Issa Gold (formerly Issa Dash) is a Flatbush rapper who joined fellow rapper AK in forming the Underachievers. The two are members of the Beast Coast collective along with Pro Era (Joey Bada$$’ crew) and the Flatbush Zombies. The Underachievers identify themselves as “Indigo Children” based on their experiences with psychedelics and their inherent ability to be cooler than everyone. It’s no lie to say their indigo subject matter can tire pretty quickly, but they do have a very good project in Indigoism to get behind.
Conversations with a Butterfly is the first solo release from Issa, who is often looked at as the lesser rapper of the two. Issa is a pretty interesting guy if you follow him on Twitter as well. He shares his vast wisdom with his legion of Indigoians (new word), and is never afraid to talk about how smart he is. He even reads books! The really captivating thing about Issa is the idea that he talks highly of himself and his knowledge, but he’s pretty elementary on the mic. He’s a fun listen if the Indigo stuff doesn’t bother you, but there’s no real intellect to it. Issa recently said he was going to completely change genres with his newest release, and considering he’s a guy who once said his favorite artist was Fleet Foxes, I had no idea what to expect. Well… he toned down on Indigo stuff but went way overboard with something else.
The intro song “Aquinini” is hands down the best track. Issa’s biggest strength as an artist has always been his charisma and his ability to make some great hooks (see Herb Shuttles and Gold Soul Theory), and that’s what you see here. Issa goes into detail about a relationship he has with a girl who holds the same ideas as him, does the same drugs as him, and is an overall supporter of his ventures in life.
Issa’s Underachiever songs and verse were usually an in-your-face “I’m an Indigo child, God of everything, please praise me because I’m superior” kind of deal, but this song is different. It’s an honest description of a true bond he holds with his girl. The saxophone that serves as the driving force behind this layered, wonderous beat also deserves a lot of praise. The song’s title is also a cool allusion to the classic Outkast album Aquemini, although phonetically it sounds different, as evident on the chorus: “I’m taking trips inside of my mind, only to find that she be tripping on that same shit, Aquinini (a queen and I).”
“Musical Chairs” begins with that very recognizable, often sampled “We get high” vocal from Michael Franks’ “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Fabolous, Logic, Curren$y, and French Montana have all taken their turns rolling with the sample as a weed-smoking anthem, so I was initially curious to see if Issa Dash was going to go the same route. Coupled with that curiosity was the knowledge of a tweet in which Issa said “Musical Chairs is a song I wrote about your significant other confusing your confidence with an arrogant ego.” The song ends up being just that. That Michael Franks sample is one I thought should be retired, but Issa and producer IonQuest the SoulMan (great name) really reimagined it, and apart from the intro and the outro, it’s appearance is really just through the guitar melody. The song itself isn’t a lyrical assault, but it’s a constant theme of whether Issa’s girl is attracted or appalled by his cockiness. It’s a solid track.
And here is where everything goes south. There’s a lot to talk about with those tracks because they’re pretty much the only two worth talking about. It soon becomes clear that every song is going to be about this relationship, and that’s a lot to handle for an artist’s debut, 8-song solo tape. The third track, “Philipacoin,” begins the streak of forgettable. I don’t know where Issa was recording these tracks, but most notably on “Philapacoin” and “Lions Can’t Fly,” his vocals sound muffled and poorly mixed. I’m assuming it’s not on purpose, because it sounds bad.
This project is so quintessential Underachievers, it’s insane. The self-proclaimed genius Issa put together a couple of really nice tracks, and then tried to pass off the rest as works of a higher plane. He certainly doesn’t have the talent now to put out a good concept love album, and probably never will. Some of the symbolism is there. There’s “Lions Can Fly,” and “Lions Can’t Fly” where Issa is the lion (aka King) that can sometimes fly with the Butterfly that is his girl. “September 5” is about his ex-girl’s birthday approaching and the emotions that go with that. They’re all honest, noble attempts, I just don’t think they’re any good. No beat touches the introduction. The novelty of an indigo-hype rapper talking love soured after two tracks, and it became clear that what Issa does best is compliment AK as they talk about astral projections, LSD kingdoms, and other stuff that a mere mortal can barely fathom.
Maybe Issa needed this to grow as a solo artist, maybe he should never leave AK’s side again, and maybe Issa is overachieving with the Underachievers, but the fact is you’re not missing much by turning this record off after two songs.