Focusing on both his own personal tragedies as well as those facing the Black community at large, Reason has delivered a body of work that entertains while also examining his vulnerabilities.
Reason’s official debut as a member of TDE, There You Have It, is a soulful and tight-knit introduction of the Del Amo rapper to a worldwide audience. Perhaps best known for his powerful verse on the Kendrick Lamar curated Black Panther soundtrack, Reason has quietly been working very hard, most recently in support Jay Rock on the 30-city Big Redemption Tour.
Although this is his first full release with TDE, older fans will likely recognize that this isn’t a new project; it's actually a remixed and remastered version of his 2017 mixtape of the same name. In addition to some tweaked sonics and updated cover art, the new release is three tracks shorter than the original. In a recent interview with Ambrosia For Heads Reason said that the re-release was a strategic move by label head Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. “The plan was to put out a new project under TDE," he explains. "But instead, Top felt like he wanted to show the world why they signed me...Top wanted to keep it very, very raw.”
This explains the lack of appearances by other artists on the label, but given his palpable work ethic, it’s only a matter of time before we hear him collaborating with the rest of the TDE roster. On this outing, Reason is instead supported by guest appearances from Xian Bell, Space 600 and D Beezy and production from myriad beat makers, the majority of whom Reason discovered through Youtube. Somehow, despite the variety of beat styles and rhythmic approaches, the album maintains an incredible amount of cohesiveness. The production is full of soul samples, creating a dark and moody atmosphere for Reason to rhyme on. Content teeters between hopelessness and breakneck determination; the world that Reason paints is bleak and full of justifiable paranoia. “Gotta go harder nigga I don't need new Lamborghinis or wheel stuntin'," he raps. "All I spit is real, the fans gon' feel from it/ I will make it, you will know me, you will love it/ So much, will in these raps you think Uncle Phil love it.”
The first portion of the album is steeped in anger and aggression. From the opening lyrics of the title track “There You Have It,” Reason examines his circumstances, whereupon he’s becoming hollow and singularly focused on achieving success in his work. “It's hard to handle the tragedy God has given me/ I mix revenge with apple juice and Hennessy," he raps. "Combine that with a lost friend and memories/ And there you have it created a deadly savage.” The hunger in his voice is apparent to the point of being caustic, as though he were pleading with the listener to hear his story.
The way in which the second half of the album shifts into its smoother second gear almost feels like Reason went through a new stage of growth during the recording stages; it somehow feels as if the stories are more vivid and the rapping is more dynamic. The pain and desire remain just as evident but instead, they’re relayed through lyrical vignettes, like the nightclub scene described in “Taste," or “Colored Dreams/ The Killers Pt. 2” which is formatted as a prisoner’s suicide note to his mother. Even the seemingly celebratory “Summer Up” contains references to the fear of time running out and friends lost too soon.
Although there are some exceptions, the majority of the lyrics depict in some way the stark realities and tragedies of the Black American experience and the ways in which trauma changes people and communities. On “The State We In,” Reason raps, “Tryin' to stay strong, my biggest fear is my future son bein' Trayvon/ Or me Eric Garner, they murder me, then blame him for not havin' a father/ And now his mother stuck, he go to school while she struggle to keep the fundin' up/ He miss his dad, no wonder his grades fuckin' up.” The fear of death is a strong motivator for Reason as it can come at any time from any angle. The police, old friends, strangers, even his own hands, might be the instruments of his destruction and Reason spends much of the work contemplating the ways in which death affects those it touches.
This album is thoroughly enjoyable, and beyond some occasional rigidity in his voice, Reason sounds at home in the booth. More often than not he raps with the urgency of a man trying to keep his head above water and given the content of the music he creates it makes sense. Not only is his music about surviving the struggle, but it's simultaneously easy on the ear, which isn’t always an easy feat to accomplish. All that being said, it’s interesting to note that although it has been pruned down and spruced up, this tape is a year old and is not necessarily even reflective of the music he’s making currently. With the new resources at his disposal and Top Dawg’s guidance, Reason is sure to be crafting a slew of new music and I’m looking forward to hearing what his proper first album under the TDE banner will sound like.