (and received an applause break from listeners on). It was me who when I moved back to this beautiful place that I again, tried to take advantage of it all from Duncan Arsenault’s Thursdays at the Dive, to the beginnings of stART on the Street, to the roller skating ladies of the Hotel Vernon. It was me who then decided to create a love letter of a show called the Sort of Late Shown inviting 100s of musicians, artists, politicians, athletes and socialites to share what they were doing and why they loved Worcester. It was me who knew Worcester had it in them all along.

Of course I am a leaf on the elm that is Worcester. And not even a major leaf at that. There are movers and shakers on 7 (8? 11? 16?) hills. I refuse to name every single person that makes a difference in this city because its everyone. Everyone brought us here. To the place I always believed in.

These things, plus more, have been the reason I can say that I believe I am in Worcester. This past week I went from a tour of the Auditorium to an act out of a movie in a beer garden, to a charity event where in people judge who has the best hot dog in Worcester (held at Wormtown Brewery) to a mural contest in a future creative lab, all pretty much downtown. It wasn’t until I spoke about how awesome it was out loud to someone else that it made me cry. This is the Worcester I knew it was. And now it is. Or it is close to what it is.

Every time I meet someone new or see a former student grown up I see them at the a thing that rustling the leaves and extending the city’s branches. I walked into the Worcester pop-up today, after looking at the new mural on Hanover Theatre as Boy George and Culture Club’s buses idled outside. It was a pop up shop of clothing done by young entrepreneurs and everybody in there looked like they were straight out of a new and hip movie that hadn’t been shot yet.

When I walk downtown I cry. I don’t weep, but I get teary eyed. I am crying right now as I write this. It is joy, Worcester absolute joy. Elation, pride, comfort! Its not over, and Worcester knows this. We have all worked so hard to be here, and we are not stopping. My heart flutters at the construction at CitySquare. My eyes keep finding new beautiful things being put up and created. My ears open for Jon Short’s blues or Ghost of the Machine’s lyricism or Alisan Porter’s pipes. My feet keep me moving forward. We did it Worcester, and its not even close to over. How cool is that? We did it and there is still more to come. Can you believe that?