To excavate personal stories from the depths of his soul, Top Dawg Entertainment lyricist REASON needed solitude. His upcoming album, Porches, contains some of the most emotionally driven music of his career, and he likely wouldn’t have committed such brutal honesty to the record if he had to mix business with artistry.
“The label definitely supports creativity, but at the same time, they’re a business. I don’t feel as though I would’ve got this album with it being this personal, and having these stories, if I would’ve involved so much of the label,” REASON told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the TDE rapper explains how he started Porches before finishing New Beginnings, how Creed III yielded him a Baby Tate collaboration, and the real-life stories behind his new songs. Read the exclusive chat below.
It’s been nearly three years since you put out your last project, New Beginnings. When did you know you were making Porches?
I knew I was making this album before the last one. That’s why you hear dates and whatnot throughout this album. I ended my last joint, New Beginnings, with the dates at the end of the album because I already knew where I wanted to go. I didn’t have the music yet, but I knew I wanted my next album to have super vivid storytelling, and I wanted it to be specific things and dates in my life that have happened. So, I picked a bunch of instances in my life and told those stories on the album. Let me make sure those dates are on New Beginnings. Conceptually, I knew I was going to make this album probably in 2018. I made most of the album in 2021 and 2022. It was done, on the music side, at the end of 2022. The album’s original title was supposed to be Stories of the Forgotten. I have all of these memories and trauma. If you never speak about things, they just get forgotten. These stories and moments live on forever if I put ’em in music.
You got SiR, Baby Tate, Ray Vaughn, Doechii, and a few other artists on your new album. Who did you hit the studio with?
I made a joint, and SiR and Zacari pulled up because we were trying to figure out what the record was missing. We knew it had this dope West Coast melodic feel, but we didn’t know exactly what it was missing. SiR and Zacari are the ones that pulled up and created that concept. I also want to give a shoutout to DJ Hed. He pulled up, and he’s the one that told me I needed to add singing to that record and was actually giving me the lyrics and advice on where I should put things. Kalan’s on the track, too, and they pulled up on me a week later. I did the track with Doechii in person, also. She was working on a joint from her last EP. I came in, and played the record and was just looking for a hook. She loved the record so much that she ended up putting a verse on it, too.
I also have this artist on my album called Juni. I did a bunch of sessions with Juni. I love Juni. I think she’s one of the dopest up-and-coming artists. I always call her the best-kept secret. As far as Baby Tate, I met her for the first time at the Creed III sessions when we were doing that with Dreamville. I played her the joint there, but she took it home to Atlanta to finish the verse.
You are baring it all on this album. “A Broken Winter Break!” is about getting revenge after being robbed — even though you were scared. Was revisiting those memories an emotional experience?
It definitely was. For that song, the only fabricated part of the story is me saying I have a little brother. I don’t have a little brother. But my mindset was always, “What if I had a little brother? Am I setting the right examples for the youth coming up under me?” That song, particularly, took me to a place because I remember having those emotions. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was always on the fence about gang-banging. Those are the homies I was with all of the time. When I went to school and came back, I used to feel these pressures of doing certain things. The entire story of getting robbed and wanting to do something, but feeling like I really don’t care about the s**t that they took from me, but feeling like I’m going to look like less of a man if I don’t do it.
Also, the song “Call Me” is a very emotional story for me because it’s a story that highlights most of my insecurities. I speak about this story from a third-person perspective, but I’m really talking about myself. I wrote the record too scared to say it was about me because I was insecure about it. So I wrote it as if I was talking about somebody else. I went to a different place emotionally for this album. When I wrote the intro, “Faded off Poor N Riches,” I wanted to be in this space of being drunk while I recorded the record. That’s why it’s called what it is. I was actually faded in the studio. I purposely drank, so I could record it that way.
Was there a TDE listening session for Porches?
We didn’t really have a session where we were all together and listened to the album. That was one thing that I’m proud of about the album. I really crafted the majority by myself. I’m proud of that. I’m not the type to reject help or say I don’t need help, but I can genuinely say I did not know I was capable of making an album like this without having major help from other parties. The label definitely supports creativity, but at the same time, they’re a business. I don’t feel as though I would’ve got this album with it being this personal, and having these stories, if I would’ve involved so much of the label. It’s funny because the label was heavily involved in New Beginnings, and I feel that’s why I love New Beginnings, but I feel like it lost some of the personal aspects of it because the label was so involved. So, we were taking off records like “Call Me.” We took off a record called “Slow Down” that was added back on to [New Beginnings]. So, I didn’t get that personal touch on New Beginnings because so much business was involved.
What was the session that made you feel like you finally made it in this game?
I talk about it on the [Porches] outro. It was my first session with Kendrick [Lamar]. I go to the house in the hills, and I’m trying to figure out where the hell I’m at because I don’t know where they got us at. It’s just darkness and big houses. I was with three people, but he told me, “Your homies have to wait outside.” So, they waited outside for about an hour and a half. He’s giving me game and telling me all these things I must do. And all I can think about is the photographer in the room and how I hope he’s taking a picture, so that I can post it later. I’m not even listening to what Kendrick is saying and whatnot. I left that session on cloud nine. I felt like I made it.
Are you on any unreleased songs that you hope come out?
I got one with JID, Arin Ray, and Cozz, which was supposed to be on the Creed III album. But, the one I wish would’ve come out came from the Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions. It’s not out yet because it didn’t get finished. It was the very first record that anybody recorded during the sessions. We played this game where all the artists were in the room. Producers had to go up there and play beats, and we all had to get on the first beat that all the artists gave a thumbs up to. So it was a joint where it was me, JID, Lute, J. Cole, and Bas. We were all putting our verses on there, but it [was] never finished because Cole didn’t finish his verse, and JID didn’t either. Cole got about 12 bars in and kind of tapped out. And then JID probably got about six bars in and kind of tapped out.
What do you need in the studio to make your best music?
I’m a very low-maintenance man. I need a bottle of Casamigos Reposado and speakers that go very loud.
What do you have coming for the rest of 2023?
Cozz and I are trying to drop this joint album. We’re probably 80 percent done with that. My hope is to be able to get that out before the end of the year. I’m also waiting for Top’s green light on a deluxe for this project. If I [get it], I’ll drop the deluxe in possibly September —my birthday’s on Sept. 21. I’d love for that to be a birthday gift to myself. I’m trying to get Cozz and I’s collab album by November. I know it’s an aggressive date, but the music is almost there.
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