The House Is Burning
“Hopefully this is the start of something new—no more five-year gaps,” Isaiah Rashad tells Apple Music of his long-awaited third album. It’s been that long between The House Is Burning and 2016’s The Sun’s Tirade, but the Chattanooga rapper easily proves why he’s worth waiting for. The songs here are kinetic even in their nocturnal wooziness and precise even in their unpretentiousness. Many of them, he says, were born from “scratches” or songs he just made on a whim with a minimal amount of time invested alongside Dallas producer Kal Banx, who’s credited on most of the tracks.
True to Rashad’s geographic background, there’s a decidedly Southern and soulful aura that informs the album’s momentum and references. Tucked beneath the layers of syrupy melodies are nods to Pimp C, Goodie Mob, Three 6 Mafia, and Anthony Hamilton. Within the sounds and lyrics, he lights up a map to his musical roots and the proud Dirty South lineage in which he operates. “I tried to hone in on the energy of all the types of music I grew up listening to—Texas bounce, Louisiana bounce, a little bit of neo-soul in there,” he says. “I tried to update it, flip it, and make it apply to how I be feeling nowadays.” Below, he shares a bit of background about a handful of the album’s standouts.
“From the Garden” “Originally, the beat was something else. I'd made it at my mom's crib about four years ago, and we just switched the beat because it still sounded cool. We were like, 'Why waste it? Why have it just sitting to the side?' So we put Uzi on it. He said he was going to do some shit for me if I asked him, so we asked him, and he did it.”
“Lay Wit Ya” “‘Lay Wit Ya’ came from a lockout that we had had like last January. Again, it was just a scratch—a scratch idea that we turned full once we had listened to it a couple of times. Hollywood Cole threw us the beat. Made it in about 10 minutes. That was it. I just liked it.”
“Claymore” “I made that song for Smino. And if I didn't use it, I was going to try to give it to him. And then he finally got on it, but I think his album was about done and he didn't really need it, so we used it. Most everybody on my album I listen to, so most of the tracks were made like 'oh, this would be a tight Smino song' or that type of shit if it's fitting. I be having that type of stuff in mind.”
“Headshots” “People say [this reminds them of] Outkast, but I was doing an Anthony Hamilton impression more than anything else. The verses is just— maybe I can get how they get some Outkast in that, but that was a whole bunch of Zay right there. But the inspiration behind the track was really Anthony Hamilton, honestly.”
“All Herb” “[Amindi and I] got a nice little chemistry. We got a couple of songs on the project—she did the intro with me too, and another one, ‘True Story.’ But yeah, we made that on the spot. Me and Devin [Malik] made the beat. It was like a simple loop. We added a drum, and then I started like mumbling the hook. Once I came up with the hook, the cadence for the verses was easy. But I didn't really want to finish the verses, because I was like, 'It sounds like a whole bunch of me.' So I called Amindi, and she came and she wrote. It's pretty quick when we're in a zone.”
“Hey Mista” “Me and Kal [Banx] were at his house, and our whole plan was to freestyle—just make a beat and whatever comes to mind. It's like trusting the whole idea of 'I don't really make nothing bad. I'm incapable of making something bad, so let me just trust in this.' We went into it with that type of mentality, and we freestyled that whole motherfucking thing. Like the whole track, it's really a big-ass joke. The second verse is a whole joke—every line is some shit that made me laugh and it just sounded funny.”
“Wat U Sed” “‘Wat U Sed’ is another homage to the South—I'm just now realizing that I do those a lot. I didn't want to do a whole bunch of tracks with cowbells, but that was one that was like, hell yeah. This sounds like some of that—there's this producer named ICYTWAT who has this very specific type of sound. And it kind of gave me some of that old Kush & Orange Juice vibes from Wiz, too, like 'Mezmorized' and shit.”
“Score” “For me ‘Score’ is probably one of my favorite songs out the whole album, just because of how fucking different it is. I think I really got off an R&B song, and I hadn't got one off for real on the other ones. So I think I'm probably most proud of that one.”
“THIB” “That was probably the first track I made for my album. Towards the end of the whole shit, I was thinking about changing the title to something else, but it was like, nah, we can’t leave that off. It was definitely like the inspiration behind just about the whole soundscape of the album. I wanted it to be like dark and winding, sounds like two or three in the morning. That's a pretty constant theme with my music anyway. I like to listen to shit at night—when all my obligations are done, I'm a night person. When I'm in the mix, I'm an early riser, but when I'm just enjoying music on some vacay shit, definitely nighttime. So that's the type of stuff I like to make.”