By the time Isaiah Rashad took the stage for his second show of the day at Harlows in Sacramento on Sunday, he had already scurried his way around the club and made several trips to the bar in a panicked search for his missing cell phone. Eagle-eyed fans may have seen him, but none approached as most seemed to not even notice Zay, who was cloaked in a hoodie and surrounded by his DJ, photographer and friends. He was inconspicuous, but it was clear he was eager and energized by the vibrant mood of the night and the fact that he was headlining his first nationwide tour.
“I think I’m just older man, I’m 25, it ain’t like it used to be,” Isaiah told me between sets, of his new positive perspective on life in general and how it’s seeped into his music. After a bleak outlook which he’s referred to as “teen angst” on his lauded debut album, Cilvia Demo, his equally-hailed followup The Sun’s Tirade feels more glass-half full and optimistic, and that new perspective showed on his face throughout his two sold-out Lil Sunny Tour shows on Sunday night.
“Fatherhood has definitely affected that, I guess finally having responsibility.”
By the time he touched he stage just before 9 PM, the bar near the outskirts of downtown Sacramento was nearly full for the second time in just a few hours, and a couple hundred people watched Isiah rip through his short but immaculate catalog.
The most impressive thing about Isaiah’s rapping doubles as the most impressive thing about his live performance — at any moment he can take a melancholy production and barrel through it as rambunctious and reckless as a determined running back rambling his way through a hole in between the tackles. The way he bounces and rattles off the beat is no different than a huge back like David Johnson ricocheting off of linebackers on his way to a long run.
That type of duality takes strength, but also takes the dexterity and nimbleness to be able to tip-toe through the small crevice amongst the bodies on the field. That’s the balancing act Isaiah executed so delicately while on stage, muscling his way through his energetic tracks while also gliding through the tranquil ones with the same precision and tenacity.
For an hour he shifted between coolly humming through low key, serene but rumbling ballads, and boisterously rampaging through raucous bangers without skipping a beat. “I play with my voice a lot, and we rehearse this sh*t,” he said of his ability to shift between vocal tones and moods on stage at a moment’s notice. “So I know how to do what with my voice and where I’m at. I’m alright with it [laughs]. We rehearsed for like two weeks before the tour, just going over it.”
The juxtaposition made for an hour-long roller coaster ride. He set the stage for those offsetting approaches immediately, opening with the rowdy and almost unruly cut “Smile,” before transitioning into the somber Sun’s Tirade track “Brenda.” He calmly wrapped up the next song on the setlist, “Menthol,” with an acapella outro that felt like a touchdown dance after another one of those long, violent runs, and after all the energy spent and skill displayed in the minutes leading up to the brief reprieve it felt deserved.