Still only 20 years of age and already an acclaimed MC and rapper, it's
safe to say that music pulses through the veins of Isaiah Dreads.
He was born Isaiah Benjahmin and spent his early years in Bristol, before he, his mother and seven siblings moved on to Dorchester, a small county town in Dorset in the South West of England, which provided little else than a quiet, peaceful setting for Isaiah to write his rhymes.
His household was busy and soundtracked by music. There was his English mother who raised him, and her fondness for Reggae and Soul, Ragga and Tupac. Then, as he grew older, he opened his ears to the eclectic tastes of his older siblings. There was his sister who listened almost exclusively to Rock, his brother who held an unwavering addiction 90's Hip Hop and another brother, who, through secondhand mixtapes and online Pirate Radio stations had nurtured a strong love for grime.
It was the latter Isaiah took to most keenly, and seeing this, his brother would pass along material from the renegade genre that was a meld of Garage, Dancehall and Hip Hop, and was just beginning to spread from the East End of London.
"He always had Channel U on or he was always listening to Pirate Stations on the internet," Isaiah says. "Grime was different to anything I'd heard and it just seemed... it is so daring."
JME and Bashy, Akala and Crazy Titch were among his favourite MC's. After hours and days and weeks of listening to their songs on loop, reciting them wherever he went, Isaiah naturally began to pick up on the subtleties of flow and rhythm. Grime was still young, in its adolescence, and Isaiah even younger, formed part of a new generation not old enough to remember a Britain without the genre's existence.
"Grime is just straight to the point," he says. "If you have bars you have bars, there's no hiding behind videos or image or anything. You've got to have bars."
With music being filtered through from all angles, a journey down this path seemed inevitable for Isaiah. He had penned his first rap lyrics by age six and began recording his own songs by nine, spending the weekends and evenings after school camped inside Dorchester Youth Club, that was furnished with a basic but adequate studio set up.
It was testament to the love he had found for his craft and though from a small town where both grime and rap were far from popular, he decided to make the most of what he had at his disposal. So he took to the internet.
"We're the first generation of its kind," he says. "The internet was all we knew."
"By the time I was nine everyone was using Myspace and so on. I was always able to put out my tracks on there or on YouTube and other places. It helped, just being able to see other people who made music, just being able to take inspiration from them. I'm coming from Dorchester where it wasn't always easy to find new artists, so I had to use the social platforms to find other musicians."
From there he kept rhyming and kept writing, building a local buzz, first in his school and then in his area, all the while still spending as much time as he could in the studio. The process was tough but he was fuelled by passion. By 15 he had released a string of rough mixtapes, burning his songs on to blank CDs and then selling them at school. Then he began to see results.
His first career milestone came in the form of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, where he was one of 12,000 entrants. It was a shot in the dark and he hadn't expected much from it he says. But weeks after entering he was put forward for the long list, then the finals, and though he didn't win, he impressed enough to earn a slot at the main festival later that year.
"That was one of the best things I ever did," he says. "Festivals and live performances are one of the best things about this as a career and it opened a lot of doors for me."
His appearance didn't pass by unnoticed. Soon after, promoters and booking agents began to get in touch. So later that year, he embarked on his first festival tour, gracing stages at Wireless in London and Bestival on the Isle of Wight. It boosted his reputation on the live circuit and planted seeds for an exciting word-of-mouth buzz. At the same time, he put extra care into maintaining his high profile on social media. Not only was he posting freestyles over popular rap, pop and grime instrumentals, he was also deeply entrenched in 'The Basement', a closed-gate music and lifestyle community on Facebook, originally started for those who were fans of early streetwear brands like Supreme and Palace. Eventually it came to encompass designers, singers and rappers, like Isaiah. Before long it had developed into a brand of its own and now includes pop up shops, a radio show and boasts over 50,000 followers.
"I used to post in there around 2014/2015 and get a really good response," Isaiah says. "I think they really helped show me what type of direction I wanted to go down. It's people from everywhere in the world, so it's good to get opinions from everyone."
At the same time his 30 second freestyles, that he would post to Twitter, began to go viral gaining thousands of retweets. It was not long before the more established grime platforms (the same platforms he had grown up listening to) came knocking with requests for him to appear on their own channels. And it was from there that he made his mark, cementing himself as one of the country's most promising MC's. There was an epic Fire In The Booth with Charlie Sloth on BBC 1Xtra, an uplifting Warm Up Session on SBTV, and music videos on Link Up TV. Soon applause from the established MC's followed. Most notable was the praise from Wiley, who also offered him a few words of encouragement. Then Zdot, one of grime's leading producers, invited him to the studio. In the first two days, they finished four tracks. The pair clicked instantly and began to build a tight bond over music, and so, in September 2016 Isaiah inked his first record deal, signing with 101 Music, Zdot's imprint, and his dreams of being a career musician were finally realised.
"Everything I've worked for is beginning to pay off," he said.
"It just gives me fuel and the desire to work harder."
Delighted, the two went right back into the studio, sculpting the
backbone for Isaiah's 'Lone Wolf' EP, released at the end of 2016.
The four-track project was well-received with RWD magazine highlighting Isaiah's 'unique ability to fuse grime, hip-hop and sung vocals.
The EP received spins from Mistajam, DJ Target, Charlie Sloth and Huw Stephens.
Isaiah followed up his 'Lone Wolf' EP by releasing 'Hot Spice'
feat. One Acen and 'White Tee'. Both tracks received great support
across radio with White Tee appearing on the 1Xtra playlist for 4 weeks.
The tracks also received strong playlist support from Spotify and were included on influential playlists such as New Music Friday, Grime Shutdown and Rap UK.
Performing live is what Isaiah loves most. He cemented his reputation as an outstanding live performer with his first London headline show in 2017 that he sold out.
In December 2017, Isaiah and 101 Music signed a licensing deal with the newly-revived Payday Records, the classic hip-hop label created by Patrick Moxey. Isaiah's first release with Payday also dropped in December 2017. 'Real Friends' was premiered by DJ Target on his BBC 1Xtra show with Target declaring the track to be Isaiah's "best yet". Isaiah teamed up with JAE5 for this release and describes it as the most personal of all his tracks so far.
"Real Friends represents where I come from and my friends from there.
The main message is that people come out of nowhere when good things are happening to you but really you only have a handful of true friends who stick with you through the good times and the bad."
Now, still only 20, Isaiah is ready to move to the next level. With his first EP under his belt, his second EP ready to go and a renewed sense of purpose, Isaiah Dreads, the country boy from Dorchester is ready to go global.