What We Learned From Isaiah Rashad’s Los Angeles Tour Stop At The Novo

Monday night, TDE rapper Isaiah Rashad performed the second of two nights at The Novo in Downtown Los Angeles as part of his Lil’ Sunny’s Awesome Vacation tour promoting the new album, The House Is Burning. Uproxx attended and here’s what we learned. The TDE rapper brought the right guests, made the right moves, protected the fans, and laid down the blueprint for a perfect show.

Make A Good First Impression

The show starts with the openers. Bad ones can suck the energy right out of a room. Good ones can energize a crowd, making the headliner’s job ultimately easier. Mediocre ones — the ones we see most — can leave the audience feeling restless and impatient, making little to no impression.

The openers for Isaiah Rashad were pulled from his long list of like-minded industry pals, and they absolutely fell under the “good” category. Ray Vaughn, the new TDE signee who set the internet on fire with his LA Leakers freestyle, held the stage like a 10-year veteran. Childish Major, who has produced and rapped alongside some of TDE’s Dreamville cohorts, brought a relaxed vibe before turning all the way up to close out his set. This is the best you can hope for: Openers who know what they’re doing and do it well but don’t outshine the star player. There’s a lot of potential for both — especially Vaughn — but for now, they play the bench role well.

Presentation Matters

As much as fans attend concerts to see their favorite artists in person, they also want to see a show. That includes everything onstage that is not the artist, like backgrounds and stage dressing. Some artists like to use props or elaborate backdrops. Some like to keep it simple — which can put more pressure on the artists themselves to hold an audience’s attention.

Like many artists these days, Isaiah employs a video backdrop displaying various imagery throughout his set, but impressively, it tells a story as much as his setlist does. Rather than showing off some dazzling but disconnected graphic designs, the background connects to the theme of his album, The House Is Burning, giving a virtual tour throughout the burning house’s interior. As his set expands its scope to encompass classic Rashad tunes, the view shifts to beautiful aerial shots of Los Angeles’ various stadiums and landmarks before the burning begins again, slowly creeping in from the edges to recreate the paranoid, ominous mood from the album itself.

Show Love To The City

This one seems simple enough, but it can be overlooked or undersold as a result. More than simply shouting out the town where you happen to be at the moment, there are little flourishes that can make concertgoers at a tour stop feel like “their” show is special, even if you’re doing the same show at every single stop on the tour.

On Monday night, Isaiah made sure to use a few local events to his advantage. The Dodgers are in the playoffs; he wore a Clayton Kershaw jersey. (The Dodgers lost to the Giants, but what are you gonna do?) The first night of the Los Angeles stop sold so well, a second night was added. At that second night, Rashad and his guests prompted a lighthearted rivalry between attendees at both nights to spur greater heights of energy from the second crowd. Simple, clever, effective.

Give Your Guests Time To Shine

Just as important as what the headliner brings to the table is who they bring. In Isaiah’s case, he promised he had a “good chunk” of TDE’s roster in attendance and made good on that promise, bringing out Jay Rock, Doechii, and Zacari at points throughout the set. In addition, surprise appearances were made by Smino and YGTut. Smino by far got the biggest pop.

Zacari got to preview a new song and I may never be able to get Doechii’s holy ghost dance during her own snippet out of my head. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doechii headlining this very venue by this time next year. She’s a star.

Bring Back Hype Men

Throughout his set, Isaiah’s energy never flagged. While much of that is due to the unique way he constructs songs (he has a long of breathing room between bars) and his set (always use the high-low pattern so you can catch your wind), much of his ability to conserve and distribute that energy throughout was due to the presence of his producer, Kal Banx.

Although Kal is a strong artist in his own right, his familiarity with Rashad’s material made him a perfect foil for the star to play off of. A lot of artists want to prove that they can maintain their stage presence throughout a show, but unless you’re exceptionally athletic, things like having support actually boost the performance.

Roast Your Fans A Little

When Rashad brought a trio of exuberant fans onstage to recite Lil Uzi Vert’s verse from “Front The Garden,” it rapidly became clear that none of the three actually knew the words. Rather than simply kicking them offstage, Zay spent a little time interacting with them, teasing them for just wanting to be seen rather than actually learning the lyrics.

But Protect Them Too

However, as some fans in the crowd tried to boo the kids for their epic fail, Rashad kept things positive, admonishing the audience that he’d already instructed them of the rules at the beginning of the set. Among those rules, he took care to instruct the men to keep their hands to themselves where the women were concerned. I appreciated that.

Hit ‘Em With The Hits

Although the Lil’ Sunny tour was ostensibly to promote The House Is Burning, Isaiah wisely sprinkled in fan faves from Cilvia Demo and The Sun’s Tirade like “Shot You Down” and “Free Lunch.” The fans appreciated it, losing it when those songs played because of both the surprise factor and their familiarity.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.