Reasons to Live
“Know what I know, but don’t know how to fix it.” Most are familiar with this sentiment for some reason or other, be it problems with health, issues at work, or something as small as a less than satisfactory meal. For Jizza Raw, what he knows is that he is depressed and solutions seem evasive. Nevertheless, he pursues one and, in the form of his debut album Reasons to Live, he has created one. It is more accurate to call it a treatment than a cure - depression doesn’t give up that easily - but by expressing himself in ways that he can (and should) be proud of Jizza weakens his enemy and strengthens himself.
The victory extends to his fans, too. Relatable lines serve to validate their thoughts and emotions. “I’m feeling cold cause she indifferent” is not something men are taught to express, for fear of being considered over-sensitive or unmanly, but it is also something that needs to be communicated so that it can be addressed. Luckily, fans have the option of expressing themselves vicariously through the track “Know What I Know.” And they have the comfort of knowing they’re not the only ones who feel as they do. In this way, he gives others permission to express themselves as he has.
As the first song on the album, “Know What I Know” sets the tone with a combination of speedily delivered rap lines and impassioned harmonies that create a sense of intrigue with their contrast and uniqueness. The introductory track balances social commentary, longing, venting, and braggadocio in its lyrical content, much like the rest of the album, and thus takes the listener through a wide range of emotions. For instance, “thinking on my ending, hoping it’s poetic” elicits a very different emotional response than “why would you think you can stop me!” One line may give you the blues while the other might boost your confidence. Furthermore, vocals from Will With The Beads (who produced the track) give the song an extra bit of tenderness and soul as he laments “how would I know?” in unison with Jizza. Listeners are left with a sense of empathy and inspiration that carries over into the next track.
“Know What I Know” transitions into an eerie melody paired with a grounding 808 as “Rainbow” begins. In this track about getting through the rain to enjoy the rainbow, Jizza delves into depression more aggressively from the very first line, “not so okay but there’s always tomorrow.” Listeners are invited to trudge through the rain with him rather than by themselves, as he is “right there with [them, he’s] been crying a stressing,” too. They, just like him, have made it through every test so far, since they are still alive, and, just like him, they can continue to. This energy is continued in the second verse, performed by Timi Turnup, as he declares that he “aint dead yet, and that’s enough reason for [him].” If today can be survived, maybe tomorrow can too.
The production takes a turn in a calmer direction on “Komorebi,” while maintaining the message from “Rainbow”. The title comes from the japanese word for the sunlight shining through the leaves of a tree, which, like a rainbow, represents the light beyond darkness. Rather than the eerie feel of the previous song, this track uses soft guitar strumming to help fans into Jizza’s dejected headspace.
Subsequently, astral sounds throughout “LUV” bring back the ghostly vibes from “Rainbow,” this time much less ominous, while lyrics full of reflection conversationally explain the importance of self-love, reminding listeners that “just cause you’re lost, don’t make you a lost cause” and “losing affection don’t mean you aint in the right direction or learning lessons.” A gentle tone is used - one that feels like a friend or a guardian - making sure that fans are receptive to his words of encouragement. It is easy to tell that these thoughts truly means something to him and that he wants them to mean something to anyone who needs them.
The chill mood of “LUV” is no less present in “Badu.” Reason’s fifth track is get-you-through music, full of mellow melodies inspired by Mary Jane and Erykah Badu. Ironically enough, the next track is an interlude titled “Drug Free.” Soothing vocals relax the beat, passing his temporary freedom from stress along to his listeners and, for the first easily noticeable time in the album, the future isn’t just hopeful, it’s exciting! Even with the song’s wishful nature, a sense of satisfaction permeates this tune and attempts to permeate the audience as well.
Aggressiveness makes a forceful return with “Beads,” a bold declaration of power rooted in the beaded necklaces around his neck and the artistic community that they represent. He rejects prescriptive solutions to his woes, as he believes the “doc’s tryna keep a young genius stupid.” “If they say the [drugs] work, they’re going [to] have to prove it” because the side effects are not to be taken likely, so much so that they can practically zombify an person. Timi Turnup makes a second appearance, bringing fierce bravado as he announces that he has “made [his] reality yield to his dreams.” It is an oath of victory, swearing upon the trials each artist has overcome that they will overcome the trials ahead. They will use all of their power and all of the power in the beads to transcend their stressors, but, going even beyond that, they will lead their fans in doing the same. The necklace around the neck, “like a crown,” signifies an independent leader with the strength to bolster his or her followers.
This transition into confidence marks the beginning of the “reefer preacher’s” sermon. Rather than simply venting or offering up somebody to relate to, “Mirror” instructs. He prays his people stop “overthinking, feeding [themselves] doubt, replaying scenarios, seeing the goodness in everybody but hating [themselves]” and much more. We can tell from his tone, however, that he does not simply pray for these things, he demands them.
The doctrine delivery persists on “Knowledge,” starting with him asking how many times he must remind people before they no longer have “the same old message to learn” and pondering whether they are “blind or ignoring.” One Take Dave steps in to speak to the congregation in verse two and commands that listeners “stop telling [him] what [they] heard” because “this is no time to be cattle” and mandating acknowledgement that “the powerful aint got power,” just the illusion of it. He questions the current leadership’s decisions, such as “50 plus missile deployed, bombed in Syria but telling [him] that [they] aint got no money” for young and resourceless kids. The instrumental fades out towards the end of One Take’s verse, allowing for a moment of reflection, and then the chorus returns to carry us into the perspectivist “Sand to the Sun.”
Control over perspective provides a lot of power and, by teaching it, Jizza endeavors to “ignite a fire in mortals and make them into a god.” Humility and confidence are both necessary, as has been showcased in his previous musings. “You’re the same as sand to the sun, meaning you’re meaningless,” but, nonetheless, “god made a god, [Jizza’s] the goat (greatest of all time)” too, just as you are if you choose the correct perspective to look at yourself. Moose Playground elaborates that “your head’s the same as your hand to a gun, it’s really all perspective.” As such, it should be treated as carefully as a firearm.
Next, regal guitar chords supply cohesiveness and hold attention during “King” as Jizza Raw combats the negative discourses he knows many of his listeners must confront. With this track, he closes out his reefer preacher sermon, morphing from leader back into companion. The instruction slows and catharsis returns with “Pressure.”
A phase effect on the vocals synergizes with the guitar, giving the song a Yeezus-esque sense of distortion that sounds almost like he is drowning in his own beat. The message mirrors the sound; Jizza bemoans the ever-growing list of pressures that threaten not to allow him to stay afloat. As he “starts to feel nothing, subconsciously,” he is forced to admit that he needs a break.
After he’s had his break, however, he must return to face his challenges with determination. In contrast to the fear of failure in the previous track, “Only One” is brimming with faith in self. Although “only one can win,” Jizza is sure “you know it’s gotta be [him.]” So obvious is his victory that it “really was never a question, [he] just assumed you agreed.” His final track uses jubilant wind instruments to bring the vibes to a crescendo, ending on a positive note to showcase what lies at the end of trusting the process.
Valuable advice and camaraderie consistently appear throughout the project, explicitly and implicitly, establishing his career’s mission statement with fluid poise and dogged conviction. Music is overtly beyond fun and games for this artist - it is a tool in his quest for enlightenment; a vehicle in which to flee from suffering; a resource with which to support his community. It is a great debut, indisputably remarkable, but, of course, the best way to confirm that conclusion is to kick back and listen for yourself. Click the image below to check it out!