Review: Isaiah Rashad, ‘The House is Burning’

Isaiah Rashad’s return in The House is Burning finds him reoccupying his lane of chilled out, lowkey hip hop.

Hibernation in hip hop barely exists anymore. But if you are an artist signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, you make up your own rules. Isaiah Rashad has been hibernating for five years, his latest studio album being The Sun’s Tirade which dropped in 2016. For a lot of artists, this can dwindle their growth and momentum. Luckily for Rashad, his loyal fanbase have been patiently anticipating his return and to kick off the next TDE cycle.

Across 16 tracks, The House is Burning provides a consistent, tight-knit listening experience with a solid crop of guest appearances to accompany him.

THIB works best when listening from start to finish, achieving the purpose of a true album, forever consistent with its sound. Leading up to the release, echoes of Southern hip hop were linked to the record, and turn up on lead single “Lay Wit Ya”. The track delivers smooth blend of Memphis influence and Rashad’s usual psychedelic production. The latter remains the template for the rest of THIB, maintaining a mellow tempo and laidback delivery (“RIP Young”, “Claymore”, “THIB”). “Headshots” and “RIP Young” impress with their catchy hooks, serving as the standout moments to extract outside the full album (i.e. playlists). This is the sound Rashad is known for, supplying exactly the album to satisfy his loyal fanbase.

Collaborative songs are more polished and melodic, helping to not bring the album into a lofi lull. Rashad embraces R&B on “Wat U Sed” and “Score”, with featured vocalists Iamdoechii and SZA providing sweeter melodies to add a rose gold tint to THIB. These are moments that see Rashad creating more catchy, memorable tracks which help break up the rapper’s ‘chill hop’ comfort zone.

Despite its consistency, The House is Burning is not the kind of album that will help gain new fans. Sonically, THIB remains in the same boxes as his previous projects, Cilvia Demo and The Sun’s Tirade. If you were not big fans of those, chances are THIB will not blow you away either. Nor does Rashad does not strike the listener when it comes to performances, which is a detriment of his mutter deliveries and tactically low energy.

Most of the singles did not stick pre-release, but within the album they sound much better (“Lay Wit Ya”, “Wat U Sed”, “From the Garden”). This makes the majority of the songs ‘album tracks’, fighting to have an impact outside the entire album. While this may make it tougher to extract songs for playlists, it massively adds to the cohesion and experience of understanding Rashad’s current mental state and feelings.

In the most simple, colloquial terms, The House is Burning is a vibe. It occupies similar territory to his previous projects, enabling the purpose of an album – a consistent listening experience. With songs cut and sharper songwriting, THIB would be more memorable.

7.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Headshots (4r Da Locals)”, “RIP Young”, “Score”, “HB2U”