REASON, a West Coast rapper signed to the famous Top Dawg Entertainment has dropped his debut studio album on the label, 'New Beginnings'. The album boasts features from his label mates and rappers of similar calibers, and while I've never been huge on REASON - I decided to give this album a try, and I'm glad that I did.
The production here is pretty mixed - there's some really enjoyable beats but also some snooze fests as well, such as on 'SAUCE', which has this piano-based beat and heavy 808s which aren't very banging as the track focuses on flaunting their wealth, their sauce and the fact they know dangerous people. REASON had a boring hook and very mediocre, monotone verse and was uninteresting lyrically while Vince Staples had a decent verse and rode the beat well with vocal inflections which kept things interesting but despite being the highlight he didn't save this track. Most the key elements include menacing bass', unique synth lines, sometimes trap elements and usually another kind of instrument whether it be percussion, guitar or a piano. Although these are the key elements, there’s no sonic theme with the instrumentals, there's even some jazz inspired beats here, such as on 'Gossip' which has these sliding, drill type 808s and light jazz influence which sounds decent as the track focuses on how hard he's worked to get into the position he's in today and how he wants to block the haters out. He does this with some great punchlines, "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", and the hook is nice bar the awkward, repetitive repetition of "gossip". His delivery fits the mood of the track, the second verse is powerful and it's yet another great track. There's more good beats than bad by quite a lot and overall the production is great. again demonstrated on the song 'Show Stop' which has a more upbeat instrumental, with deep 808s, bell synths and a menacing bass - and while it's not nothing special it's still a decent beat. The track see's REASON flex his wealth and talks on how he can't go back to his pre-fame lifestyle with some decent lyrics. It's one of numerous repetitive hooks on this album (even getting some hidden Kendrick Lamar vocals) which works again and with a banging beat and good flow - it's a great track.
REASON as a lyricist is pretty good at times on here, he has slick verses with thought provoking lines, such as on 'Fall', "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", as the tracks talks on the struggles of women making it in the music industry without sex appeal and vice versa for men without a gangster persona. The shouting, thick synth line keeps thing fresh in there as well as this piano and quick tempo'd drum pattern to give us a great, jazz influenced beat and it's interesting to here this song from the perspectives of males and females, the hook isn't anything special here and the whole atmosphere isn't the most gripping but it's still a good song. He also is pretty mediocre at times and packs his verses full of lyrics that don't hit hard, aren't clever and just aren't of much worth, such as on 'Extinct' which has a this nice, guitar string based beat with a great melody and drum pattern as the track focuses on how he's always been the man pre-fame, and musically he is clear of his competitors. Isaiah Rashad's verse was full of funny lines as he talks on how much sex he gets and cars he can buy while JID's verse as expected was great, with a good rhyme scheme as he talks on the trap and shooting guns. REASON was the most uninteresting part of his own song, but the other features were fine as was the beat and it was still a good song. 'Stories I Forgot' has some funny, tongue in cheek lines, "Keisha, I done missed ya, nut and doze off // Called me, say she pregnant, bitch, that's your fault // I pull up, fuck her best friend, yeah, yeah, woah", but overall it isn't the most interesting lyrically as the track talks on gang-banging, killing opps and sex with girls over this wet, lowkey trap pattern and sci-fi synth line which all sounds nice together. The eerie hook works really well for this menacing banger, and his delivery is good giving us a good song overall. There's a consistency issue with his verses, some stand out a lot more than others. His flow is solid and he has many flows with different speeds as well, it's one of his strengths while he also has a decent delivery but occasionally it can get a bit monotone on certain tracks and come off boring - other times he uses minor vocal inflections to keep things interesting.
There's a lot of features here whether it be from Top Dawg Entertainment or just similar artists - they all have good chemistry with REASON. Pretty much all of them were good, especially Rapsody on 'I Can Make It', as she was so slick lyrically, kind of like REASON wanted to be, "I'd rather show my ass through all these bars and get a band // And band together with some n***** who got triggers for the clan // I'm from the South, I know that guns don't make you any more a man", and she just came off so fresh and had a real presence on the track with her great flow and delivery. The track talks on the rappers having the ability to make their partners feel any way they want - even if it isn't possible over this percussion line and catchy kick/clap drum pattern to give us another menacing feel. REASON is OK lyrically, but nothing special, as Rapsody kills it and Desi Mo's unaccredited vocals on the hook sounds so good as this track goes so hard and is the best song on here personally. Some features weren't as good as others, but even so they were still decent. Ab-Soul on 'Flick It Up' kills his verse with a really good flow, delivery and some slick wordplay and lyricism, "Big dawg on T-O-P, R-A-P G-O-D // Wait, this shit is easy as winning a spelling bee spellin' the letter B (Ayy) // H-I-P H-O-P S-A-V-E-D me, man", as the track has a beat full of life, psychedelic piano keys, a thick consuming bass and a hint of eeriness to it as well. REASON's verse was good as the pair reflect on where they are with the music now, and big up how hard they've worked as REASON's hook and verse has great energy to it and this is a banger with a solid beat and solid feature - what more could you want. Merebra's backing vocals on 'Westside' are amazing and fit the atmosphere perfectly over this slower, more R&B style beat which is really good, seductive and lets you get lost within it and vibe. The track follows a girl who has recently broken up with a boy from a dysfunctional relationship, as REASON wants to change her perspective on love and give her a good life with him. The whole track is so smooth sounding and so enjoyable and definitely a highlight on here.
Content wise it's conscious at times, touching on sticky subject matter about injustices in life in different sectors, such as on 'Window Cry' which talks on the doubts he has signing to a major label based off what he’s heard about artists and other labels, talking on big contracts, being surrounded by strangers etc. over these cool guitar riffs and jazzy and psychedelic fuse almost reminiscent of a beat from The Alchemist. REASON has some insightful, thoughtful lyrics to represent his thoughts at the time, and despite all this it's pretty uneventful because REASON's delivery is uninteresting and his flow basic - I like the style of the track and the sound of the beat but I just don't think REASON did it justice - either way it's a mediocre song and a disappointing end to a solid album. He also talks a lot on his hardships in life, making it into his dream position and the money he has acquired, shown straight from the opening track 'Something More' as he talks on his struggles in life and how he overcame them to be signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, and he does this over this really foggy atmosphere and blank synth keys with some nice hi hats before it bursts into a good trap pattern. It's a decent opener, it didn't really blow me away and lyrically wasn't too strong but his flow and passionate display make this a well fitted introduction to this album. Of course there's also some braggadocios tracks too about sex, gang banging, violence etc. such as on 'Pop Shit' which mainly is about guns, violence and being better than the competition over this screeching cold bass, aggressive, rattling synth line and slow paced drums to give us an eerie but great beat. There's a lot of basketball references from REASON as ScHoolboy Q's verse had a solid flow as he takes over the mic with his charisma and charm to become the highlight of the track. The repetitive hook here again is catchy and the main reason this track was so enticing was the delivery from the pair and the whole evil feel of the track being captured perfectly. I think there's a lot of good content here and some good ideas in his head.
Other tracks to look at include 'Favorite N****', which has this dark but bright feeling beat and twinkling bells which add a colourful but cold effect to the track as it focuses on money not being able to change him, women, sex and him being his own favourite person. The punchlines were pretty flat and uneventful on here, "N**** been tight like waves, ooh // Money cleaned up like maids, ooh", but he rides the beat brilliantly on the verse. His staccato flow isn't my favourite part but the hook is still good and it's a little banger on the tracklist. The only other track left to talk about includes 'Slow Down' which is this track about certain aspects of his life REASON regrets, such as sleeping with a girl and making her get an abortion as well as spilling his cousins secrets in his songs to make some money. He does this over these boom bap drums and very laid back, soft beat - it's not too interesting but it's nice as REASON gets introspective and emotional. The first verse wasn't too compelling but the second verse definitely kept me engaged in the tragic story with a nice ending revolving around forgiveness. Nothing stands out other than that second verse but it's enough to push this song into the good category.
To conclude, I'm not the biggest fan of REASON but he pulled through here to give us a good to great album. The production was nice, and instead of making mediocre songs over and over with stripped back beats he managed to give us a mix of bangers, vibey tracks and more personal ones - it's a versatile album. There was still low points and tedious songs, but not many and they were definitely outweighed by the good songs. The features he selected were great, the flow as well and while his delivery wasn't the most interesting he used it well on some tracks. There's a good mix of styles in here, some nice hooks and songs and while it isn't album of the year or anything it's a solid debut album for his Top Dawg Entertainment career.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Pop Shit, Show Stop, I Can Make It, Flick It Up, Westside, Gossip
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: SAUCE
OVERALL RATING: Light 7.5/10