On an unseasonably cold November night in the nation’s capital, the band wrapped up its final note of the evening as cheers emanated from the crowd. From wall to wall, Washington, D.C.’s cozy music venue, Songbyrd, was filled with faces and voices that were all too familiar to the headlining act — Reggie Becton. Raised just a few miles away from where Marvin Gaye sang his first note and Ari Lennox wrote her first song, this concert was his homecoming. Close relatives, childhood friends and musical collaborators watched as he transitioned from song to song, grinning from ear to ear. On this particular night, he brought the final track of his debut album, California, to life.
“These are the nights where everything just feels like luxury. Deep down, you know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Those are the nights that make it all worth it,” he said as “Monte Carlo” — the final track on California — came to a close.
Just hours after performing and celebrating with his friends and family on the penultimate stop of the HOM3 Tour, Reggie Becton was pulled back down to reality. The tour was abruptly cut short due to a positive COVID-19 test that would prevent him and his band from performing in New York. Just like that, he would find himself back at work in Los Angeles. In due time, he would put the finishing touches on the follow-up to California, SadBoy Vol. 1. Described as R&B for Gotham City, the eight-track collection of audible journal entries centers Reggie Becton in a musical self-portrait that explores the depth of sadness, fortitude, vulnerability and masculinity through the lens of a young Black man chasing love and prosperity. Upon its release, Reggie Becton can be found sitting at his desk riding the high of releasing a new project that he poured so much into.
SadBoy Vol. 1 may be described as R&B for Gotham City because The Dark Knight trilogy played a part in inspiring the project, but Reggie Becton shares a few similarities with Clark Kent. By day, he is a lot like R&B singers from around Washington, D.C., PG County and Baltimore. Brent Faiyaz worked at a Harris Teeter before he locked in with his manager, Ty Baisden. Similarly, Ari Lennox was working as an Uber driver for a period of time before Dreamville came calling. For Reggie Becton, a solid job at a nearby university is what holds him down. By night, he’s working with Darkchild and texting him about his latest release.
“Honestly, that’s the biggest mindf*ck of it all,” he explains.
“My life hasn’t changed. I’m at work, right now. I’m sending an email right now. At the same time, I’m afforded new opportunities like being able to work with Darkchild. In that way, things have changed. I’m also connected to new people. I was texting Rodney Jerkins this morning because I wanted him to listen to SadBoy Vol. 1. I’ll also text Johnta Austin. There are some names in my phone book that I can reach out to for advice and stuff like that. Things like that will make me feel like things have changed, but my daily life feels the same. I still wake up and go to work every day. I still record a lot of things at home. I’m doing this teetering and tottering thing that I’m super grateful for. Don’t get me wrong. Deep down, so much has changed, but so little has changed.”
In the year and change that has followed the release of California, Reggie Becton’s career has taken flight in new ways. Headlining a show in London, participating in Meta’s “We The Culture” series and getting a co-sign from On The Radar are just a few things that have been added to his resumé. Not to mention, he connected with LVRN’s newest signee, Alex Vaughn, and contributed to her breakout project, The Hurtbook. Balancing all of that with the demands of a day-to-day job has not always been easy. However, he always finds a way to make it work. Case and point, he managed to shoot a music video for his latest project and fly out to India for his 9-5 within a span of 12 hours.
“I got a call from my 9-5 and they needed someone to go on a Spring Break immersion trip to India. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go.’ I got the call on Friday and the trip was supposed to leave on Tuesday or Wednesday,” he retold the story.
“Originally, we were supposed to have two more rehearsals and shoot the video the following week. So, I call my director, Chris, and tell him that I need to shoot the video in three days. He said, ‘Alright. I’ll figure something out. Let me move my schedule around.’ Then, I called [Kendall] Cherry, who helped choreograph the video, and said, ‘Hey, we probably only have one or two more rehearsals before we need to put this thing up. Everybody was super flexible and really tried to make it happen. We ended up shooting the video on Tuesday night around 11 p.m. It was a two-hour shoot and we didn’t have a location [beforehand], so Chris was like, ‘I know this cool location in downtown L.A. It’s like this garage or something.’ We were all just like, ‘Alright. Perfect. Let’s work with what we’ve got.’ During the video shoot, there were motorcycles, cyclists and anything else you could think of coming through the shoot. Because of that, we had to keep stopping and starting. Then, the speaker died, so we had to use this MacBook speaker to do the shoot. As you could imagine, it’s super low and you couldn’t really hear it outside in that big area. Everyone had to be really quiet and we tried our best to hear it as we were dancing. After that, I was on a plane to India.”
“To me, sadness is just another emotion that we feel. It’s the equivalent of happiness, anger or even anxiety”.
Despite always being on the go and embarking on new adventures, PG County’s R&B superhero always finds time to be still and enjoy life. At the surface, the title of his latest project, SadBoy Vol. 1, portrays an aura of unhappiness and sorrow. However, the converse is true. Yes, his latest storyboard of songs touches on themes of romance and heartache, but it doesn’t approach them in a typical manner. First and foremost, the production behind speaker-knocking tracks like “Sway” and “Life” are upbeat and refreshing. Secondly, Reggie Becton approaches the emotion of sadness as another color that he can use to paint a picture, rather than a feeling that should be avoided.
“To me, sadness is just another emotion that we feel. It’s the equivalent of happiness, anger or even anxiety. We try to villainize or demonize certain emotions. With sadness, we wanted to create a project that gave the space to be vulnerable and talk about all things,” he explained.
“For me, it’s always about confronting and dealing with your emotions. With SadBoy Vol. 1, a lot of the songs tap into emotions that I once felt or emotions that I truly want to feel. ‘Self-Control’ is about a love that I want to feel. I want a love to ‘ruin me’ and have me deep down in my emotions. You know what I mean?”
Through it all, there’s a method to the sadness. From the music to the visuals, Reggie Becton represents something larger than himself. He’s an expressive, authentic Black man looking to make his most audacious dreams come through by any means necessary. On some days, that may require him to shoot a video on short notice. On other days, it may require him to return home and be Reggie, the uncle, son, friend and more, to those who love him most. Somehow, he makes it all work while still being true to who he is and what he hopes to accomplish. That may not be what is commonly thought of as a superhero, but it is certainly heroic in the sonic universe that he has created through visuals, artwork, fashion and music. A lot has happened since he was performing “Sing No More” on Eazyyy Street in Philadelphia, but a lot more still lies ahead for R&B’s Clark Kent, better known as Reggie Becton.