REASON: New Beginnings

2020 / Top Dawg Entertainment

REASON’s Way of Being Conscious
—Between Honesty and Vulnerability

24 May 2021 | By Sho Okuda

In this age of political correctness, the way REASON talks on social media sometimes makes you, kind of, awkward. It’s not that he says something clearly against PC, but if you scroll through his Twitter, you’ll find some tweets for which he received backlash. Like this tweet where he said, “This explains why y’all [are] single” to those women who demand much of a guy. Or this tweet where he told ladies not to look for what a man cannot control in their partner. Unsurprisingly, he also talked on that Noname – J. Cole case, screenshotting Punch’s tweet where the TDE mogul said, “One of the best ways to keep ppl oppressed is to divide them. Or aid in them dividing themselves.” Again, none of the aforementioned tweets can necessarily be against political correctness. But again, each one of them was controversial enough for us to worry about him being totally cancelled someday in the future.

The Carson rhymer’s “controversialness” has come into play on “Fall,” off of his latest album New Beginnings. In the song he spitted, “Then one day you could become the next Mac Miller,” as a reminder that however talented you are there is a good chance that they require you to fall into this rap industry’s stereotype, to the point where you can no longer go back. Again, REASON was dragged for this specific line, though he explains that he loves the late rapper and that he just addressed the issue the whole industry needs to face.

His brutal honesty behind his “controversialness,” however, is what Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, the CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, definitely values, and the exact reason why the “Summer Up” rapper got signed to the label. In fact, even REASON hesitated to let his boss listen to “Windows Cry,” where he confesses his anxiety he felt signing to TDE, but it was none other than Top who liked the song and told him to put it in the album saying, “All of my artists should have felt this way, but they didn’t express it.”

So, can we say that REASON’s outspokenness is the most essential element in this project? It could be, but what is more worth noting should be the uncertainty he expressed with his honesty. As you can hear on “Westside” featuring Mereba, who is known for her work with Dreamville rappers like JID, the tracks get mellower toward the end of the album. But if you give it close and repeated listens, even the songs on the former part of it, by which you can assume he and his label aimed for a street hit, sound rather organic than metallic and cold. Those beats feel like functioning as a cambus for the artist’s honest words, which don’t try to hide how vulnerable the rapper is.

The line “Fuck being conscious” on the Kendrick Lamar-assisted track “Show Stop” is quite deceiving. Probably you are better off interpreting the lyric as a declaration that the rapper is not about preaching through his music, never as one that he is and forever will be indifferent to consciousness itself. And it is safe to say that “Slow Down” featuring Alemeda, about whom we have yet to know much, is one of the most important songs off of the project. On this record, where REASON admits he is being most honest, he opens up about having aborted a child he and his ex-girlfriend had, and been not too sincere to his homie whom he talked about on “Better Dayz” off of his last project There You Have It. It sounds sort of painful, but at the same time, you can definitely hear his humbleness and his will to better himself towards the future. Nothing explains better than the fact that he reached out to the woman before making the song.

After “Slow Down,” he slightly but surely changes his attitude. On “Extinct,” one of the most anticipated records off of the project featuring his lablemate Isaiah Rashad and JID, you can see him not only bragging but respectfully disagreeing with Zay as well as letting the “Off Deez” spitter correct him. It almost sounds like a discussion among the three. On “SAUCE” feat. Vince Staples, Robert claims to be a boss, but he also says “I might slip” repeatedly on the hook. On “Gossip” produced by Mike & Keys, who is notable for producing for West Coast emcees like the late Nipsey Hussle and Dom Kennedy, he calls himself “Middle Finger REASON” but he fears that his “relatives” might someday expose his dirty laundry. After all is said and done, he closes off the album with the apprehension-filled “Windows Cry.”

“I entered this label as a fan,” REASON tweeted on October 26th, 2020. His labelmate Kendrick said, “I spent 23 years on this earth searching for answers,” on his debut album Section.80. With his honesty and unapologeticness, REASON also seems to be “searching for answers” in his own way, questioning things and sometimes tweeting controversial stuff. He describes the process so vividly on New Beginnings that, as we hear him spit his verses, we damn near experience what he has been through. His words might seem somewhat blunt like his journey itself, but it actually is rather filled with vulnerability. According to REASON, his next project, which he says was recording along New Beginnings, is going to be more personal. For the 30-year-old who is still “searching for answers,” this is literally only a beginning.(Sho Okuda)

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