Taylor Bennett brought fans “The American Reject” in late May, the third and final EP of a series focusing on the experience of surviving American society.
The first installment, released in 2017 and titled “Restoration of an American Idol,” presented bass-boosted, funky rock-inspired songs heavy with all-star features and verses that show the beginning of a strong lyricist. “Restoration” had underlying themes of finding your hopes and dreams, and trying to prove that you can make those happen.
In “Grown Up Fairy Tales,” Bennett takes a deep dive into what goes through your mind at the end of your life. The entire EP investigates what it’s like to find yourself and build your image, while navigating life, love and family. It’s a great first look into what this series of work has to offer.
The second EP, “BE YOURSELF,” was released in 2018 and took on a more focused problem: accepting yourself as you are, regardless of what society thinks. Bennett is confident in his identity as a bisexual African American man, and songs like “Better Than You Ever Been” and “Hype Me Up” touch on embracing yourself for your insecurities.
Self-acceptance is a common theme, which contrasts with “Restoration” by focusing on inner feelings and issues on a personal level instead of conquering a broad spectrum of problems. “BE YOURSELF” gives listeners a taste of what politically charged-lyrics will sound like coming from Bennett’s point of view, and that comes full circle with the final installment.
“The American Reject” is the culmination of “Restoration” and “BE YOURSELF” by trying to tackle the American experience in one short mixtape. In an interview with Lyrical Lemonade, Bennett shared that the purpose for this EP was to “even out the playing field” by acknowledging that everyone is a reject. No matter your background or identities, your political views or lack thereof, everyone is a reject in somebody else’s eyes. Bennett wants people to know that that’s all right, because being seen as a reject is part of what brings us together.
Listening to the series from beginning to end, it makes sense that these projects have been grouped together. With recurring features (like Bianca Shaw, Supa Bwe and Chance the Rapper), you can tell Bennett has a strong team at his disposal and they’re all willing to make a piece that flows well and tells an important story.
The series works together to create a musical look at the American experience, but when you focus on “The American Reject,” it seems like each song should belong to another album, instead of being on the same EP. This is a clever way to reinforce its meaning, because a hype trap beat can share the mic with a shocking guitar riff, and then be followed by a slow jam that makes you want to close your eyes and sway. And somehow, it works perfectly.
Lyrics throughout the EP reinforce the meaning too, trying to put into so many words that even if we share different ideals, we’re essentially the same. We’re all people, and we’re accepted in some spheres but rejected in others. The lyrics on “Reject” reflect how Bennett has grown as an artist, and merge the styles of “Restoration” and “BE YOURSELF” for a piece that’s diverse yet cohesive as a whole.
Songs like “AMERICAN REJECT” and “STREAMING SERVICES” feature heavy trap beats overlaid with someone absolutely shredding on guitar, combining two sounds that aren’t typically paired together. Similarly, these upbeat, fast-paced songs are followed by “KIDS N THE SKY” and “I MISS YOU,” two slow jams that combine R&B, hip-hop and obvious rock influences.
This album is sonically diverse, and it makes you pay attention to what you’re hearing. It’s easy to put music on and listen mindlessly, but Bennett continues to prove that he will make music that demands to be heard. From their striking sound, to hard-hitting lyrics, the songs on “Reject” offer a lot to take in.
Speaking of the lyrics, each song touches on the underlying themes of the album, but none sum up the experience Bennett is trying to convey better than “SINGING THE BLUES.” Featuring Fembot, the song plays like a conversation between friends. Starting off by saying, “What do you do when you realize / your best friend’s family do not share the same views?” Bennett is asking a question everyone has been thinking the past few months (or years). His verse goes into the more liberal side of things, asking why there’s police brutality and gun violence running rampant.
The conversation starts turning into an argument, prompting Bennett to say, “My halo matching your MAGA hat energy / How could we both have no sympathy?” This is the kind of line that makes you stop and evaluate yourself, regardless of what side you’re on; that’s what Bennett achieves with each song on this album.
While most of the album points toward its deeper meaning, there’s one song that strays from the “The American Reject” concept, and that’s “NO ONE OUTSIDE.” Featuring his big brother Chance the Rapper, the siblings penned this song to the ladies by their side, and they speak directly to them with these lyrics. There’s no politics, just love, and that deviates a little from the vibe of the other songs. But this displays Bennett’s versatility and growth, because he’s found a way to bring all the best parts of his old music and mix it together to create what he’s doing now.
This song contributes to the whole “reject” idea because every reject needs a home. Every outcast must have a place where they belong, and a lyric from “NO ONE OUTSIDE” says, “So you can show me who I am / and I can be myself again.” This is the perfect reminder that no matter what we become, there’s always someone ready to accept us. We might be a reject somewhere else, but right here, right now, we’re welcome and loved. And that’s the culmination of “Restoration,” “BE YOURSELF,” and “Reject” all at work.