First Listen #42: REASON’s ‘New Beginnings’

So REASON. I didn’t really have plans to listen to this project, but after seeing that he called himself the glue that was holding Top Dawg Entertainment together, I felt like I HAD to see what he was talking about on New Beginnings (2020). Plus, I didn’t have strong opinions on him (either way) before listening to it. I’ve heard him on a few things, including some features and “Flick it Up,” and thought he was alright. But I feel like he’s one of those artists that you can’t really get a grasp on unless you listen to an entire album.

Photo Credit: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8483709/reason-tde-there-you-have-it-album-top-dawg-interview

2020: New Beginnings

(via Genius)

This wasn’t a bad project – I mean, it hits all the general qualities of being a good project – but I could tell from the first two tracks that I wasn’t going to want to listen to anything from this again (except a song or two). I was thinking about this, while getting my breakfast ready this morning, before I finished up the second half of the project (disclaimer: I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the last two tracks in full because I just got…so bored lol). I started listening to it yesterday, while cutting the grass and decided to just finish it up today. The questions that I think work the best to frame this project are: why should I listen to REASON? What about this project makes me want to reach for it, instead of a different project?

See, I done came up out mud cleaner than a whistle

Reason drippin’, little drizzle, no talk, man, just Walkmans

REASON, “I Can Make It”

At the beginning of this project – and throughout the remaining tracks – I thought a lot about how songs on this just sound like diet versions of songs from other artists. The first track – “Something More” – reminded me of something I’d hear from J. Cole (specifically from 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)), “Stories I Forgot” felt like a Schoolboy Q song, “Pop Shit” sounds like something I’d hear on a Jay Rock project, and the Kendrick adlibs on “Show Stop” didn’t help shake the feeling that I was listening to a Kendrick Lamar song. And there were other moments like these on the project, where it felt like REASON didn’t stand out. Even on the tracks where there was another artist featured, the featured artist RAN CIRCLES around REASON, and I liked their verse better than his (Rapsody was GREAT on “I Can Make It,” I loved Vince Staples on “SAUCE,” I think Soulo’s verse on “Flick it Up” is his best in a WHILE, and Schoolboy Q is always a welcome presence, and I was happy to hear him on “Pop Shit”).

I remember listening through Revenge of the Dreamers III: Director’s Cut (2020) some months back, and in the First Listen for it, I commented on how on “Revenge,” REASON gave the “most TDE-verse he ever could deliver. I could hear the influence of all the other guys on TDE spewing out of his mouth on [his] verse.” And that point, I enjoyed that! I liked him being a sort of stand in or representative of TDE on that song. But on New Beginnings, a project that’s supposed to be his moment to show us what he could do, it felt like we were just getting the sparknotes he wrote based on everyone else’s music. This project doesn’t make me excited to hear anything else from him; it just makes me wanna revisit some TDE projects that I haven’t heard in a while. I also really DID NOT like the first verse of “Fall.” It’s always very hit or miss for me when men try to write verses from the perspective of women, but it always has an air of paternalism.

So the answer – for me – on why I should listen to REASON is still very much unanswered. Like I said, New Beginnings is NOT a bad project. There are some songs on there that I really like, including “Flick It Up,” “Extinct,” and “Pop Shit,” but it just doesn’t do enough for me to enter my daily rotation. And I guess more than anything, I’ve been listening to hip hop for a LONG TIME. So I get bored of hearing the same thing over and over again; sometimes it’s nice, but I find myself reaching more for stuff that sounds different. Stuff where the artists are putting music together in a ways that build on to the work that has already been done, rather than just doing it the same way. Some of my faves – Denzel Curry, Tyler the Creator, Childish Gambino – are really good examples of artists who innovate rather than assimilate. I think anyone that frequents hip hop and has listened to at least a handful of TDE projects knows that the people over at Top Dawg are talented. They’ve been a little slow on releasing music recently, but I’ve been heavily impressed with most of the stuff that has come from them so far. And I expected to be heavily impressed with REASON as well; instead, this project felt like he was just riding on the coattails of an already-successful label. And maybe that’s the problem? I don’t think REASON is a bad artist at all, but he’s someone I think I’d prefer to just hear features from, rather than a whole solo project, from now on.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit: https://www.revolt.tv/new-music/2020/5/20/21265128/reason-schoolboy-q-pop-shit-video


(listen to New Beginnings on spotify by clicking the image below)

here’s something else you might like…

Week Fulla Black Punk: First Listen #41: Fishbone’s ‘Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe’

Out of the three bands that I’ve talked about this week, Fishbone is the most well-known. Rooted in South Central Los Angeles, Fishbone came to be in 1979 with the original six members: John Norwood Fisher, Philip Fisher, Angelo Moore, Kendell Jones, Walter Kibby, and Christopher Dowd. Between the 80s and 90s, the guys of … Continue reading Week Fulla Black Punk: First Listen #41: Fishbone’s ‘Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe’

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