MUSIC REVIEW | Isiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo (2014)

I go in blind on a lot of albums in an attempt to listen to more new and different music.  I’ve been pretty lucky with my strike rate so far.  The majority of these chances have paid off with really cool bands or artists I normally wouldn’t have bothered with.  Well, they can’t all be zingers.  Some have to be Isiah Rashad with Cilvia Demo.

Usually, I break down these reviews track by track, because it’s my way of getting a feel for a record, and for keeping an eye on how it works and flows as a whole.  Three tracks into Civilia Demo and I hadn’t had a single thought, comment or opinion.  Hereditary, Webbie Flow (U Like) and Civilia Demo all just kind of mesh together in a pretty bland blob.  They’re just so anonymous in their sameness.

Rashad’s rhymes and delivery are perfectly fine, but there’s nothing new, or different, or ground breaking about this album.  The beats and backing tracks sound like the worst chart topping hip hop and R and B of the 90s and 00s, filled with the worst, cheapest sounding synth organ.

I’m struggling to remember how Isiah Rashad and Cilvia Demo made it onto my list of albums I thought I should hear.  I assume I read about it on some list of great albums of last year.  Now, listing to it, songs like Ronnie Drake and West Savannah make me wonder.  It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just not much of anything.  How could it have been lorded as one of last year’s best?

Even if I hated it, I think I’d understand its praise more.  Because if there’s something there for me to latch on to enough to hate, I get that other people might latch on to that same thing enough to love.  As it is, there’s just nothing to get worked up about either way.

When things get a little darker on Soliloquy, they immediately get a whole lot better.  The grittier beats and droning backing track are a much better fit for Rashad’s voice and rhymes.  Modest is more evidence that Isiah Rashad is at his best when he’s trying something different.  Quirkier beats, different approach to vocals, and more experimentation over all.  It’s such a sharp contrast to the middle of the road first half that it almost seems like two different albums.

The back half of Cilvia Demo is almost enough to make me feel guilty about how dismissive I was of the first.  Almost.  But while Banana and Brad Jordan and the seven minute epic Shot You Down are really cool, different and original, the first half is so beige, it just sucked too much air out of the album for it to ever fully recover.  Maybe I need to listen to this again, in a few months, with fresh ears.  And start at around track seven.

Isiah Rashad

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