TDE's REASON Talks Top Dawg Relationship, Choosing Rap Over Basketball & How J. Cole Inspired 'Colored Dreams'

Top Dawg Entertainment’s latest signee, REASON, is working a well-deserved victory lap. After a variety of hardships that might’ve damaged anybody’s psyche, REASON beat the chances by means of a relentless work ethic and sheer pressure of will. The previous few months have elevated REASON’s standing amongst new rappers with a coveted cypher spot at this yr’s BET Hip Hop Awards, a standout characteristic on Black Panther: The Album, and opening for Jay Rock on The Big Redemption Tour all stamped on his resume. With a lot in retailer for the younger MC, it’s exhausting to imagine the 28 yr previous was able to stop music only a yr in the past.

REASON has at all times been a dreamer. As he grew up in Carson, CA, REASON had aspirations of constructing it to the NBA. He obtained a basketball scholarship from Northwestern College in Iowa and whereas there, the “Better Dayz” rapper developed a love for music that stemmed from the frustrations of attending a faculty that’s culturally totally different from Carson. Music would slowly take over basketball as REASON recorded a variety of freestyles as a type of remedy. After graduating from Northwestern, REASON’s newfound love influenced him to show down a contract to play professionally in Greece in an effort to focus solely on music.

REASON’s begin in music was not probably the most gracious. He labored a bunch of mediocre jobs to fund his craft and few took him critically in his hometown. A substantial buzz grew along with his first mixtape The Free Album, but it surely was his second challenge There You Have It (the unique model of his remastered TDE debut) that was meant to be the breakout second. Thousands of had been put into the creation of the mixtape with 9 thousand going to a publicist who was supposed to construct publicity for the challenge. After receiving the fee, the publicist disappeared and the mixtape fell into obscurity.

Despite dropping all the pieces and practically quitting on his desires, REASON crossed paths with Moosa Tiffith, the son of TDE founder and CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. Through this relationship and assembly the TDE boss, REASON signed with the hip-hop powerhouse after his mixtape, There You Have It caught Top’s consideration. In August 2018, Top introduced the signing by releasing REASON’s “The Soul,” a passionate file explaining his come-up.     

With his TDE debut, There You Have It, REASON is establishing himself throughout the TDE household because the sincere story-teller. He particulars the struggles he’s encountered in his life in grim element with nods of getting a superb time all through the chaos. It’s the primary time a TDE artist has their story advised in such a daring method and in response to REASON he wouldn’t have had it some other method.

Billboard sat down with REASON to talk on his TDE debut There You Have It, the gems he’s taken from his labelmates, his relationship with Top Dawg, turning down enjoying skilled basketball to give attention to his music profession, and his beginning 5 of artists expert at hooping. Check it out beneath.

How did the transition into music have an effect on you regardless of your ardour for sports activities?

It was exhausting, mentally, for me to just accept. To me, I felt like I used to be just about saying I failed in sports activities. I didn't attain the objectives I needed to succeed in in basketball and it was a troublesome battle having to take care of that. The transition made it actually exhausting for me to inform those who I used to be doing music. I had simply gotten again from college and everybody knew me for hooping. When you inform folks you need to do music, you'll greater than possible run into individuals who'll snicker at you. It was a robust battle of believing in myself and having the arrogance to maintain going.

How did it really feel turning down that contract to play professionally in Greece realizing you’d be being profitable immediately?

It had the reverse impact for me. It wasn't as exhausting of a choice solely as a result of it was sort of like a step in that journey. Even although I didn't make it to my final objective, the NBA, I reached a stage the place I may've performed professionally. It nearly allowed me to have the ability to let it go a bit bit extra, truthfully. I really feel like if I didn't get that supply, I'd've spent one other yr and a half caught in that limbo stage making an attempt to determine which one I needed to do. I'm actually exhausting on myself after I really feel like I've failed, in order that gave me a small step to sort of take that weight off my shoulder a bit bit and allowed me to enter music.  

What have the primary few months at TDE been like for you and what's your objective for the label?

Joining TDE comes with lots of strain. It's actually dope to be the brand new individual at such an incredible group. It's like becoming a member of the Lakers whenever you're the brand new man. You're excited however after 10 video games into the season, you see what all that comes with. It's all enjoyable and video games till you're on the court docket and see the banners. You should step up, hit these objectives and show your self. We have some unbelievable artists on the label and it's a really “earn your stripes” sort of label. If you're not bringing it, you'll be able to simply be pushed to the again. It's actually about who can keep on the label's thoughts and never solely impress the world, however you must impress everybody on the label. Ok Dot, Q, everyone.

The strain is bizarre although. Even although we're all on the identical label, it's simply bizarre. I used to be at all times an enormous TDE fan and so they impressed me extra now than they ever did. It actually is like enjoying basketball. You assume you may play with them till you hit the ground and actually see how they play. It was like, “Goddamn did they flip it up a notch after I received signed?” Laughs]. My objective so far as being with TDE is to place strain again on them the place they hear my tasks or see my movies and really feel like they should work tougher as a result of this child is coming and he's making an attempt to work his method up the ladder quick.

With the best way Top carries himself, at all times being two steps forward of everybody, do you ever really feel strain or intimidated everytime you speak to him now?

At first I did. Definitely over this final month, with me being on tour and simply speaking to him extra on the telephone, the strain has light a bit bit. We have extra of an open relationship now. I feel he's beginning to let me in a bit bit extra and perceive how he's pondering. But you'll at all times really feel an depth whenever you're talking with Top, until you're simply joking round or capturing the shit. You at all times need to convey your finest foot ahead. If Top is happy, your shit goes to go.

What are the strengths you're feeling you convey to a powerhouse like TDE?

I really feel like TDE has lived on this age the place they've been mysterious in a method. There's all this mystique about TDE the place nobody actually is aware of what's occurring or what's occurring. I feel one factor that I convey to the desk is a direct, simple strategy with the best way that I rap and craft my lyrics. I make my metaphors and bars exhausting to get, however my message isn't mistaken. I feel it brings a really in-your-face, real looking imaginative and prescient that's not so exhausting to know. I feel that's the place Top felt like my music stood out from the remainder of the group.

What was crucial gem you’ve discovered whereas being underneath TDE?

Jay] Rock simply taught me to only at all times be an expert. He confirmed me that whereas on tour sure issues can go improper and you must be in prime kind. Rock confirmed me whatever the accolades you obtain, you at all times should maintain it collectively. There’s by no means any excuses with Rock. He comes along with his helmet and hammer, exhibits that is what he does, and that it's at all times concerning the followers. It looks as if it's a easy bit of recommendation to know however within the midst of shit going improper, it means lots. I put on my coronary heart on my sleeve, and generally, I present it a bit bit. Rock won't ever present he's upset about something. It's at all times about exhibiting up, being an expert first, and placing the followers first.

Kendrick has been instructing me easy methods to maintain the top in thoughts. His strategy to creating music isn't at all times concerning the music. It's about realizing you will have a carry out, make a video, and have a advertising and marketing technique. He's instructing me to not solely do my music only for music, however maintain the larger image in thoughts. It's like what else are you able to do to raise the file even additional. Kendrick could be very strategic in that method. With Top, it wasn't essentially studying one thing instantly from him, however he's at all times pushing you to embrace your creativity. He tells you to try to change your voice, to try to sing, when you're a rapper attempt to make 10 bangers. He conjures up you to maintain pushing your self to proceed to hustle and to not get snug. His motto is hustle such as you're broke.

Where did you discover the motivation to maintain working in your music regardless of the robust sequence of occasions you encountered previous to signing with TDE?

To be sincere with you, my family and friends. They had been supportive and put a lot into it for me. I felt like there have been many instances I needed to stop and if I did, it was going to be a slap to their face. I used to be on the point of stop music actually a month earlier than I met Moosa and put this group collectively to go to Top and play music. A month earlier than that, I went to a rap contest that had a $200 entry. I misplaced the competition unfairly, in my view, and I didn't have anymore cash. My brother Tim truly loaned me $150 and wasn't permitting me to stop. It was moments like that and my family members stepping as much as make it possible for I didn't allow them to or myself down.

Do you're feeling the music you’re making will assist those that are battling their psychological well being due to hardships and failures?

Yes, 100%. That's one thing I do need to assist with. I went by means of melancholy after I graduated with two bachelor levels. I got here house and was just about a glorified cashier that was making an attempt to do that new grind with music. I'm solely making $12.50 an hour and no different job is even remotely making an attempt to rent me. It made a lot sense for me to chase music. My dad and mom didn't actually know rap and felt like I used to be losing my time however they tried to be supportive. Then seeing my brother teaching at USC, my sister making six figures and I'm simply right here making an attempt to determine it out, it did lots mentally. I do know what that may do on the psychological stage, however folks don't actually discuss that affecting your spirit. I really feel like whenever you undergo psychological well being points, your spirit breaks first earlier than your thoughts does. Lots of people simply quit and fall into melancholy, you realize? I can undoubtedly see myself, and I need to see myself, as someone that may communicate for that transferring ahead.

Based off the optimistic reactions you bought along with your verse on “Seasons,” was there one other tune on Black Panther: The Album you want you had been on to essentially flex your lyrical muscle mass?

Not primarily based off the response of "Seasons" as a result of I used to be very appreciative of that second. I truthfully didn't assume that verse was going to get its simply due. I had that response listening to information like "Paramedic" and "X" and seeing how they smashed. It made me assume I needed one thing that was extra mainstream. Fast ahead like 4, 5 months wanting again on it, I'm glad Kendrick didn't give me a kind of as a result of “Seasons" exhibits who I actually am as an artist, so far as content material. It was proper up my alley and one of many best verses I've ever written in my life, to be sincere with you. I wrote that verse in 15 minutes but it surely was simply because I used to be so conversant in it.

What was the explanation for re-releasing There You Have It as your TDE debut?

I at all times needed to try this however me and Top's relationship wasn't as sturdy, so I used to be too nervous to ask it on the time. I actually needed to re-release this challenge. When Top had us within the studio making new music, I suppose he was residing with the challenge for like two weeks and he felt he needed to present folks why they signed me. Not lots of people know SiR's story or SZA's story and even how TDE even discovered these folks. I really feel like he felt like this was a novel alternative to have the ability to inform the story with out placing a press launch out. If they like it once they do extra analysis they'll determine why Top pulled the set off on me.

Why did you determine to proceed J. Cole’s “Killers” on “Colored Dreams/Killers Pt. 2?”

I really feel like one factor Cole does so uniquely to me is his means to inform tales. There’s these little, small traces that he'll say that doesn't essentially add an excessive amount of worth to the story, element clever, however they simply add worth as a result of you'll be able to agree with that. I keep in mind method again on The Warm Up, he had a line speaking a few mom getting a telephone name that her son was killed and he talked concerning the telephone hitting the ground. He didn’t have to say the telephone hitting the ground but it surely provides such a novel spectrum to it. I really feel like that's what he delivered to "Killers" as nicely.

I vividly keep in mind the place I used to be after I heard that verse. I used to be so locked in that when he switched topics I used to be like, "Damn, I don't perceive why he wouldn't end that story." Laughs]. So after I began writing and developing with the story, I used to be pondering of how I needed to end it. I needed to take this story and run with it as a result of there are such a lot of totally different avenues to run with it. We expanded upon it with "Thirst" and "Colored Dream.” It's additionally a narrative that continues in my new music that I've popping out. I ran with it a bit extra and put one other twist to it. I feel it'll find yourself being a kind of sequence that folks stay up for on each challenge.

What was the sensation like releasing your album the identical day as Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V?

It was scary at first. I feel I referred to as or texted my supervisor] Keem asking if we had been actually going to drop the identical day as Wayne Laughs]. But he suggested the way it's a unique day and age in music and to belief the method. Afterward, I used to be joyful we did it however I used to be tremendous nervous at first. I'd be mendacity if I stated it was all simply optimistic emotions. It was a dream come true to see my title in articles with Wayne. I can't even inform you what that did. To see folks evaluate our tasks, it was nearly such as you grew up watching Kobe Bryant and also you lastly get an opportunity to play in opposition to him. It was dope however one thing I used to be apprehensive about, to start with.  

If there was a basic album from a west coast rapper to explain your come up what wouldn't it be?

This goes to sound a bit cliche however most likely Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. I feel that album hits a bit bit totally different for those who grew up in Carson. It's two minutes out of Compton so lots of the issues he was speaking about all of us knew. I take a look at it like a narrative of Kendrick speaking by means of his childhood however then talking about how his life has modified in direction of the top. On "Sing About Me," he talks about the way it's sensitive speaking about folks's private life and the way they take it versus you. Those are a number of the similar struggles that I'm going by means of after I inform tales about folks which can be near me.

You’ve been by means of this course of earlier than so how do you discover that belief to imagine in TDE having your again?

That was one thing that I struggled with lots and nonetheless wrestle with. My managers and I had lots of conversations the place they needed to at all times inform me you must pump the brakes and belief the method. I feel any TDE artist will inform you that's a really tough factor to do, a minimum of anybody that's not within the authentic 4. This label could be very family-orientated and so they grew up collectively so how do I belief someone like Dave Free, who makes lots of strikes on the label and is Kendrick's finest pal, to even care about what I received occurring. That was an enormous wrestle for me throughout the first yr of being on the label and it's nonetheless one thing I wrestle with now, to be utterly sincere with you. But as my relationship grows with the label that wrestle will get much less and fewer. It's actually like a daily, week by week course of.

Out of all of the rappers that may hoop, who’s in your beginning lineup?

Definitely me, I feel that I'll be the primary one. Chris Brown is good however he received a cheat code as a result of he's so athletic with the dancing and shit Laughs]. With my third alternative, folks most likely wouldn't discover me saying this however, Lil' Dicky. He's hearth on the court docket like he can actually hoop it's a bit scary. Fourth, I'd choose Dave East as a result of he's truly good and he's tall. Fifth, I don't realize it's exhausting after that as a result of artists actually suck at ball. Quavo isn't dangerous however I'll say I feel he's overhyped. People have been promoting this ball factor with Quavo a bit an excessive amount of. He can get on the market and play although so that might be my prime 5.