Reason - New Beginnings: Review
Top Dawg Entertainment has had a consistent streak of signing talent that go above and beyond when delivering projects. It may not be something with substantial weight like a Kendrick Lamar album or Ab-Soul’s lyricism, but Reason gives it his all. They aren’t held back by being “forced” to create gen-pop tracks that could bleed to the airwaves. Some have tried and succeeded and others have failed. Reason comes in with little bit of column A and little of column B.
New Beginnings, Reason’s newest release, makes the album's title have definitive meaning with the new direction he takes. His music was always consistent with finding contrasts between his current flex and his old life. But as of recent, he has moments where the ego takes over making him forget his place in the track. It isn’t hindering the overall quality of the album, but it shows that Reason is still trying to find his voice in the music. He has a lot of talent and it shows, but there are his weak points. When they show it, it’s hard not to notice, like the pain of a pinch.
There is no real huge escalation as the album progresses. The multitude of features in the second half adds more layers to the songs. That reliance doesn’t shine a proper light and carries disappointment knowing he is capable of more, like the stand out “Pop Shit,” or the opening track. The grit and grime oozes over these lush dark thematic percussion. Or low barring synths and strings on the Rapsody assisted “I Can Make It,” which illuminates the album with positivity.
Unfortunately most of the album overuses similar sounds, which in turn makes some of the instrumentals feel hollow. But when it starts to be devoid of it and goes a simple route Reason brings that emotional energy. “Something More,” the opening track, melodic strings and somber synths is complementary to his delivery. Coincidentally a lot of the stronger instrumentals don’t become lost in the muddled individuality of certain tracks. “Extinct,” multi-faceted gritty jazzy instrumental elevates each rapper on the track. From the more lowly intro with Isaiah Rashad to the heightened percussion during Reason’s verse it delivers on all cylinders.
At other times the instrumentals that carry similar sounds come off as dull and too drawn out, like on “Flick It Up.” With choppy trap flows in the hook and a choppy instrumental, not even Ab-Soul can save it. The subsequent track is an improvement on this with the Vince Staples feature rounding it out. The mixing however doesn’t come full circle as Vince sounds like he recorded over a phone instead of in studio.
New Beginnings delivers to the degree that These Days… did. After a solid and audaciously ambitious album, that ambition takes a page from the Ron Swanson book of advice and full ass many things. But importantly he fully asses the choruses and hooks he doesn’t get a feature for. It weighs less on its motifs, but at least on a technical level the album feels predominantly confident.