Album Review: Put Some Respect on Reason’s Name

When hip hop heads debate the greatest rappers that are in the game right now, Reason’s name is rarely brought up in the conversation. Perhaps that needs to change.

Reason’s entry into the rap game was turbulent to say the least; after releasing his mixtape There You Have It and signing with TDE in 2018, Reason was invited to contribute to the Black Panther soundtrack, but fans were disappointed when they did not hear a South African rapper with the same name, but rather this new American rapper named Reason.

Although many fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure, Reason was not deterred. He re-released his There You Have It mixtape later in 2018 to expose more fans to his emotional and passionate style, and was invited to the Revenge Of The Dreamers III recording sessions in 2019. Now, Reason is here with his debut studio album under TDE, New Beginnings, and the result highlights Reason’s sheer emotional intensity and driving lyricism that allowed him to sign with TDE to begin with, while also revealing a new side of introspection and vulnerability, as well as a new perspective of the music industry, friends and family Reason is able to use his natural passion and flowing lyricism to deliver an album that touches on multiple important subjects through a variety of different styles.

Reason’s lyrical intensity can be felt on the first verse of the first song of the album, as Reason reflects on his life before making it big as a rapper. Reason raps, “I would stay up chasing dreams, steady racing forward / Still chasing dreams, but lately, they paying more / I would devote all of my time and you would hate me for it / But if I didn’t, and I was broke, then you would hate me more,” explaining how his former love interest did not believe in Reason as he put in all of the hours of work to accomplish his dream of being a rapper. Reason’s belief in himself, as well as his desire to succeed, is again restated later in the song, as he raps, “I got a blessed vision, feel like the best in it / This all heart, I had to say it with my chest, n***a,” asserting not only his vision, but his heart go go out and achieve his vision. Reason’s fiery passion for rap has instilled a sense of belief in himself that is stronger than any doubt anyone gives him. Later in the album on “I Can Make It,” Reason calls out other rappers that don’t show the same love and respect for the craft as him, as he raps, “I can see it in your spirit, see it in your spirit / Told too many pair of lies then wonder why they don’t feel it / See, these lyrics filled with real, your shit filled with gimmicks / You don’t live that shit you speaking n***a.” Reason asserts that his bars are all genuine and from his soul, while so many other rappers are rapping all about flash with little substance to back it up. Reason’s genuine approach that highlights his emotion and passion for the art form is what allows him to excel, while other rappers are so quick to feign the appearance of success and glamour when they have yet to achieve it.

Reason’s passion and emotion for the rap game is just the starting point of his greatness; his clever lyricism is a perfect compliment for his intense emotion, and it is on display throughout the entirety of the album. On “Pop Shit,” Reason interweaves his NBA fandom within his lyrics, rapping lines like, “Fuck who the best, I clean up mess, mop shit / Get shit off my chest, I took too many steps, Rockets / James Harden, my fame gone and my game Marvin / I can bag ‘least ten of your finest, I came farther,” as well as, “I was ballin’ way before the bucks, feel like Giannis Antetokounmpo / these n****s is too slow, done found me a loophole.” Reason’s punchline ability can be seen on “Favorite N***a,” on lines such as, “Make a bitch stand like change / N***a been tight like waves / Money cleaned up like maids / No handout, catch fades.” Reason pays homage to some of the greats that came before him on “Flick It Up,” rapping, “Comin’ up as a kid, I was tryna be Jay / I was tryna be Ye, I was tryna be Wayne / Now kids say they tryna be Reason / Feel good, n***a still can’t believe it.” On “Extinct,” Reason responds to fellow TDE rapper Isaiah Rashad’s verse, and pays homage to another great, as he raps, “Fuck you think they callin’ me, ‘Him?’ I’m a competitor / Levelin’, young veteran, more lines than editors / Shit, why you think we Top Dawgs? N****s different / I been that n***a since Hov was Big Pimpin’.” There is no shortage of Reason’s lyrical ability all over the album, and his propensity to string together punchlines with killer rhymes is up there among the best in the game.

While Reason is great at embedding his passion and emotion into his lyrically driven rap, this album sees Reason taking an even more introspective and vulnerable approach than he has before, as he lays bare his thoughts about his own sins, as well as the sins of his family and the music industry. On “Fall,” Reason describes the troubles faced by rising artists, male and female. Reason resents the sexual greed of some music executives looking to exploit young, female artists, as he raps, “She just wanna be a artist / But shit a little difficult walking with a vagina / Gotta find a manager that wanna get behind her / Without tryna get behind her, impossible / Know she can make it, believe it with every follicle / But not giving up pussy could be a obstacle.” Reason then describes how the music industry is so quick to exploit male rappers for their celebration of drug and alcohol use, only to look the other way when these artists are drinking their way to an early grave, as Reason raps, “Look, you said you wanna be an artist / Well, we gon’ turn you to an addict / Get rid of the n****s that you got on with / Then give you the tools to dig your own shit.” Reason ends his verse by saying the industry will turn that artist into “the next Mac Miller,” indicating the industry is ready to kill their talent if it means milking every dollar and cent possible out of them. On “Slow Down,” Reason reveals an extremely dark piece of personal information, rapping “I never told nobody this, but I lost a son / Or maybe it was a daughter / Look, I say “it” ’cause if it’s real, I gotta face that part of / My deepest fears that’s growing near, they call that feeling karma.” Reason detailing how he once made a former lover get an abortion, all for “a little head or nut and bragging rights,” as Reason describes it, sees Reason opening up like few artists are able to do. His desire to “grow up,” as he sees it, shows a readiness for growth and maturity, and allows for Reason to perhaps forgive himself for his sins. While Reason talks about the joy of a cousin waking from a coma on the second half of “Slow Down,” Reason discusses his family that wishes ill on him in “Gossip.” Reason raps, “My greatest fear is my relatives exposin’ my skeletons / When I speak on relatives, I put air quotes with it / ‘Cause blood don’t make you family and I know that’s who around me / Y’all ain’t come ’til I start poppin’, thinkin’ bread come with it,” explaining how his family has looked to exploit his success for easy money. Reason prefers to surround himself by his family and friends that have been with him since the beginning and through the hard times, and is committed to succeeding for them. On the final song of the album, “Windows Cry,” Reason once again takes aim at the music industry, and explains his contractual situation from his perspective, rapping, “You signed a paper to get rid of your n****s, now you got strangers / At the worst fuckin’ moment you could ’cause your life is changin’ / You heard the stories of labels puttin’ artists in danger / Use ’em up for hits, never pay ’em and then replace ’em.” Due to record labels’ exploitation of talent in the past, Reason is skeptical of the moves his label has made for him, and raps about his manager being the son of Top Dawg, his label’s owner. This conflict of interest is just one issue Reason raises about Top and TDE, and Reason’s criticisms are not only valid for him, but also for the myriad of young, black artists looking to make a name for themselves through the services of a record label.

Reason is able to hit on multiple different levels on New Beginnings; not only is his classic emotional intensity at the forefront in nearly every song, and not only are his lyrics as clever and concise as ever, but Reason’s growth as a reflective and introspective artist is spectacular. The lessons learned through life experiences, both good and bad, are often more universal than one may expect, and Reason’s willingness to share his experiences with anyone willing to listen will undoubtedly resonate with a great deal of his audience. The genuine, passionate nature of Reason’s rapping is somewhat rare in the hip hop world, especially in 2020 when viral hits are primarily what people seem to care about. Reason makes it perfectly clear he is not in the rap game to make a hit and cash in, but to put his heart and soul into the craft. This passion for rap is ultimately what allows Reason to shine on the mic, and it will only continue to carry him further and further into a successful career.

Listen to Reason’s New Beginnings below:

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