Reason - Azania (Song) Review

Reason is among South Africa’s most talented MCs. That’s pretty much as indisputable as Pusha T making Drake his child. Although talented, Reason’s discography is filled with mixed performances as he has great projects while others have been mediocre (at best). There was a growing notion that Reason was a great MC but a mediocre musician, however, this dispels all of that.

In Hebrew, “Azania” means "God is listening, God listens." It was also an alternative name for the country South Africa, that was proposed during the period of Apartheid. Whilst there are various definitions and meanings to the word, the above capture the true meaning of the song. Azania is centered around South Africa and its struggles (which directly links to the Apartheid era). As “God is listening”, Reason is too. Similarly to a spiritual entity or the universe listening and creating a response (symbolically, of course), Reason speaks on behalf of the people who may not have the platform to speak for themselves.

The production was created by Swizz Beats and the instrumental begins with the use of Asian string instrumentation, a shy bass and a powerful voice in the background (who's wails resemble that of an African lady). It’s a boom-bap beat, however, it’s modernized as it carries influences from different continents’ and their respective styles. It’s something out of the extraordinary but somewhat ordinary for an ear like Swizz. As Reason begins his verse, the beat’s bass expresses itself more confidently and as the song progresses, you begin to hear other underlying tones. The most evident being the sound of natural water. The sound perfectly describes the streams that Reason brings to the verses.

Reason opens his verse with a confident delivery that creates emphasis. "Let me remind you who I do this for", which opens a new key topic in this song. Reason reminds the listeners that the inspiration he gains is from his family and friends alongside his fans. Those ordinary people that he encounters daily and relates to due to the constant struggle faced within the black community. He explains this further within his first verse as he focuses on the struggles faced by black people in modern South Africa. He doesn't shy away from commentating on social and systematic issues. It’s refreshing to hear within a musical landscape too focused on materialism.

He addresses serious issues in South Africa. He references the direct relationship that poverty has with drug use and drug dealing. He comments on those who are poverty stricken and as a result, have become susceptible to addiction to nyaope yet remain willing to do menial jobs (where the vast majority are disrespected purely based on circumstances) as a means to feed their addiction. He explains his ideals by referring to the idea of drug abuse occurs in black communities due to emotional trauma and trying to escape reality. Without drugs, people are forced to face their harsh reality and their lack of systematic support.

Reason goes on to contrast this image by bringing up the social issue of capitalism. He rhymes about black people who drove Germany cars (indicating a good disposable income) but are unable to uplift the lives of other black people. He addresses how we’ve been accustomed to Western ideals whereby motivation is solely acquired by selfish prosperity and unnecessary luxury.

The next topic that Reason engages is youth unemployment in South Africa alongside the ongoing debate of Free Tertiary education. He rhymes,
"Let me remind you who I do this for.
My brothers and sisters are struggling to get a job.
They needed an education that they cannot afford.
Ain't got no qualifications but got a lotta heart.
Lost patience 'cause they been waiting from the start.
They try to keep it together but always fall apart."
In essence, Reason refers to the ongoing difficulty to attain a job although being qualified therefore being without any qualifications makes it much harder. Democracy has resulted in progress for a handful but not substantial change for the majority. It’s that sense of socio-political commentary that ensures Reason is in another bracket.

Reason continues to expressions his frustrations. He speaks on how rappers’ help fuel society’s materialistic culture as society chooses to follow them as role models. He closes with the religious meaning of “Azania” - "I choose to look at God."

From this point, the song moves onto the chorus (which is performed by Sibongile Khumalo). She delivers a powerful vocal performance in isizulu, in which she says:

"Khulula inqondo yakho
Qasula amakentanga
Ubuke ekuqcineni
Hlanz umoya wakho
Vuka uzimele
Vuka uzimele, uzimele

Which translates to
"Free your mind
Remove the chains
Look forward into the future
Cleanse your spirit
Stand up for yourself."

The lyrics of the chorus go hand in hand with the tone of the singing. Encouraging and motivational words which aim to inspire the youth and the black community as a whole. It reminds them that their futures will improve if they can stand tall. Essentially, the song’s message is that people shouldn't allow themselves to be put into their own mental chains as it will never free their spirits nor allow progression.

Noticeably, the chorus also brings forth a change in the beat. The Asian strings are replaced with violin strings, which slowly evolve into a symphony-like melody, once Reason starts his second verse. The second verse of the song is a more introspective one. He mainly focuses on his personal life rather than the lives of South Africans as a whole.

Reason uses this verse to express how he feels as though he owes his music to the world but he examines his self-doubt. Reason’s lack of self-confidence was based on his lack of sales but he then goes onto realize that the music industry rarely determines one’s lyrical
ability. He doesn’t garner the reputation of a hit song maker but he realizes that his music is a necessity to many ordinary people.

Following his moment of self examining, Reason speaks about how he's motivated to "do this" for his family. He hopes to see them wealthy and able to use his success to help them reach their goals. He ends his verse and song by referring back to South Africa as Azania. Using a triple entendre as he refer while referring to himself as a diamond.

The song transitions as Asian strings, orchestra string arrangement combine together. All the elements that were used throughout are now unified.

Reason rhymes from a genuine point of view as he speaks from the heart. The use of Sibongile only adds to that heart-felt feeling. He speaks with introspection while managing to analyze outside of himself too. He manages to discuss serious content while keeping the listener tantalized by a menacing flow and a great illustration of his lyrical ability (which can't be overlooked). It’s filled with metaphors and double meanings without over-complicating or overstating.

It is a masterpiece cohesively with a great message that is worthy of being heard. Reason continues to cement his place as one of the best lyricists and a top tier MC. In or outside South Africa. Moreover, his ability to collaborate with Swizz shows that South African rappers are moving in the right direction.
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