Consisting of fifteen tracks, and including features from the likes of Kelis and Wretch 32, as with his previous releases, Reason to Smile continues to explore themes of love, black identity, politics, masculinity, and family.
Combining spoken word poetry, jazz, hip-hop, and grime, Radical’s debut is a gloriously cohesive yet extensive journey through his observations on life and love, joyously celebrating his identity as the son of Ghanian immigrants. Musically, the album moves through soulful grooves that match the unapologetic pride of being a black man that is reflected in his lyrics.
Standout track “Payback” (featuring Knucks) contains an inexplicably groovy funk-inspired bassline that backs lyrics such as “A Black queen gave birth to a golden child / From 1993, I’ve been fucking up the narrative / Man, it feel good to be Black, there’s no comparison.” This sentiment is further echoed in tracks such as “Pusher Man: BWI” which demonstrates Radical’s writing at its best. He sings “Nothing more dangerous than a black man with intelligence / even worse when he got some relevance,” which rolls off his tongue effortlessly.
In addition, “Pusher Man: BWI” also asserts that Radical’s “mother’s voice always felt like home” – just one of many tracks that centre the rapper’s love for his mother. In fact, her voice can be heard at different points on the album, often talking about her journey from Ghana to England. These short audio snippets prove to be powerful reinforcers of the album’s message of appreciating and acknowledging one’s identity and heritage.
Furthermore, the album’s closing track “Gangsta” is a love letter to his mother, in which Radical asserts “I think my mama was a hustler.” Despite the endearing quality of these lyrics, they fall short in comparison to the refined strength of lines heard on the rest of the album.
Reason to Smile oozes with self-confidence, yet Radical never devolves into cockiness. “Silk” a collaboration with saxophonist Masego, rejoices “I feel like silk / Smooth, sexy, handsome, classy” with a soulful warmth that is both joyous and defiant. This warmth bleeds through the entire album, with tracks such as the sweet-sounding “Anywhere” reminiscent of a hazy summer day. Radical and Ego Ella May back and forth on the song’s verses before uniting for the chorus to declare “I’d go anywhere, anywhere, everywhere for you.” Another standout comes in the form of “Talkin’” featuring Kelis and Tiana Major9 which is both lyrically and musically assertive and self-assured, driven by a powerful beat that matches Radical’s refusal to be silenced, (“They try and silence our pain / But we talkin’”).
Radical’s stellar debut drips with infectious confidence and celebration that will undoubtedly gain the rapper legions of new fans. Mixing witty lines with insightful meditations on life as a black man, Radical proves himself to be a master of his craft, effortlessly providing both incredible lyrical content and flawless instrumentation from start to finish.