Top Dawg’s Reason: The Rise Of the Newbie

When Reason spits his bars and lines, he shows poise of a veteran. Being part of a successful group like Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) is not easy. Standing out in a talented group that consists of rap giants like School Boy Q, Kendrick Lamar and so many more is a difficult feat. However, with two years under his belt representing TDE, Reason has done just that.

Reason’s first spotlight came in 2018 on “Seasons.” A song featuring Sjava and Mozzy which was included on the “Black Panther” soundtrack. On “Seasons,” Reason’s verse is an immediate standout from the chorus and and previous Mozzy verse.

He raps with a heavy-hearted tone, speaking on his rough upbringing and love for his hometown of Carson. An album curated by Kendrick Lamar, director Ryan Coogler and TDE’s CEO Anthony Tiffith was not enough to propel him to stardom. Reason’s standout verse was in the shadows of numerous high caliber features, including Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, SZA, Jay Rock, Future and many more. 

However, on August 8, 2018, Reason signed to Top Dawg Entertainment. That same day he released his single titled “The Soul.” “The Soul” was his “I’m Here” moment. This was Reason candidly introducing himself to longtime TDE fans and showcasing his rapping ability.

Reason undoubtedly presented himself as a a rapper that can keep up with the giants. Some of his lines on “The Soul” were a fitting introduction and were clearly penned for this very moment, “N****s told me, ‘spot’s taken’/N***a, it’s REASON, word to Liam Neeson/ If it’s taken once then you can take it twice.”

Recalling the doubt some of the people had prior to his signing, he specifically remembers people saying there was no spot available on TDE. This is due to the already stacked roster. However, Reason believes it’s possible to claim a spot since it has been done before. The Liam Neeson line is a play on words and reference to the actor who stars as the main protagonist in the well known “Taken” movies.

Reason follows these lines by touching on his difficult road leading up to the signing. He later raps “Came from the bottom, so of course I’m apprehensive of Top/ Grew up with Crips, of course I’m apprehensive of Rock/ Feel I’m the greatest, of course I’m apprehensive of Dot.”

The Carson native gives his appreciation to TDE CEO Top Dawg, then follows by acknowledging fellow label-mate Jay Rock as a Blood even though Reason himself is a Crip. The way Reason feels about his rapping ability is no secret when he says he feels like the greatest while condemning Kendrick Lamar as a great. These lines are just a few of many that made “The Soul” a  statement. 

Reason made his official album debut with There You Have It at the tail end of 2018. The project was released prior to his TDE signing, however, the label decided to release it again hoping to captivate a wider range of listeners.

There You Have It consisted of 12 songs, each with a story to tell and strong meaning. The entire album gives you an insight at Reason’s personal life, upbringing and adversity he faced. From songs like “Kurupt” that embody a boastful style of rap capturing his confidence to tracks like “Colored Dreams,” which raps from a killer’s perspective in prison, who is writing his last letter to his mother before committing suicide. Reason collectively displays all the edges of the Swiss Army knife.

Considering this project is outdated since it was initially released before his signing, it only brings Reason’s ceiling that much higher. However, the conscious rap album did not make waves and flew quietly under the radar. 

A few months after the release of his debut album, it was revealed Reason was invited to the legendary Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions. The invitation can be considered a co-sign by J. Cole himself. ROTD III was a collaborative Dreamville label project that was released the summer of 2019. One of the highlights of the entire album and debatably the best song, was “Lambotruck” which featured Dreamville signee Cozz, TDE signee Reason and Childish Major.  

The manifestation of “Lambotruck” wasn’t just the spark of a Cozz & Reason chemistry that was yet to be unlocked, but also the start of a run that would consistently give us Reason’s rapping skills served on a stainless steel silver tray. “Lambotruck” is a song that thrives on the dialogue between Cozz and Reason plotting to rob J. Cole.

Reason’s verse is filled with clever punchlines and suggests the plan to rob Cole at the tail end of the verse. The final verse follows with what seems to be a bar-by-bar battle between Cozz and Reason. The battle is the dialogue taking place in which Cozz is hesitant to rob his very own CEO in Cole. Reason details the plan of the heist and both come to the agreement that while Reason robs Cole, Cozz will rob TDE CEO Top Dawg. The song was quickly given attention due to the dynamic duo’s chemistry and overall concept of the song. Later the song received some more traction after a video of J. Cole’s reaction to the song’s final verse was seen on the “REVENGE” documentary. 

It was evident momentum was on Reason’s side after “Lambotruck” when he released “Same Ol Shit” and “Flick It Up,” which was a Carson infused song. On “Same Ol Shit,” Reason is fed up with same old fakes and raps with a chuckling frustration. “Flick It Up” was the definition of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee between a duo of emcees. Reason stings the listener with hard felt raps and bars, while TDE veteran Ab-Soul absolutely floats on the beat. 

Coming off two solid singles, Reason hit the ground running in 2020 when he released “Show Stop” late January. Assisted by some Kendrick Lamar vocals, Reason takes the spotlight and raps about his desire to get paid. The song starts off with a creative bullet point flow and leads into a barrage of classic Reason punch lines. “Trapped In” was released early March and is dedicated to those who are “Trapped In.” Accompanied by Boogie and Ab-Soul, the song fulfills its purpose of motivating those trapped in certain situations. The song also allows us to listen to a solid diverse trio of rappers that doesn’t fall short of great.

The very next month, TDE had fan appreciation week which lead to the release of “Might Not Make It.” A mixture of both Notorious B.I.G.’s “Just Playing (Dreams)” and 50 Cent’s “How To Rob”, the concept of “Might Not Make It” is Reason fantasizing what he would do if he only had 24 hours left to live.

Like Notorious B.I.G. on “Just Playing (Dreams)”, Reason name drops female artists and celebrities he would have sex with on his last day on earth. However, just like on 50’s “How To Rob” he name drops male artist he would rob. From kidnapping Donald Trump, leaking Kendrick and Jay Rock’s music, to fantasizing about some of the most famous female celebrities, Reason depicts some high aspirations during his last 24 hours for the listener.

“Pop Shit” was released in mid-May, and the result was a collaboration between heavy weight label-mate Schoolboy Q. The West Coast rooted emcees talk about the gang-related lifestyle they experienced first-hand when growing up on the west coast. Schoolboy Q seemed to have the upper hand as far as the better verse goes, but the consistency from Reason remains undeniable through his 2020 run.

Most recently Reason released visuals for a song he said he wrote two years ago called “Field N***a”. With a newly added verse he shouted out his label that allowed him to release the song in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM advocating visual and song seemed fitting for his run and served as a bigger purpose considering the platform Reason has. 

The ceiling is high for Reason, and being recognized as “good” on a label like TDE translates to being great in the rap game considering the talent on the team. Just two years with TDE and the young emcee is climbing the ranks of the rap game with features and consistent leading singles. Reason’s strengths revolve around his delivery, writing and flow.

The delivery is crisp and clear. It’s easy to dive into a rapper’s lyrics and punchlines when the delivery is as clean as Reason’s. The writing on Reason’s music is one of the best in recent memory. Many rappers can write clever punch lines but how you use them is what can make or break these rhymes. Reason throws these punchlines and references with clever purposes that intrigue the listener and make them say “Ah I caught that.”, on the first listen.

The flow the young TDE star has on every song is like water. When he has something to prove or a statement to get through to the listener, you can tell. When he is making an exaggeration to get his point across, you know he isn’t serious. Just like water, the flow continues to adapt and change flawlessly. Reason can go from deep story telling on one verse, to flaunting on the next and create a balance of modern day and conscious rap music.

The unspoken skill Reason seems to quietly wield is the ability to be in tune with the new wave of rap music that depends on catchy hooks and hard hitting punch lines, while having the ability to tell a story and rap his ass off on demand. There is a lot to be excited for in the young stars career, considering his recent releases. TDE isn’t known for being as active as Reason has been in 2020, but it’s nothing to complain about.

While some wait for the TDE unicorn sighting of Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad or SZA’s next near perfect collection of melodies, I’m waiting for the “New Beginnings” album Reason has teased since earlier this year. I don’t want to focus too much on what the rapper has already accomplished as it’s a rather short track record. Looking ahead I’m a captivated by what’s on the horizon for the talented artist and we should have every reason to be.

What You Expect?