Hip hop, it seems, has evolved in so many different directions over its 30-year history. What was once solely chest-thumping 808 beats, dusty soul samples and hard-hitting lyrics has developed into a musical mashup that knows no boundaries in creativity. As long as it sounds good, nothing is taboo. Nothing is off limits. The rules are made to be broken.
Take, for example, 23-year-old rule breaker Isaiah 808. With a style that hinges between rap, R&B, techno and pop, his collaborative album Isaiah 808 & Young Wyater’s Still United is an assorted array of over-the-edge musical styles that shatters musical limits.
Proof is in their breezy, club-ready lead single “Wake You Up” and album cuts like “Young and Free” and “Designer Everything.”
“I’m melodic, and there are times when I get artsy,” Isaiah explains. “But I try not to categorize myself. I like to try different things…I want to be free with my music. I want to try something new every time I step in the booth.”
Born Daniel Gholston in San Antonio, perhaps Isaiah gets his diverse music influences from his upbringing as a military brat with two older brothers and one younger sister. Never letting grass grow under their feet, the two-parent family has lived all over the globe from Ohio to Las Vegas, Miami and even across the pond in England.
“Growing up was tough. I had to deal with it, though. I’ve learned to adapt,” he explains. “Change is a big part of my life. I express that through my music.”
That musical expression began when he was 16 years old. By then, the family had moved to Austin, Texas and young Daniel was a star point guard on the high school basketball team and running back on the football team. He would attend neighborhood parties with his older brothers and frequently grabbed the mic during impromptu freestyle sessions.
“When I rapped, they were like ‘you got some skills,’” he recalls. “People started talking, and I became known as the kid who got skills, who got bars.”
Investing in her son’s hidden talents, his mother bought him his first laptop and microphone. Isaiah taught himself how to make beats and record his own music. Over the years, he honed his talents and would perform at small gigs around town.
That was until he got caught on the other side of the law and charged with a felonious crime. A jury of his peers found him not guilty by reason of insanity, and the verdict landed him in a Texas state hospital.
“I don’t want to get into the details of the charge due to the complications of the situation,” he says. “I’ve been locked up since January 1, 2014 and should be getting out in January 2017…They put me the best place that I could be at the time.”
While on the inside, he enrolled in Full Sail University online for audio production, and he along with fellow patient Young Wyater got their hands on some equipment and recorded their collaborative album Still United. He is also planning the release of his as-yet-untitled solo album.
“I was looking for a way out, a way to express what was going through my mind and how I was feeling,” Isaiah says. “I don’t make music for other people. I do it for myself. I’m my biggest fan and my worst critic.”