TDE's newest star officially arrives with sophomore LP New Beginnings
Reviewed by Thomas Herron
There has been a lot of conversation oriented around Top Dawg Entertainment this year, mostly in the form of frustration at a lack of releases as well as response to swirling rumors of disharmony.
In a sea of mystery surrounding what may or may not be happening behind the curtains at TDE, Reason’s New Beginnings is a shining lighthouse.
The only label member to release a studio album to this point in 2020, Reason has capitalized on the radio-silence emanating from the rest of TDE. After rolling out album singles like Pop Shit ft. Schoolboy Q, Sauce ft. Vince Staples, The Soul (Pt. 2) and Show Stop, expectations were sky high for the follow up to the Carson rapper’s debut, There You Have It.
The rawness that earned the 29-year-old artist a deal is not only still present on his sophomore album, but feels more harnessed and directed on songs like Fall and Slow Down ft. Alameda.
What allows New Beginnings to live up to its astronomical expectations though is the proven development of Reason’s already advanced storytelling ability. While this was also somewhat expected due to the proximity to some of the great storytellers in the industry at TDE, Stories I Forgot showcases the rapper’s newfound ability to combine the grittiness and bounce of his West Coast sound with a chillingly detailed narrative.
While the influence of West Coast bounce feels a bit less present on Reason’s sophomore LP as he experiments with his own versatility, it is still just present enough, comprising a number of secondary production layers and coming through like on the latter half of Something More, to keep the project from feeling like a departure from what drew Reason fans in originally.
Featuring the likes of lyricists such as Ab-Soul, Rapsody, J.I.D. and Vince Staples, the Carson MC relieves any doubts about his ability to go bar for bar with the most advanced of wordsmiths.
New Beginnings is a beautifully-constructed display of storytelling driven by raw emotion, energetic and substance-driven bars, and a growing versatility in song-making. One of the most triumphant moments of the album comes on Extinct, sampling MF Doom’s Pennyroyal as well as featuring J.I.D. and Isaiah Rashad. Extinct is both a tribute to the hip hop historians in Reasons’ ranks and proof of his ability to effectively switch flow and style with ease.
Oh, and for those who were particularly excited about the Drive Slow sample on There You Have It, you'll be happy to know while it's more subtle, Extinct features all three artists reciting one of Ye's most iconic lines.
Westside ft. Mereba is arguably the most melodic of Reason’s endeavors to this point in his career and alongside vocals provided by the 30-year-old R&B singer, it shows just how far the rapper’s song-making ability has come, even just in the time since his signing. Like most of the album, this track illustrates that despite his rising celebrity, Reason is not afraid to speak his deepest thoughts on a beat.
Windows Cry furthers this, seeing the rapper voice concerns about being a young and unknowing artist eager to sign a deal despite not knowing exactly what was in his contract, as well as uncertainty regarding the loyalty of one of his managers also being Top’s son.
This willingness to share his inner thoughts with his fans deepens the rawness of his sound and the relatability of his music that results will continue to give Reason fans reason to keep coming back; but the continued development of Reason’s song-making ability and attention to melodies has effectively allowed the Carson native to elbow his way into a seat at the table of the game’s most promising artists.