Isaiah Rashad: “Chattanooga is too big to be a town and too small to be a city. Growing up in Tennessee is like growing up anywhere else. I was into sports, sucked at them. I was into music, I played in the band. I grew up in the projects until I was like six or seven. I moved around a lot after that.
“My mom was a janitor. Whatever school she worked at, that’s what school I went to. Between second grade and seventh grade, I went to like five schools. My mom made sure I had the most regular life, the most untroubled shit possible. All my problems came from myself when I got older.
My stepdad and my uncle used to rap [in a group called] Vibe Tribe. It was like some Native Tongue-type of s**t. They were like locally famous in the 1980s.
“My dad left when I was three. Ain’t no big deal to me. It was then, but it ain’t no big deal to me now. When he left my mom met my stepdad. My stepdad is my father. My dad got remarried, so I have a stepmom. I got an older brother and sister and two little brothers. And I got a stepbrother. I’m directly in the middle. I’m the oldest of my mom’s kids but I’m the youngest of my dad’s kids. I get kinda treated like the prototype and the baby.
“My stepdad and my uncle used to rap [in a group called] Vibe Tribe. It was like some Native Tongues-type of shit. They were like locally famous in the 1980s. I had heard about the Vibe Tribe—and I just didn’t know my pops was in it. Now my stepdad helps my mom run her hair salon, helping her with marketing and promotion.
“My mom and my dad got into some five percenter shit for about five years, I guess that was big back in 1996. I went to a mosque for a while. My parents really got into like head wraps and my stepdad changed his name to Mustafa. But my name was always Isaiah Rashad McClain.
“There’s more culture [in Tennessee] than people think is down there. People just assume that it’s just one way, but it’s really a gang of different people. Not just people who just have a deep, country-sounding accent. I probably wouldn’t be part of TDE if I had a super southern sounding ass sound.”