“Finding Success Through Failure,” by Reason the Citizen |  Album Review

By Cassidy Kakin

Since landing in the Denver rap scene a few years back, former San Diego based spitter Reason the Citizen has made a huge splash in the Colorado underground hip-hop community.  And with appearances on Ted Talks, the Vans Warped Tour, and the A3C Music Festival, as well as shows with the likes of Brother Ali and Hopsin, 2016 has been Reason Season.  Enter “Finding Success Through Failure.”  Capping off a huge year, the third full-length album from Reason the Citizen is as much a magnum opus as a victory lap.


Stream Colorado Rapper Reason the Citizen’s “Finding Success Through Failure” Below

With a double time as crisp as Tech’s, songwriting depth that’d fit right in at Rhymesayers, and modern stage-shaking beats that any chart topper would be lucky to bless, it’s hard to categorize Reason the Citizen.  Pop in “Finding Success Through Failure,” and you’ll quickly realize that that’s a very good thing.  In ten succinct tracks, Reason develops what many of his peers in the Colorado underground hip-hop scene and independent rap movement more broadly have not been able to pull off.  A powerful statement of artistry backed up by the kind of consistent quality that can spawn longevity in the over-saturated landscape of underground rap.
From the drop, “Opening Act, Pt. 1” sets an autobiographical tone for the project, as Reason gets highly personal and makes it clear that the stakes are high.  “This is not a game, this is not a test” Reasons chants throughout the track, framing “Finding Success Through Failure” and his personal dedication to artistry as a whole lot more than just a hobby.  On the productions side, “Opening Act, Pt. 1’s” ambient, echoing synths provide an epic canvas, foreshadowing cinematic themes of grandiosity that develop throughout the album.

“One Human” is Reason the Citizen at His Sharpest

“Broken Bones” is Another Cut That’s Damn Near Perfect

“One Human,” the project’s second track, finds Reason flexing on all cylinders.  The rhyme schemes come off as effortlessly dense thanks to Reason’s highly polished swirling delivery.  The double-time cadence hits flawlessly and shines as a tool rather than a gimmick.  The melodic and vibe-tastic backing track complements the Colorado spitter’s aggressively reflective style perfectly.

But it’s when you put all these elements together, packaged in a powerful song concept that builds sonically and thematically as it progresses, that you get a healthy serving of what makes Reason the Citizen something special.  “One Human” is the kind of catchy, deeply crafted, well executed, uniquely well-rounded track that fits as nicely in a gym playlist as it does on a “How to Rap” classroom syllabus.  This is songwriting that’s more than a flash-in-the-pan bid for trendiness: “One Human” will find a place in my earbuds and doubtlessly Reason’s show sets for years to come.

As “Finding Success Through Failure” unfolds, Reason remains remarkably consistent, giving us helping after helping of songwriting with purpose. “Fingerprints” combines nostalgic reminiscence with insightful reflection, while “Out of Focus” tackles the daily struggles of getting from “point A to B.” On “Right Choice, Wrong Consequences,” the Denver hip-hop heavyweight slows it down and dives deep into the emotional complexity that faces every artist making a choice between their calling and responsibilities.

Throughout its second act, “Finding Success Through Failure” never shies away from developing deeper biographical insights or making poignant concessions about the realities of rapping your heart out day after day.  There’s a darkness in tracks like “Fingerprints” that even Reason’s technical excellence behind the mic can’t overshadow.  But alongside those tendrils of doubt, frustration, and sacrifice, there’s a pervasive air of triumph that hits listeners in the heart strings.  Nowhere is this paradox more perfectly sculpted than in the standout “Broken Bones.”

Melodically, “Broken Bones” reads like stadium-anthem meets classic underground hip-hop banger, with a rallying chorus that concisely delivers the album’s larger statements of resilience and dedication.  “Broken bones and bruises on my skull / keep my ego in control / wear my scars it makes me whole / my soul won’t be sold” Reason asserts powerfully, with a determination in his delivery that makes the sentiment believable.

As for the raps: yikes.  Yikes, yikes, yikes.  Reason rides the beat so smoothly that it’s easy to miss some of the incredibly dense internal rhyme structures, but the overall impression is technical excellence meets deeply meditative narration.  Every track on “Finding Success Through Failure” is an ode to writing and delivery done right, but nowhere is Reason’s razor sharp pen and fluid vocal prowess behind the mic more smack-you-in-the-ears than on “Broken Bones.”  At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, there’s very, very little to criticize here from an “underground hip-hop as art” perspective.

“Unsung Narrative” is Rappity-Rap Meets Catchy Hook Done Right

As “Finding Success Through Failure” winds down, Reasons’ choice to release a tightly packaged ten tracks rather than a bloated LP garnished with filler again proves incredibly effective. “Unsung Narrative” has that old-school Rhymesayers sound that fans of underground hip-hop can’t get enough of. “Cold Outside” drops some more biographical nuggets that help paint a well-rounded picture of Reason as an artist and father as well as rising Colorado rap staple.

On “Last Place” Reason extrapolates on the album’s title directly, promising fans he’ll never quit even in the face of disappointment and the adversity that plagues every artist who thinks about throwing in the towel.  “Maybe you understand,” reasons raps on the project’s closer.  If you don’t get it by this point, let “Finding Success Through Failure” play again on repeat.

Throughout ten expertly-crafted, well-balanced tracks, Reason the Citizen proves that he deserves every accolade he has received in 2016 and has a whole lot to say about art and artistry.  With expert-level rhymes for days, production that will find a home in the heart of every underground hip-hop fan, and deeply personal subject matter, Reason reminds us that “eventually we all fall apart.”  But it’s beautiful; you call it life, Reason calls it art.