The Break Presents: Reason
Music can be used as a way to face life's troubles; some artists can conceptualize the issues they face better than others. In the case of Reason, he was a 23-year-old college basketball player at school in Iowa, far away from his hometown of Carson, Calif., dealing with life struggles of his own.
"I was just bored out of my mind," Reason tells XXL. "[Lil] Wayne had just dropped Dedication 4 or 5 and I was just having fun, tryna kill time, freestyling on my MacBook and what not. I was going through a lot of personal stuff at the time, so I tried writing my own song about different things that's going on."
Little did he know, recording on his computer would bring him all the way to the watchful eye of Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, the boss man down at Top Dawg Entertainment, recording home to Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, SZA, Jay Rock and many more.
After Reason finished his college ball career and got an invite to play professionally in Greece, he turned it down in pursuit of a rap career. Yet he was extremely secretive about his newfound talent. "I used to sneak in my car and record it, then send it to my brother," he says. "Then, roughly three months after doing that, I started sending it to my homies."
The support from his loved ones lead to Reason jumping into the rap game with both feet. He dropped his first project, the personal and moody The Free Album, in 2016. The project showcases a strong foundation and defined perspective—a regular guy just trying to make it, while also understanding what happening in the streets.
As his name started to rise, Reason released There You Have It in May 2017, supporting it with his own headlining show two months later. The performance changed the trajectory of Reason's career, as ScHoolboy Q's road manager, Keem—uncle to one of Reason's friends—attended the show and brought 20 tickets so that TDE staff could join him. Top Dawg's son, Moosa, was in the house, too. He was so impressed that he sent the project to Top, spurring a meeting between the label boss and Reason.
After a three-week hazing—which included enduring an in-studio roasting session with ScHoolboy Q—Reason signed to TDE in September 2017. His appearance on "Seasons" from the Black Panther soundtrack followed in February, and he formally released the song "The Soul" in August, as news of the deal went public.
In September, TDE re-released a slightly condensed version of There You Have It. And even though Reason is living the life he always wanted, he's still working hard—he may be dropping another project next year.
Learn more about Reason in this week's edition of XXL's The Break.
Hometown: Carson, Calif.
I grew up listening to: "I grew up listening to [Lil] Wayne, Cassidy, Ludacris, Fabolous, Jay-Z—pretty much a lot of the heavily known, rapper-rappers [with] metaphors [and] punchlines. My favorite rapper of all time is Lil Wayne. Wayne and J. Cole. motivated me to wanna rap."
My style’s been compared to: "It's funny, I been compared to Big K.R.I.T. a lot lately, which I don't completely see. But I think K.R.I.T.'s dope. Been compared to [J.] Cole, Jay Rock, more like similarities in voice and different things like that. Crazy enough, a few people have been comparing me to Dave East as well."
My most slept-on song: "'Letter To God' on The Free Album. After I wrote that song, my brother called me and was like, 'Yo you're gonna make it in music. I know it's a long shot but like, anybody that can write something like this will make it in music.' I think because I wasn't really known like that, it was a slower record and I put it towards the end of the tape, anybody that did listen potentially heard such a slow record towards the end and probably skipped it. But the people that have heard it, I've gotten a lot of reaction off of that song."
My standout records to date have been: "Definitely 'Better Dayz,' just cause of where it places with me. 'Summer Up'—I had the most fun writing 'Summer Up.' I was in a really really good space. I got a song called 'Colored Dreams' that I think will hit home with a lot of people."
My standout moments to date have been: "The Black Panther album—that was so crazy to me. That was like twice, because when I knew I made it on the Black Panther album, we were like turnt, excited and whatnot. I don't think that I realized how big of a project that was until they posted the tracklist. [And] that New York show—it being the first show of the tour was a pretty big moment in my life. It was incredible. One of those monumental moments."
Most people don’t know: "I'm a twin and that I started music so late. I think people assume that I been doin' it my whole life, which is a dope thing. My brother coaches at USC, so people, as I started getting bigger in music, people would text me and say, 'Yo I just saw you on TV!'"
I’m going to be the next: "The next staple in hip hop, I wanna add to the conversation. A lot of people have these conversations about who's the greatest of all time; I have my greatest, he has his greatest, everybody has a greatest. To me, if you make it to the table of conversation, you're the G.O.A.T. In somebody's mind, you're the greatest of all time. I just wanna be involved in that conversation."
Standouts: There You Have It
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