meta-scriptOn 'Heavy,' SiR Wants People To See The Weight Of His Humanity |

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On 'Heavy,' SiR Wants People To See The Weight Of His Humanity

In an interview with, the TDE singer opens up about his new album, overcoming addiction, and how he leaned on his labelmates to carve a new path forward.

GRAMMYs/Mar 21, 2024 - 01:20 pm

SiR admits that a good chunk of his past five years were a blur. Following the release of his last album, 2019’s Chasing Summer, the singer fell into a deep depression. To cope, he began to "self-medicate," which ultimately spiraled into addiction.

The Inglewood, California native isn’t the first artist under L.A. powerhouse label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) to struggle with mental and physical health. Isaiah Rashad, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q have all experienced their own bouts with addiction and depression; however, all three have also found their way back to their art, releasing critically acclaimed come-back albums in the past few years. SiR is the latest example of Black male resilience amongst TDE artists. 

On his new album, Heavy (out March 22), the 37-year-old singer documents his life’s ups and downs. The record is "as personal as I’ll ever get in my music," he says over Zoom from his home in Inglewood. 

Sir Darryl Farris grew up in a musical family. His mother sang background for Chaka Khan and Michael Jackson back in the day, and urged SiR and his brothers — rapper D Smoke and fellow R&B singer Davion Farris — to sing in church every Sunday during their adolescence. While becoming a musician wasn’t an obvious career path, SiR rediscovered his passion in his early 20s and locked in.

The singer released his debut album, Seven Sundays, independently in 2015. He signed with TDE two years later and released the critically acclaimed November in 2018. Chasing Summer followed in 2019 and, together, the albums underscored him as a missing piece in the neo-soul/R&B landscape. Songs like "D’Evils," "Something New" (feat. Etta Bond), "John Redcorn" and "Hair Down" (feat. former labelmate Kendrick Lamar) especially showcased SiR's soulful storytelling and overall vibe. 

"My life experiences helped shape how I write songs," he told in 2019. "I appreciate my time away from music, but also I'm glad I found my way back because I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a musician."

This time around, SiR found his way back to music in a more transformative way. Shortly after revealing his addiction to his wife in 2021, he checked into rehab and began the process of getting clean. Despite relapsing twice in 2022, as of writing this, SiR is a year and three months sober. He still dabbles with marijuana but is on a new path forward — forgiving himself along the way. "Finding sobriety, in my opinion, means finding your own version of it. I’m healthy and that’s what matters," he shares.

SiR recently earned his first two GRAMMY nominations at this year’s ceremony; Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance for his collaboration with Alex Isley and Robert Glasper on the latter’s "Back to Love." SiR spoke to about creating his new album, overcoming his vices and how he leaned on his support system, including his labelmates, to carve a new path forward.

I was told that you struggled with an addiction in between releasing 2019’s Chasing Summer and now. Walk me through the ups and downs of your last five years.

I try not to go into detail as far as naming what I was actually going through because I don’t give my [drug of choice] power, and that’s just my personal thing. But I was a full-blown addict, and it started from a string of depression [and] relationship issues and issues at home that I wasn’t dealing with. Living one way when I’m actually built a different way. I started to self-medicate, let’s call it that, and it became an issue right around Chasing Summer and a full-blown problem heading into 2020, right before COVID. 

At the time, my wife was pregnant and it was too much [for me] to handle so I reached out for help [and] I had a strong support system around me. It took about a year, year and a half before I actually figured it out. But as of right now… I’m back at home with my family, and through all of this, I was creating. I love what I do and it’s part of how I pay my bills, so I tried to stay as busy as possible. By 2022, I was looking at the [track]list that I was accruing as I was trying to get sober, and noticed a throughline of my personal life struggles on wax. 

I did a great job of diving deep, as far as my own personal issues. I kinda did that [by] accident this time around and after about a year of changing the playlist — taking songs off, putting new songs on — we finally got to a place where we fell in love and started doing all the work towards preparing to release the album.

At what point were you like OK, I need to get it together?

I couldn’t really hide the fact that I was sick at a certain point. My wife couldn't tell what it was. She thought I was sick, like, physically. I would wake up throwing up, it was an ongoing thing for a few weeks when I was at the worst. It just got to a point where it wasn’t a secret to anybody else. 

Tough questions came out and I was ready to talk about it, I just didn’t know how. It’s such an embarrassing thing for a lot of people, you know? Once the cat was out of the bag, it was a lot easier for me to accept help and really try to work through what I needed to work through. 

When did you go to rehab?

The first time? [Laughs.] I was there for 21 days [in 2021]. [The] second time, I was there for two months and the third time wasn’t technically rehab; we took my phone [and] keys and put them in a locked room type situation. I did personal therapy, and, man, [that] did wonders. There’s that stigma that our community has on therapy and I would’ve never done something like that if I was in any other position, so I’m thankful for my issues because they led me to a lot of self-reflection and forgiveness. 

I think the only reason why I was sick for so long is because I wasn’t able to forgive myself for all of the mistakes that I had made and I wasn’t addressing the real issue, which was my depression. Once those things worked themselves out, it was all light from there and we were heading forward. [But] once an addict, always an addict — I had slip-ups. I was committed to being sober but I had two relapses that kinda set me back in 2022. I had a great 2023, started this year off strong, ended 2023 off strong with music and [I] wanna keep that going. 

I tell people all the time, I’m so sick of talking about this. We had to shoot a documentary the last couple of days and I had to fake doing drugs and fake getting drunk for the visual, and it’s very beautiful and artistic, [but] that kind of stuff has been uncomfortable. Even this conversation. It’s not uncomfortable for me, but it’s tough because I have to be honest and it’s important for me to tell my side of the story. 

I understand it’s tough and I appreciate you opening up about this. How did you find the strength to create through these low points?

The playlist that we have was pretty much done [at] the end of 2022 when we dropped "Nothing Even Matters." We were ready to go but I wasn’t sober. One thing about [TDE CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith] is he protects people. He doesn’t care about when things happen as far as the music industry, he knows we’re gifted beyond the situations that we be in. He wants to make sure that he protects us as people so that our careers are built around longevity — and he won’t let me drop nothing unless it’s ready. 

And I’m glad that last mess up happened because it gave us time to really, really decide to put the right stuff on this playlist, and I had another six months to just chisel down. I added two songs back in that weren’t gonna be on the project. "Only Human" is an eight-year-old song, but it wasn’t going to be on there. "Tryin’ My Hardest" wasn’t gonna be on there but I put them back on and I changed the playlist up, got a couple extra features and I’m glad it worked out.

How have you leaned on your labelmates through your low points and what were those conversations like?

The conversations are always love because the situations are very similar. Circumstances are different but the solution was all the same. We were all going to our own different vices, but I talked to Ab-Soul a lot and leaned on him to get my mind right. When I was going through what I was going through, it was the same time he was going through what he was going through, and I didn’t know it. 

We started talking candidly about our experiences, which helps while you’re in the addiction, and it became a normal thing. Eventually, we both got to a point where we were healthy-minded and the conversation shifted. We don’t talk about that kind of stuff anymore but he was instrumental in pulling my mind away from the worst of it. 

Same with Zay [Isaiah Rashad]. Me and Zay was watching each other struggle. [Laughs.] It’s beautiful to see somebody win but it’s even more beautiful to see your brother make it back. Even [ScHoolboy] Q, whenever I seen him, it was all love. I was showing up places messed up and they always showed me the same respect and that went a long way.

Was collabing with Isaiah and Ab-Soul intentional, then?

Yes and no. I’m a fan of their music and everybody knows I’m a huge Ab-Soul fan, but these were the songs that were created in the turmoil and they fit for everyone. It was easy for us to write these things, especially "Karma" where me and Zay both were in the midst of the worst, and "I’m Not Perfect" was easy for Soul to gravitate towards because of the message, he understood it. 

That’s the beautiful thing about TDE, we all know what each other [is] capable of. Looking back, I think we’re blessed to have been in similar circumstances at the same time because the music wouldn’t sound the same if it was any other way.

What does the title Heavy mean to you?

This album is literally the most personal I’ll ever be. I don’t want to be in this kind of pain ever again. It’s as personal as I’ll ever get in my music. When I hear the word "heavy" I think of pressure and weight. With this album, I feel like I was under so much pressure as I was writing the songs — all I could do was make diamonds. These songs are all their own little diamonds of my writing, they’re stories that come from me, they’re born from my mistakes. 

It feels heavy. When I listen to the music, I feel the things I was going through weighing me down. When I perform it, it feels like I got on 300 pounds. This is four years coming. Five years since the [last] album but four years [that] I’ve been trying to get myself back to where I need to be to drop this. It’s the perfect title for what you’re hearing.

Why did you decide to drop "No Evil" and "Karma" as the first two singles?

Everything’s a team effort. We played the music until we were sick of it and whatever songs we were sick of the least, those were the ones that we wanted to work on. 

"No Evil" kept surprising us. The more we played it, the more we were like, "This s— is undeniable." It has so many things going for it. If people [are] just really willing to listen to it, it might do something. With "Karma," that was like …let’s just give [the fans] something that’s straight down the middle.

Why the decision for the D’Angelo homage in the "No Evil" video? Was that to show off your fitness transformation?

I think it was more so [the latter] than D’Angelo. The shot was something the director suggested, but it was more so my big reveal. I’ve been working on myself and part of the thing that I was going through the most was my weight gain. I got up to 250lbs and nobody was really saying anything. [While I was] trying to get sober, I had a lot of time to figure out my dieting and that’s what really helped get me down to the weight I’m at now.

The ode to D’Angelo, I didn’t really see until we started editing the video. I’m on the [other] side of the camera so I had no idea that we were going that far. I’m like, Hell yeah. My shirt’s off, I’m buff as f– that’s all that mattered to me. [Laughs.] Anytime I can pay homage to anybody like D’Angelo that helped shape me as an artist, I won’t hesitate to. 

"Ricky’s Song" also stands out to me because it sounds like you’re talking to someone. Walk me through the inspiration behind that.

I literally was talking to my nephew Ricky, that’s my n—. Ricky is 20 now. I wrote that right when he was going into his senior year. To me, it’s a Black love story, a love story that you don’t hear everyday. It’s my family and that’s how we take care of each other: through the lessons that we learn. On the song right before this, "Life Is Good," there’s an interlude where my dad tells a story about a robbery that he committed back in the day. He was telling us these stories because he wants us to know all the mistakes he’s made in his life so we don’t go through the same stuff. That’s where the line in "Ricky’s Song": "You learned from me, don’t wanna see you make the same mistakes," [comes from]. 

That’s why that song is so important to me and for other people to hear. It’s OK to love your family and nurture them. Me and Ricky’s relationship is so strong. That man is the coolest. [He’s] my workout partner, video game partner, we play "Call of Duty" all day together and we talk all the time, constantly encouraging and lifting each other up, giving each other advice from the other perspective because I’m 37 and he’s 20. I can learn so much more from him than he can learn from me in certain instances because he’s watching the world happening in his time, and I don’t see it like that and I never will, we’re in two different places. I definitely brush off on him and vice versa. He keeps me young.

What do you want listeners to take away from Heavy?

It’s OK to be vulnerable. We all go through things, it’s just about how you handle them, being honest about it with yourself and the people around you. I want people to see my humanity because a lot of times it feels like as artists, we’re put in these places and expectations are set for us and if we don’t abide by them, we can lose our whole career or we can get too lost in the image of what we’re supposed to be. I want people to see that I’m normal, I’m very human when you meet me. I’m regular and I love that part of my life. SiR is great but SiR is a job. It’s a career that can end, but my life is my life and I want people to recognize that it’s a blessing to get music from artists.

I want people that are going through similar situations to hear that I was crying for help in these instances and to know that it’s OK to ask for help. That’s the biggest thing with addiction and drug use: People are so embarrassed or ashamed that they won’t reach out to the person that wants to help them. For people that are watching someone go through this, take some of the pressure off yourself because…an addict will never get help until they choose to help themselves. So all you can do is support, give love and help in any way you can. 

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Kid Cudi performs at Coachella 2024
Kid Cudi, whose music often discusses mental health, performs at Coachella 2024.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Coachella


10 Times Hip-Hop Has Given A Voice To Mental Health: Eminem, J. Cole, Logic & More Speak Out

From the message of "The Message" to Joe Budden's vulnerable podcast and Jay-Z speaking about the importance of therapy, read on for moments in the history of hip-hop where mental health was at the forefront.

GRAMMYs/May 20, 2024 - 03:10 pm

In a world of braggadocio lyrics, where weakness is often looked down upon, hip-hop can often seem far from a safe place to discuss mental health. 

But underneath its rugged exterior, hip-hop culture and its artists have long been proponents of well-being and discussing the importance of taking care of one's mental health. Openness about these topics has grown in recent years, including a 2022 panel discussion around hip-hop and mental health, co-hosted by the GRAMMY Museum, the Recording Academy's Black Music Collective, and MusicCares in partnership with the Universal Hip-Hop Museum. 

"Artists are in a fight-or-flight mode when it comes to being in this game," said Eric Brooks, former VP of Marketing & Promotions at Priority Records who worked with NWA and Dr. Dre. "And there need to be strategies on how to deal with the inner battles that only happen in the mind and body."  

The panel only scratched the surface of the many times hip-hop culture has illuminated critical mental health issues that often remain hidden or under-discussed in the music industry. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, read on for 10 times hip-hop has shone a light on mental health. 

J. Cole Apologized To Kendrick Lamar

A long-simmering beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar was reignited in March 2024 when Metro Boomin' and Future released "Like That." The track featured a scathing verse from Kendrick, where he took aim at  Drake and J. Cole, and referenced the pair's collaborative song "First Person Shooter." 

The single begged for a response, and J. Cole, under what was presumably a significant amount of pressure, surprise-released his Might Delete Later. The album featured "7 Minute Drill," in which Cole calls Kendrick's To Pimp, A Butterfly boring. 

But the same week Cole's album came out, he apologized to Kendrick onstage at his Dreamville Fest, saying it didn't sit right with his spirit and that he "felt terrible" since it was released. Cole added that the song didn’t sit right with him spiritually and he was unable to sleep. Cole subsequently removed "7 Minute Drill" from streaming services. 

Strong debate followed about whether or not Cole should have removed the song. However, many heralded Cole’s maturity in the decision and said it was an important example of not doing things that don’t align with one's true emotions, and avoiding allowing others expectations of you weight down your own physical and mental health.

SiR Spoke Candidly About Depression & Sobriety

Although an R&B artist, TDE singer SiR is hip-hop adjacent, having collaborated with former labelmate Kendrick Lamar on tracks like "D'Evils" and "Hair Down." SiR recently spoke with about the troubles that followed him after the release of his 2019 album Chasing Summer.

"I was a full-blown addict, and it started from a string of depression [and] relationship issues and issues at home that I wasn't dealing with," SiR says. After the Los Angeles-based singer had hit rock bottom, he found the spark he needed to do something about it. His initial rehab stint was the first step on the road to change.  

"I was there for 21 days [in 2021]. [The] second time, I was there for two months and the third time wasn't technically rehab…I did personal therapy, and, man, [that] did wonders," he recalls. 

SiR also tackled the stigma many Black communities place on therapy and seeking help for mental health issues. "I would've never done something like that if I was in any other position, so I'm thankful for my issues because they led me to a lot of self-reflection and forgiveness," SiR says.

Big Sean Educated His Audience About Anxiety & Depression 

One of the biggest challenges in addressing anxiety and depression is the feeling that those issues must be kept under wraps.  In 2021, Big Sean and his mother released a series of videos in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, in which the GRAMMY nominee opened up about his battles with depression and anxiety. 

In one of those videos, Sean and his mother discussed  the importance of sleep and circadian rhythms when managing depression and mental health issues. In an industry that prioritizes the grind, the hip-hop community often overlooks sleep — much to its detriment.

"Sleep is the most overlooked, disrespected aspect of our well-being," said Myra Anderson, Executive Director & President of the Sean Anderson Foundation and Big Sean's mother. "Even one day without good sleep can mess up your hormones severely." 

As a busy recording artist, Sean concurs that, for him, a lack of sleep contributes to challenges with anxiety. “If I’m not in the right mindset, I don’t get the right sleep,” says Sean in the mental health video series. “Then that anxiety rides high, and my thoughts are racing. I’m somebody that lives in my head.”

G.Herbo's "PTSD" Addressed The Impact Of Street Violence

Eastside Chicago's G. Herbo is an artist vital to the city's drill music scene. On "PTSD," the title track of his 2020 album, Herbo raps about his struggles coping with violence and loss. 

"I can't sleep 'cause it's a war zone in my head / My killers good, they know I'm hands-on with the bread / A million dollars ahead, I'm still angry and seeing red / How the f*ck I'm 'posed to have fun? All my n— dead."  

The lyrics echoed the realities of what G. Herbo grew up seeing in O-Block, considered by many to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. But it wasn't just a song title; G. Herbo was diagnosed with PTSD in 2019 and began therapy to manage it, showing that even rap's most hardened have opened themselves up to professional help. 

"I'm so glad that I did go to therapy," G. Herbo told in July 2020. "I'm glad that I did take that leap of faith to just go talk to somebody about my situation and just my thoughts and get 'em to a person with an unbiased opinion." 

Joe Budden Opens Up About His Darkest Times 

In 2017, on the "Grass Routes Podcast," rapper-turned-podcaster Joe Budden opened up about multiple suicide attempts and his lifelong battle with depression. 

"For me, there have been times where I've actually attempted suicide," Budden shared. "As open as I've been when it comes to mental health, it wasn't until retirement from rapping that I was able to dive into some of the things the fans have seen." 

Never one to shy away from rapping about his mental health struggles, Budden songs like "Whatever It Takes" peel back the layers on an artist fighting his demons: "See, I'm depressed lately, but nobody understands / That I'm depressed lately, I'm sorta feelin repressed lately." 

Budden continued to be a champion for mental health that year, including on his former Complex show "Everyday Struggle," where Budden broke down while discussing the suicide death of fellow rapper Styles P's daughter. 

In recent years, Budden has uses his wildly popular "The Joe Budden Podcast" as a tool to discuss his own struggles and raise awareness of mental health issues. 

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five Broadcast A Serious "Message"

Hip-hop culture has long used rap as a tool to highlight mental health and the everyday struggles of its community. Released in 1982, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's "The Message" is an early, effective example of vulnerability in hip-hop.

"The Message" described the mental health impacts of poverty and inner-city struggle, describing desperate feelings and calling for support in underserved communities: "I can't take the smell, can't take the noise / Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice." Perhaps the most recognizable lyric comes from Melle Mel, who raps, "Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge/I'm trying not to lose my head." 

Eminem Got Honest About Depression While In Rehab

On "Reaching Out," Queen and Paul Rodgers sing "Lately I've been hard to reach / I've been too long on my own / everybody has a private world where they can be alone." These lyrics were sampled on the intro to Eminem's 2009 single "Beautiful," a raw tale of the rapper's struggles with depression. Half of the song was written while Eminem was in rehab, including lyrics like "I'm just so f—king depressed/I just can't seem to get out this slump." 

The lyrics pierced the core of Eminem's audience, who were able to see the parallels between the struggles of a rap superstar and their own issues. The song reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY Award. In an interview with MTV about the song, Eminem said it was an important outlet for him at a challenging time. 

But it was far from the first time Eminem has discussed mental health. One of the earliest examples was in his song "Stan," where Eminem rapped from the perspective of an obsessed fan who ended up killing himself and his wife after Eminem failed to respond to his fan mail. In a 2000 interview, Eminem told MTV that he wrote the song to warn fans not to take his lyrics literally. 

Logic Sparked Change With A Number

One of the most impactful moments hip-hop has seen regarding mental health and sparking change was when Logic released his song "1-800-273-8255" in 2017. The record, named after the real National Suicide Lifeline Prevention phone number, which is now 988, hit the top three on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Following the song's release, the British Medical Journal released a study sharing data that showed the song contributed to a 27 percent increase in calls to the prevention hotline that year and may have even contributed to an actual reduction in deaths by suicide. 

Logic's single further proved that rap music's impact extends well beyond charts and sales. "1-800-273-8255" highlighted the connection artists have with their fans, as well as the ways music can be a tool to cope with challenges like mental health and suicidal thoughts. 

Kid Cudi Opened Up About Suicidal Urges 

Cleveland's own Kid Cudi has never shied away from putting his emotions on record, rapping vividly throughout his career about his struggles with mental health. Cudi records, like the hit single "Pursuit of Happiness," are brutally honest about trying to find happiness in a world filled with trials and tribulations. 

In a 2022 interview with Esquire, Cudi recalled checking himself into rehab in 2016 for depression and suicidal urges. He had been using drugs to manage the weight of his stardom and even suffered a stroke while in rehab. "Everything was f—ed," Cudi said. 

Cudi took a break to develop stability, returning to the spotlight with the 2018 project Kids See Ghosts in collaboration with Kanye West.. Today, Cudi and his music remain pillars of strength for those facing similar challenges.   

Jay-Z Detailed The Importance Of Therapy & Getting Out Of "Survival Mode"

In 2017, Jay-Z released his critically acclaimed thirteenth studio album. 4:44 was packed with lessons on family, mental health, and personal growth.

An interview with the New York Times, Jay-Z discussed how helpful therapy had been to him. Therapy helped the rap superstar in his interactions with other people — something that had been hardened growing up as a black man in Marcy Projects. "I grew so much from the experience," he told the Times.

"I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected, and it comes from somewhere. I understand that, instead of reacting to that with anger, I can provide a softer landing and maybe, 'Aw, man, is you O.K.? You're in this space where you're hurting, and you think I see you, so you don't want me to look at you. And you don't want me to see you,'" he said. "You don't want me to see your pain."

The album also unpacked Jay-Z's infidelity. "I'll f— up a good thing if you let me," he raps on "Family Feud." In the same interview, Jay-Z shared that growing up in the hood put him into "survival mode," impacting his abilities to be a good partner and husband earlier in life. 

"You shut down all emotions. So even with women, you gonna shut down emotionally, so you can't connect," he reflected. "In my case, like it's, it's deep. And then all the things happen from there: infidelity." 

"I Made My ADHD Into My Strength": Understanding The Link Between Rap & Neurodivergence

Childish Major

Childish Major

Photo: Al Pham


Childish Major On George Floyd, The Essence Of Atlanta Hip-Hop & His New Project 'Thank You, God. For It All.'

Childish Major wanted to release his new project, 'Thank you, God. For it all.', but the pandemic and murder of George Floyd gave him pause. But now that the world's opening up, this blast of top-down Atlanta energy feels perfectly timed

GRAMMYs/Aug 9, 2021 - 09:47 pm

Every member of the COVID generation probably remembers the first day they stepped outside, met up with a friend and was finally seen by someone else—not their partner or pet. Childish Major is acutely aware of this. The Atlanta MC wanted to drop his new six-song project, Thank you, God. For it all., throughout the first wave of the pandemic, but it never felt right given its extroverted, block-party energy.

Especially after the murder of George Floyd, which left him—a Black man himself—devastated.

"It was pretty dark," he tells over Zoom from his parked ride. "It put me in a position where I was like, 'What do I do? What do I need to do? How can I help?'" While he briefly considered making some music in response, the idea felt flimsy. Instead, Major opted to band together with his friends, family and colleagues in the rap game to commiserate, vent and heal.

One year after George Floyd, the world is opening up in fits and starts amid the Delta variant setback. After a period of sitting back, thinking and listening, it feels like the perfect time for Thank you, God. For it all., which had been in the can all this time. Brief, incisive and fat-free, the EP, which dropped July 23, features potent collaborations with Yung Baby Tate ("Check"), ScHoolboy Q ("Disrespectful") and other modern greats.

Read More: Yung Baby Tate On Success, Working With Issa Rae & 'After The Rain Deluxe' caught up with Childish Major about Thank you, God. For it all. and why it's a soundtrack to feeling yourself—in his words, "fly," "hot," and like "poppin' s***"—while cruising around the ATL.

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How does it feel to have Thank you, God. For it all. dropping soon?

Man, we've been waiting for a minute to drop this project. I feel like I've made three projects, maybe, since COVID hit. We've been itching to drop something in general. This seemed like perfect timing. The music is for outside, and outside is kind of opening back up now. So, that's the energy.

Was it delayed due to the virus?

No, it wasn't pushed back due to the virus, really. In the beginning, it was more like I had music that was ready to drop. Then, COVID hit, and it was like, "OK, what do we do?" Then it's like, "OK, I'm ready to drop!" and then George Floyd happens. I'm messed up about that. I'm like, "I can't self-promote during this time." Then, I get past that to a certain extent and it's like, "Alright, now I'm ready." It just so happened to be the time that everything's opening up. It's the perfect time.

Read More: One Year After #TheShowMustBePaused, Where Do We Stand? Black Music Industry Leaders Discuss

What went through your head when you saw the news about Floyd?

Ah, man. I mean, it was the news, it was conversations, it was my grandparents, family. It was pretty dark. It put me in a position where I was like, "What do I do? What do I need to do? How can I help?"

Did you feel like you wanted to respond with music in some way? Or, perhaps, with silence?

I felt like I wanted to respond with music initially, but then I felt like, "Maybe a musical response is kind of corny right now. Maybe my silence is a little bit better." Yeah, man. I just remember having a lot of conversations during that time. It was very heavy.

After all, there were already a lot of songs with titles like "Say Their Names" out there.

Yeah, you don't want to play with moments like that. It's a very serious thing. Even right now, I'm thinking about it, and that's taking me to a place where I definitely don't want to go back to.

I mean, there are people like Anderson .Paak. [He] dropped his song ["Lockdown"] and seeing the visual, man, he executed it very well and in a very respectful way. For me, it wasn't important to be seen at that moment. I was just filling it with people, honestly.

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Now, we're in a different space in time. What did you want to say with this project that differed from past ones?

Well, the title itself is Thank you, God. For it all. Before thinking about the title, when I was in the music process, having conversations with Don Cannon, who was the executive producer, I was sending him what I was working on prior to this project. It's more vibey, it's moodier. It's a storyline; it's strings and poetry. It's this world that I created.

He's like, "This is dope, but I feel like we need to cut through. You make music that cuts through and grabs the attention, and then you start taking people into a world." So, that was his mindset while coaching me through this project. He started sending me production. I don't know if you've ever been to Atlanta, but it's Atlanta energy. You've got to come down one time.

When we talk about Atlanta energy, it's young. It's hot. It's being in the streets. It's being at the strip clubs. It's fly. It's riding with your top down. It's that type of energy. That's what I feel people are going to take from it. These are records people are going to listen to on the weekends. "F Yah Job," that's going to be out on Friday. Everybody's Friday is like, "Man, I'm not trying to be here right now. I'm out of the office!" You know what I'm saying?

Childish Major. Photo: Al Pham 

That's the vibe of the project, but the title itself—Thank you, God. For it all.—especially from all of us coming off of COVID and the George Floyd thing, that's been my mindset and my personal mantra as far as what could get me to whatever this next step is in my life. I know a lot of people who are trying to figure out work or their living situations due to what COVID did.

Thank you, God. For it all. is like an agreement ahead of time. I'm grateful for where this is going to go, because I know it'll lead me somewhere I need to be.

Musically, what separates Atlanta hip-hop from other scenes?

Well, for one, Atlanta is a young city. It's a young Black city. And when I say "young Black city," I don't even just mean age. I feel like even older people in the city, we all talk alike. We all talk the same. There's a language. It's very Southern. It's very gritty. It's very raw.

It's suave, for lack of a better word. It's poppin' shit. When you put on a fly outfit and you look in the mirror and you're feeling yourself, that's the energy. But that's the energy of an average person in Atlanta, you know what I'm saying? Everybody is feeling themselves to a certain degree.

Especially with Instagram and all that, which usually gets a negative connotation as far as being narcissistic or conceited. But in real life, we all need confidence because that's what's going to get you to the next day.

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What do you appreciate about your collaborators on this project?

Ah, man. Everybody has their own little niches, but Hollywood Cole is super diverse. He had the single "F Yah Job," which is probably the most top-down record we've got on here. But he also produced the title track, which is more boom-bap. That's what I love about Cole: That he has a lot of diversity.

Cannon is a coach, but he can play, too. You know what I'm saying? He oversaw the whole project, but then came through and gave us the record "Down South." Wavy Wallace, man, he has a lot of different styles, too, but he gave us a bop on here. DJ Mark B, well, he's a DJ, so he knows what needs to happen. He knows what's going on, so he gives us bangers every time.

I feel like some rap fans view boom-bap as being a little backward or antiquated, although it's the style I gravitate to the most.

You've got to have it. It's necessary. Even Drake without his boom-bap records, I feel like he doesn't become exactly who he is right now. I feel like it's necessary.

Sounds like it's the equivalent of the 12-bar blues in rock music. You can't stray too far from it.

Yeah, it's the core! You've got to feed the core.

"I'm grateful for where this is going to go, because I know it'll lead me somewhere I need to be."

What's the state of the rap game? Is it straying from sing-rap or mumble rap into a more traditional territory or the opposite?

Nah, it's always going to be a mixture. I feel like you always need diversity. It's necessary. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like [the deal], like "Damn, I don't like this." You just have s*** you don't like; excuse my language. But it's a necessary evil. You have to have that gauge or that range from super amazingly talented people to people who are just trying s*** and it just goes. 

There are flukes all the time, but are you going to turn it into what they call 15 minutes of fame, or are you going to stretch it? And the people who want to stretch it, they'll home in on their craft a little bit more and be like, "Oh, wow! I did that on a fluke! Well, let me try to get better!" Sometimes, they turn that 15 minutes into five years.

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I'm primarily in the jazz world these days, but I feel like it's the same as all scenes: There are humble, talented people and then there are opportunists. Is the rap world like that, too?

Man, the rap world is completely like that. I'd say it's more like that than in jazz. In the rap world, I've got friends whose four-year-old daughters make rap songs. And they sound good! Or good to the extent of what kids are going for, especially with TikTok and all that stuff going on right now. It's the people's music.

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black and white headshot of rapper Isaiah Rashad wearing glasses

Isaiah Rashad

Photo: Vinny Nolan


Isaiah Rashad On His New Album 'The House Is Burning,' Sobriety & Returning to His Southern Roots

TDE rapper Isaiah Rashad recently spoke with about his approach to 'The House Is Burning,' his idea for an eventual comic book series and how sobriety improved his focus

GRAMMYs/Aug 3, 2021 - 10:53 pm

All it took was a five-year intermission for Isaiah Rashad to reconnect with his Southern origins. Now a Los Angeles transplant, the 30-year-old Tennessee native envisioned his new album, The House Is Burning, as a homecoming, complete with atmospheric, laid-back production, interpolations of Three 6 Mafia, and introducing new acts like Duke Deuce ("Lay Wit Ya") and YGTUT ("Chad"). With a set intention, Rashad executed his album with refinement, aligning a cast of wide-ranging features from Smino to Lil Uzi Vert and luring production from Kal Banx, Kenny Beats, Devin Malik and more.

As the follow-up to his 2016 album The Sun's Tirade, Rashad's return was long-awaited, but expectations for his third album were held in limbo as fans witnessed the TDE rapper vent frustrations against label owner Top Dawg on social media. Later eschewing the alleged "beef" with his label, the rapper also underwent a brief period in rehab, where he faced his struggles with alcoholism and substance-dependency, leaving with a new outlook on his career purpose, family and self-reflection.

Ultimately, the path to acceptance led Rashad back home, even if that meant he had to burn it down in order to rebuild. The rapper recently spoke with about his approach to The House Is Burning, his idea for an eventual comic book series and how sobriety improved his focus.

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Congratulations on The House Is Burning. How do you plan on celebrating your first album in five years?

Getting a steak with my mom, maybe smoke with my mom.

Where do you go for steak?

Ruth's Chris sometimes, STK [Los Angeles], BOA [Steakhouse] sometimes—I like Nobu a lot, though. I might take her to Nobu.

You started working on the initial stages of The House Is Burning last year. Did quarantine change the narrative of the album?

I'm a hermit and I only come outside when I have something to do. So, I was blessed that [there were] less people interrupting in the studio.

Did that give you more time to concentrate?

Way more time, it was way easier for me. I was one of those people who thrived during the pandemic.

Did you do any reading? I know you're a fan of Stephen King.

I read a lot, I'm constantly reading. I can honestly say that nothing really upped [for me] during the pandemic except me concentrating. I realized that stuff was slowing down for everybody else, so it gave me more time to catch up on the shit I wanted to do.

I read "The Bazaar of Bad Dreams" by Stephen King again. I've been reading stuff by Ta-Nehisi Coates—I usually read on my iPad. I'm reading Frank Herbert's "Dune" since that movie's coming out and I know that shit's old. [I read] "Empire of the Sun" and it's about Native Americans. I've been reading "The Dead Zone" by Stephen King, "Talking to Strangers" by Malcolm Gladwell and watching hella documentaries. I actually read comics more than I do actual books—I would consider them books but I wouldn't throw them out there like that.

You're a comic book fan and the first track of your album is titled "Darkseid." When you ultimately have your own comic book, would you want the protagonist to begin as a hero or villain?

I've been trying to figure out whether I'm gonna inspire the villain or the hero, or whether I'm gonna project, so I don't even know. I know that the villain's usually the most interesting part of a story, [so the protagonist] would definitely remain the villain. I'd probably try to get somewhere in my mind where I'm making it make sense for their motivations to continue being the villain.

Historically, [there's] old sh*t like Dr. Doom or certain villains, like when they introduced Kang the Conqueror the other week on "Loki." Those are characters that have motivations that don't really change too much and it's not too maniacal to not make sense. When you have one of them, it's a good base character to juxtaposition the protagonist off of.

"Loki" was a good show, but I think I liked "WandaVision" more.

We shot the last video [for "THIB"] where they did the finale of "WandaVision," I didn't even know until we were about to leave. I was looking around like, "This is where they fought, this is kind of crazy."

Is there anything that you discovered about yourself during your hiatus?

I definitely realized—or came to accept—that I'm capable of things that I want to do. The only thing that's held me back is the limitations I've put on myself. I'm not really one of those big, sit back and think about it myself type of [person], I'm really in the moment. I'd say I'm a problem-solver more than anything else, so the pandemic and all the time I had to do anything, I just took it to work.

There was a lot less self-examination. I feel like I spent a lot of time in my early twenties thinking about myself, the moves I wanted to make and being okay with tripping and bombing sometimes instead of trying to avoid it from the jump.

You were 25-years-old when The Sun's Tirade came out. How do you feel like your mindset has changed?

Yeah, now I'm Dirty 30. I believe what my mom used to say about women's brains developing at 24 or 25 in their cerebral cortex. She said that I'm not gonna make sound decisions until I was 29 and it makes sense, I get it now. I'm lucky to be here when I think of it like that.

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You've been vocal about spending a month in rehab, even referencing it in the "Headshots" video. How has sobriety changed your creative headspace?

Initially, when you are living an unhealthy lifestyle for so long, you tend to assume that it was only unhealthy at the end of it. So I had to kind of relearn and realize that my creative process was greater than the substances and drinking that I'd put in my body.

Regaining that confidence was probably the hardest thing, because it's easy to get drunk and say some sh*t in the studio. To have precise words and a precise message—or a lack thereof a message on purpose—is harder to do when you're [focused], but it's also more rewarding when you get it done. Making a song on purpose is way better than one [by] accident.

Did you have feelings of self-doubt while making The House Is Burning?

Nah, I'm a Taurus so I'm used to repetition. Even if it's an unhealthy schedule, I'm used to doing things a certain way. When I remove certain elements of my day, it goes back to me thinking like, "Well, can I recreate or do something as good as I used to if I'm not doing it the exact same way?" So, one of the more important parts of this project was saying "Okay, I can do anything I want. I don't need anything to do anything."

To an extent, I've had to not have certain friends [anymore] or our lives went in different directions. Even coming to that understanding, like, I don't necessarily need a specific person or thing to make me go to the studio—I do what I want to do if I want to do it.

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Do you feel like your routine changed? Have you adopted any holistic methods instead of drinking?

I just went to college, man. I think a lot of people didn't go to college and pick up their lifestyle—I went to college out of town, I was with my friends and I was doing stuff that I knew a lot of people were doing. I just looked at it as a problem and other people don't.

I wouldn't say I [adopted] a holistic thing, but I'm pretty spiritual. I do a lot of meditation, take a lot of natural supplements. I don't take anything for anxiety, I practice breathing more than anything else when I'm stretching or even when I'm getting vitamin D in the sun and sh*t. But I don't even think of stuff like that—step one is just cleaning my room in the morning. If I clean my room in the morning, my day can only go so bad.

The production throughout the album is heavily Southern-oriented. How has Tennessee rap defined your sound?

Man, that's all me. I grew up surrounded by everything Southern—Southern rap, but also Southern R&B, my favorite singers are from the South. Erykah Badu is from Dallas, Anthony Hamilton is from Georgia—even Ray Charles, he's more of the old school ones. Most of my influences are from the South.

I've been in L.A. for so long, this was the decision time that I needed to make music that sonically reminded me of where I was from versus just being inspired by it. The previous two projects were more inspired by where I'm from, [while The House Is Burning] is like recreating the element, recreating the vibe.

Do you feel like there's any pressure to maintain the interest of new fans since music has entered the TikTok age?

Nah, not really. I think I'm a part of that era anyway, you just don't see me posting TikToks. I wake up in the morning and look at that sh*t, I'm a part of the same generation of people. I'm just fortunate to be able to have fans that are open enough for me to expand my music and my sound to gain new fans, so I don't think there's any pressure behind it.

It seems like they want me to do sh*t, versus fearing that I'm staying a certain way. If you listen to the B-sides of my early projects, it's been there from the jump, I've been making this type of stuff. It's been such a greater gap of time since [then] that it better be something different than before. That gives me more of an opportunity to be myself than somebody who wants to hear "Shot You Down" or "Heavenly Father" a thousand times. Respect to those songs, but—[Laughs.]

Is the current climate of hip-hop making you feel more competitive or observant?

More at home, neither of the two. I feel more comfortable in it, I think it fits me right now [more] than the other eras. Music feels like TV channels versus TV shows, so if I want to go check out this type of sh*t, that sh*t exists, or if you want to come check out this sh*t, it exists too.

Before, I feel like things were trying to compete on the same wavelength, but now with playlists and streaming—even with how much YouTube [has grown]—you can go listen to what you wanna find when you wanna find it. I think I benefit from that.

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Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith & Jay Rock

Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith & Jay Rock

Photo: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Interscope


TDE Holiday Concert & Toy Drive To Feature Performances From Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, SZA & More

The legendary L.A. hip-hop label, home to Kendrick Lamar, SiR, ScHoolboy Q, SZA, Jay Rock and more, kicks off their sixth annual community-centered, donation-based concert and community day on Dec. 18

GRAMMYs/Dec 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Today, heavy-hitting Los Angeles hip-hop label Top Dawg Entertainment announced the details for their sixth annual holiday concert and toy drive. The two-day, community-focused event will take place at Nickerson Gardens in Watts, with the TDE artist-led concert taking place tomorrow, Weds., Dec. 18, followed by a "Local Community Day" on Dec. 19.

According to a press release, the donation-based concert will feature "performances from TDE's entire roster and surprise guests." The epic TDE roster is made up of GRAMMY winners Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, past GRAMMY nominees ScHoolboy Q, SZA, Ab-Soul, as well as powerhouses SiR, Isaiah Rashad, Lance Skiiiwalker, Zacari and REASON. Last year's special guests included past nominee Travis Scott.

Gates for the special show open at 11 am tomorrow; TDE asks that attendees bring an unwrapped gift for free admission and notes that "any and all donations" will be accepted to share with those in need in the local community.

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"The annual event is embedded into the ethos of the L.A. label and extremely important to TDE as it focuses on giving back to the same community and neighborhood that gave TDE CEO Anthony 'Top Dawg' Tiffith and many others in the TDE family their start," the press release notes.

Nickerson Gardens is a large, long-standing affordable housing community in Watts, a neighborhood that has historically been on the frontlines of racist policies, heavy policing, gang violence and income inequality. In addition to Tiffith, fellow TDE leader Punch, as well as Jay Rock, grew up in Nickerson Gardens. 

Day two of the event focuses on bringing as many people as possible in Nickerson Gardens with holiday cheer and hope.

"The annual Community Day provides the Nickerson Gardens community with things that all children and families should have around the holidays, such as gifts, clothing and food. Above all else, the annual event provides the community with hope and real-life examples in the artists and people who make up the TDE family that no matter where you come from, you can do something positive and put yourself in the position to give back to your community," the press release continues.    

"TDE encourages everyone who attends the event to respect the neighborhood and residents and work toward continuing to foster community by volunteering/getting involved and just having a good time when you show up."

The concert and toy drive will happen concurrently on Dec. 18, with gates opening at 11:00 am. Exact start time or lineup (although TDE confirmed all of their artists will perform) details have not been shared yet; you'll have to show up with a donation and see for yourself. The Local Community Day follows on Thurs., Dec. 19 and will take place from 10:00 am–6:00 pm. Both events will take place at William Nickerson Recreation Center, 1590 E 114th St, Los Angeles, Calif. 90059.

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