REASON almost quit music. As the story goes, the artist born Robert Gill, 30, was considering giving up on his dream up until signing with the “mafia of the West,” Top Dawg Entertainment, home to Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Kendrick Lamar, and more of today’s top rap stars. The Carson, California artist’s calling card is honest storytelling and incredible conviction. As exhibited on REASON’s 2017 mixtape There You Have It, both of these traits caught the attention of TDE’s Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith via Moosa Tiffith, who began managing the rapper in 2017.
Today, October 9, 2020, REASON releases his latest full-length offering and TDE studio debut, New Beginnings. Packed with wrenching raps, celebratory bursts, and dispatches from the trenches of REASON’s psyche, with features from Isaiah Rashad, Vince Staples, JID, Rapsody, Mereba, and more, New Beginnings showcases his hunger in a fresh light. The scrappy rapper who lost his last 100 dollars in a rigged rap contest has elevated. New Beginnings is packed with gnashing flows and REASON’s signature and incomparable pen.
REASON is a lyrical marvel with the unique ability to craft a song around his maelstrom of bars. New Beginnings is a series of therapy sessions between rapper and page, between rapper and listener. Even at his most braggadocious, REASON leads with his heart. A rapper with a lot of love to give and a message of growth to spread, New Beginnings is the first step in cementing the artist as a staple of the contemporary West Coast rap canon.
The new album is called New Beginnings. So, I’d love to hear your mindset coming into this project.
It’s weird because I’m usually a dark person, but I have a lot of day-one fans who have been rocking with me for a while. So, the There You Have It re-release with [Top Dawg Entertainment], the fans were happy for me for signing but were also asking for new music. So I wanted to approach [New Beginnings] from a celebration standpoint. It’s for the people that’s been rocking with me for a long time.
I want to do songs with features that the fan in me would wanna hear! Being able to have JID and Isaiah Rashad on the same song... and Rapsody’s my favorite female rapper of all time. I wanted to approach the album in a way where the fan in me would be able to look back and [say], “Wow!”
You have a stacked feature list, and you have chemistry with everyone on the album. How did the guests on this album push you to be a better rapper?
Without sounding like I’m full of myself, I felt like it was the other way around. I pushed them, and I say that because every feature I had on here, I sent it to them first. I wanted to do it that way because the fan in me wanted them to be able to have the opportunity to do the very best they could. I wanted them to hear my verse and come in and be able to match it, and try to beat the verse!
Vince [Staples] on “SAUCE,” I wanted to set the tone for him to come in and do something that was creative, swaggy, saucy… Every feature, I got on the phone and didn’t provide guidelines, but told them how I approached the record. I talked through [the records] with them, and it pushed them to attack it way differently.
Did you feel any pressure formally debuting?
I didn’t feel the pressure knowing it’s my official debut, but I did knowing the state of TDE as far as this is the first TDE drop of the year. I didn’t want it to be that way. I didn’t want the pressure of, “Where’s Zay? Where’s [Kendrick Lamar]? Where’s [ScHoolboy Q]?” All of these “Where’s?” and then REASON is dropping?
I didn’t want that, but life throws you lemons, and I felt pressure on that end. I tried to block it out because I didn’t want it to affect the music. But I’m human, and it did make me question certain records. We took one record off at the very last minute, it’s called “Soul Food,” and it was because of some of those pressures.
Since we’re still in a pandemic, is there any fear in releasing this album and having people miss it?
Not necessarily, only because I make music for the everyday person. I’ve never been a big person on numbers. My music is for the people it’s for, and if somebody enjoys it, it’s for them. If they don’t, that’s okay. We gon’ get the next one. If this was a project that I had this incredibly deep concept, which it does have pieces of that, I would definitely feel [fear], but this is a celebration, and I think people will live with it.
Even in the celebration, your calling card is your storytelling. What’s the most important story you’re telling on New Beginnings?
By far, it’s “Fall.” It’s the most important record on this project for the fact that it talks about women’s struggles getting into the industry, and it talks about what this industry does to young artists as well. It’s gonna be a touchy record. Emotions will be provoked, but I feel like it’s an important conversation to have.
The line about Mac Miller at the end… First off, rest in peace, Mac Miller. I love Mac. I think he’s an incredible person and human being. I wanted people to know even as great of a soul as Mac Miller, a great guy, [he] was ultimately affected by this industry and surrounded by temptations. It’s a tragedy we have to be more accountable for in this industry.
There’s a ton of heart on New Beginnings. Do you ever get emotionally exhausted, making such bare music? Do you ever wish you didn’t give a shit?
I definitely do, and there’s times where I don’t—I just make music I wanna make. I released a song called “Might Not Make It,” that’s how that song came about. It’s healthy [to not care] because I make such honest music. It’s a balance in making other music.
When you mention having doubts about your contract to close the album, did you have any anxiety putting that song out on your TDE debut?
What’s funny… When I made “Windows Cry,” I didn’t wanna show the label. I played it for Kal Banx, who produced the record, and I just made it for me. Kal convinced me to play it for Top. Right away, Top loved it, so I played it for Zay, who said he could relate. That’s all it was supposed to be. “Gossip” was originally the outro of the album.
While we’re living with it, Top just randomly calls me one day: “What’s that record you were talking shit about all of us on? That should be the outro.” So, that was actually Top’s wanting it to be there because it was such an honest thing. The fans need to hear it as well.
With the album in fans’ hands, what do you hope the listeners pay the most attention to as they’re getting their spins in?
I really want them to have fun with this project. Take off your critic ear for a second, just to say, enjoy this moment and this project. Who knows if we’ll ever get another JID and Isaiah song! Enjoy the moments of this project and listen as a fan, because that’s the way I did. And, understand, New Beginnings is relatable to everybody.
Photos by Xonie.