Isaiah Rashad isn’t really feeling my questions. I’m on a choppy cell connection with the 25-year-old Chattanooga, Tennesse native, trying to ask the Top Dawg Entertainment MC (home of Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q) about the lyrical inspirations behind his debut full-length, 2016’s The Sun’s Tirade. Granted, the inside of a sprinter is probably not the ideal place for Rashad to wax philosophically about his struggles with depression and addiction that fed into this long-awaited record, or the number of album delays that led many to believe he had actually been dropped from his label, but it’s hard to eke out much from this initial line of questioning.
“You want me to give it to you bro, but I don’t got it,” he admits early on in our conversation, ahead of his sold-out show at L’Astral on January 27th. But Rashad brightens up considerably when we get to talking about pop culture, from his current favourite TV shows to his obsession with 90’s X-Men comics. Check out our Q&A below, and bring the man some Cable back issues when he rolls into town.
We’re speaking the day after the inauguration — how are you feeling today?
Yo it’s crazy. I’ve been living like the world is La La Land, like that shit don’t matter to me, ain’t got nothing to do with me. But it does. And it sucks.
Was it inspiring seeing all the marches across the country today?
Nah. We let this shit happen. It’s cool bro, we’ve always been able to gather. When have we not been able to come together? But we still let somebody do that shit.
The Sun’s Tirade was promised a number of times — what was the hold up?
There’s like 2 or 3 versions of the record, the one that came out is the last one I made. I was making different songs. I like all of them, that’s just the tracks that I like. It wasn’t some crazy thing. Just listening to it over and over again.
What’s your writing process like?
I think I’m a writer 24/7 now. I used to be part-time. You want me to give it to you bro, but I don’t got it. You want to be like that crazy critic! [Laughs]
You don’t sound like anyone else on Top Dawg – was it intentional to carve out your own sound?
When you ask me, yeah. When you don’t ask, me I don’t think about it. It’s just natural shit dude. The epitome of natural.
You’ve been up front about dealing with addiction and depression – is it important for you to be open with that?
Yeah. You’ve got to be honest with yourself. People ask me questions, you can’t always blow off everything. And it’s important, it’s in my music too. Everybody has ups and downs, I’m just 25 dawg.
What do you do to pass the time on the road these days?
I’ve got to catch up on the second episode of The Young Pope. The first episode inspired the fuck out of me. I don’t know. Some shit that Jude Law said at the end, about being private. He’s talking about Banksy. He’s like, “The most popular artist is never the most important.” That’s tight. I fuck with it. I’m ready for Westworld to come back. I’m catching up on old comics and shit dude. Marvel Now and DC Rebirth. I’m trying to get into Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. I’m trying to get into her before they put out her movie. I don’t really like the character that much, but I’m trying to get into it. Like Champions, bro, it’s Nova, Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel, they’re all kids, they’re all like ethnic kids ‘n shit. So I’m keeping track of that shit.
Are you excited for the new Spider-Man movie?
If they’re going along with the comics, then Donald Glover’s character should be around for the next three shits. He’s playing the type of villain that would typically get his ass kicked. That character he’s playing, in the comics right now, substitutes for Spider-Man when Spider-Man needs to do some shit.
Is Miles Morales in the new movie?
I think he might be in like the third of fourth one. They’ve got Tom Holland signed on for three but it seems like he might die in the third one. Which would make sense.
How do you keep up with so many titles?
I read a lot bro, like I read too much. I need to put more effort into sleeping. I got the DC and the Marvel apps, you just buy the comic the week it comes out, on the phone. Because I can’t pull up to a comic store every week, so I just download it and read it. I like pulling up and getting the old shit. Like old 90’s X-Men shit, like I’m looking for the Onslaught era collection. I’m trying to get The Dark Phoenix Saga, the shit that when I get a crib I can have a little library of comics and shit. I always thought it was corny for me to hop on Twitter and ask people to bring me some shit. Bring me the Onslaught shit. 90’s X-Men, if you’ve got any Cable comics.
You’ve got to catch up on Cable before the next Deadpool movie.
Is he going to be in it? Who would play him? Not Liam Neeson, I hate him. You can quote me on that, I’m pretty honest about my movie shit. ‘Cause he’s Qui Gon Jinn. And I hate the whole Star Wars [prequels], I hate that shit.
But you’re OK with Taken?
I hate Taken. And Taken 2, and the third one. He’s a horrible parent. He probably hated doing Star Wars too. They killed him off too early.
What new music is exciting to you right now?
It’s a combination. Right now I think the three songs on the Migos pre-order on iTunes.
You should do some shows together, that’d be a great combination.
Yeah, it would be. No one would think of it though. I’m too — what’s the word — ambiguous? I haven’t landed in the spot yet for somebody to put me on. And I’ve got a real ambiguous looking crowd too, I’ve got a crowd of people you wouldn’t expect to look like that.
What’s the kind of crowd you’re getting at your shows?
Um, young. [Pauses] YOUNG. Some of ’em bring their parents, some of ’em don’t. All-ages though.
What’s coming up next for you?
More new music, more new ideas. I’m trying to expand. Who knows what I’m going to do next. Who the fuck knows.
You planning on touring more after this run?
Yeah, more than likely. Yeah man, the word is spreading that I put on a good one.
Isaiah Rashad plays L’Astral (305 Rue Sainte-Catherine West) on Friday, January 27th. Sold out.