To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this album. I picked it up only because I made a promise to myself to buy Philly MC Beanie Mack's next album after first listening to his debut, The Truth. Take away about 3 songs from "The Truth", and you have a more than solid album. This time around, there is (thank God) no Amil, just pure Beanie and The Truth, as he tells it. The reason I approached this album with skepticism was because I had been seeing a lot of Beanie lately, he probably makes an appearance on every 5th video they play on BET. That being said, I was scared that Beans had let his money and fame go to his head, and surely his new album would be nothing but a watered down version of The Truth. Beanie proved me wrong.
The biggest difference between "The Truth", and "The Reason", is Beanie's confidence level. On "The Truth", Beanie sounded like he had something to prove, which he did. On "The Reason", Beanie's flow is relaxed, confident, and a 1000 times smoother. Sure, his flow is better, but does it matter if what he is saying is wack? Some tracks on this album sound like Beanie isn't even interested anymore. Almost like he has nothing else to prove. Fortunately, Beans has some solid tracks that can elevate this album out of its conceptual mess. He has obviously accepted the fact that he is not the type to be rapping about too many meaningful things. His subject matter sticks fairly strictly to money, hoes, weed, and clothes, except on the intimate "Mom Praying", featuring Scarface. Unlike some other artists, both Scarface and Beanie have an innate ability to expose their true selves on record. "Mom Praying" is a glimpse into the world of Duane Grant, before he became Beanie Sigel, when all he had to worry about was his grandmother catching him stealing from her change purse, Beanie's heartfelt and incredible last verse on that song propels this album to awesome heights, but only for a few short moments. After listening to that track it makes me hate the fact that Beans gave that kind of effort on the rest of the album.
I would not say that there are any terrible songs on "The Reason", but the standouts are few and far between. Daz and Kurupt show up to sing the hooks on "For My N*****", and "Gangsta, Gangsta", respectively. One question. Why only hooks? Why not have a DPG collabo track with everyone involved dropping verses over a Daz beat? It's a waste to hear two of the best west coast artists in the game drop 2 lines each. The latest Roc-a-fella signees, State Property, and Rell, manage to impress on several decent verses throughout the album. Nothing but the usual for Jay, as he drops two nice verses. The most surprising guest verse on the album belongs to one of my most despised artists, Memphis Bleek. Somehow, some way, Bleek manages to recapture his flow from the "Reasonable Doubt" days. Bleek actually outshines Beans on "So What You Saying", with a solid verse and flow over producer Just Blaze's experimental but effective reworking of classic E.P.M.D. material.
One flaw with this album is Beanie's inability to match the intensity from "What Your Life Like", on "What Your Life Like 2". The sequel comes nowhere close to matching, in my opinion, one of the darkest, most intense tracks ever recorded. Beanie shouldn't have messed with trying to match it, period. But one flaw isn't about to ruin the overall status of this album, which is another decent if unoriginal album drop from the Roc-a-Fella camp.
I won't hesitate to call this album one of the better sophomore releases in recent memory. It simply can't compare to classics like "Life After Death", "It Was Written", and "Volume 1", but "The Reason" can hang with most out there. Whether Beanie has begun to realize his potential remains to be seen, and I've already prepared myself to accept a lackluster third effort from Beans, because it will be difficult to top this album without some wholesale changes in subject matter. Let's hope Beanie can hit us up with some more innovative material next time around.