Top Dawg Entertainment, one of the most revered labels in modern day hip hop, is back on the music radar after the release of New Beginnings from their relatively new signee, Reason.
While not technically his first project with TDE, as his mixtape There You Have It was rereleased by the label about a year after being self-released, this debut album is the first new project from the rapper on the label. After rising to prominence, due to his appearance on the collaborative Dreamville album, Revenge of the Dreamers III, fans have been waiting for more music from the artist, which has, until now, been served in small doses. The hip hop community, however, is very aware about how sparsely TDE puts out content from their heavy-hitting roster, so it is no surprise that this album came over a year removed from their last release. Other than a flurry of songs that came out during CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith’s birthday week, most of the label’s releases have been Reason’s singles for the past year or so to promote New Beginnings.
Diving into the album, the first things listeners should come to expect above anything else is authentic “lyricism”. The Del-Amo rapper puts more work into his pen than any other aspect of the album, however this is not to say that the other parts are ignorable. Whether it be the clever punchlines at the end of many bars or the extremely vivid storytelling on most of the tracks, Reason lures the audience in with his words more than anything else. Apart from that, another big standout throughout every track is the rapper’s delivery, which is so passionate that listeners can literally feel his hunger to strive. The emotion behind Reason’s musical composition is practically unmatched in today’s era of hip hop, and even when his tone is braggadocious, his lines are said emphatically. The only detractor from all the content present on the album comes from a specific section on “Fall” where he raps, “Look, you said you wanna be an artist, Well, we gon’ turn you to an addict/ Then give you the tools to dig your own shit/Then one day you could become the next Mac Miller.” Though this probably wasn’t meant to be a diss against Mac, but instead be a warning to listeners, it’s still very unnecessary stemming from the fact it’s still a fresh wound for fans paired with Mac’s public, mental struggles. Plus, with many of his very close friends on Top Dawg, it seems unlikely that Schoolboy, Ab-Soul, or Kendrick would allow something they deemed disrespectful towards the late Pittsburgh artist to be released from their camp, or so I’d hope.
The major names attached to the album mainly come through in features, and like many TDE releases, has much of the label talent dispersed throughout. Black Hippy rappers Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q separately appear on the singles “Flick It Up” and “Pop Shit”, respectively, and are clear standout tracks, as they combine good content, great replay ability, and memorable collaborations. The one and only Kendrick Lamar also delivers uncredited adlibs over the track “Show Stop”, which features a completely different style of hip hop for Reason, who is still able to adapt to the different sound in order to make it a great “flex” song. Arguably the most hyped album cut from the bunch, “Extinct” features the very distant Isaiah Rashad and Dreamville’s constantly rising JID, and the trio delivers arguably my favorite song from the tracklist mainly due to the excellent chemistry between the artists. Other appearances include Rapsody, Vince Staples, Mereba, and Almeda, who provide great features on their respective songs with Reason. Overall, every feature goes above and beyond on this particular album. Regarding production, the sounds match Reason’s known aesthetic and style. Not many big producers appear, other than !llmind and S1, provide beats on this project, but a relatively unknown producer known as Karl Banx etches his name on over half the album’s tracks, providing great contributions from what it seems.
If you are still unconvinced to try out New Beginnings, I recommend watching both of his LA Leakers freestyles on YouTube to get a taste of what’s to come, which are phenomenal to watch at any given time. Anyone who considers themselves a lyrical fan of hip hop should definitely give this album a shot and with such a solid debut album, I think Reason has a very solid trajectory in this industry if he continues at this rate.
Standout Tracks: “Extinct”, “Flick It Up”, “Pop Shit”, and “Slow Down”