In True Holiday Fashawn

December 20, 2009 at 8:11 am (interview, Music) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


21-year-old emcee Fashawn holds it down for Fresno

Santiago Leyva (aka The Phenom, bka Fashawn) knows a thing or two about “making it.” Whether it is “making it” as a child from a broken home or “making it” as a young emcee in an industry cut out for images rather than talent, Fashawn has overcome the odds.

His album cover alone brings a nostalgic feel of legendary emcee Nas’ debut album Illmatic, where innocence meets the real world. Hence Fashawn’s Boy Meets World.

Now a young man, Fashawn is garnering acclaim from critics much like the aforementioned legend. But don’t get it twisted, Fashawn’s story is different and his lyrics are less dense than Nas.

However, the 21-year-old emcee has room to grow and more to offer. Be sure to listen to his new mixtape, as he prepares to dish out his second studio album.

Currently, he is on the  “How The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour,” rocking with acts like Mistah F.A.B., The Grouch and DJ Fresh, and his exclusive producer off his debut album, Exile.

And both Fashawn and Exile spoke with The Journalist, from the tour van (which was almost pulled over by the cops during the interview).

The Journalist: “While my parents was out in the streets, I built my world on a blank sheet”—Fashawn’s “Life as a Shorty” ft. J. Mitchell (Boy Meets World).

Explain what that line means. And explain how that relates to your life story.

Fashawn: For me, my parents were out in the streets, and all I had was my notebook. I guess that sounds a little cliché, but that’s all I really had was my notebook. So I basically wrote out all my dreams, all my pain, and everything on that notebook. And that developed into music.

All those dreams that I wrote down on that blank sheet of paper are being realized today, as we speak; it’s what I’m doing with life. And that basically sums up everything. It all comes full circle, I guess. That line is the perfect example.

The Journalist: Now you had quite a bit of a tough childhood. Explain some of the things that you had to go through personally and persevere through, in order to get to where you are now.

Fashawn: I was born in ’88 and that was a real hard era where I was coming from.

As far as my parents, in that time span, they were out. My mother was addicted to crack at the time, like a lot of people were. My father was a gangbanger. He was in prison. For a majority of my life I didn’t know him. And those are basically the things that I come from. Those were the role models in my life. I had to basically grow up fast, because neither one of them was there.

I wouldn’t be nothing without it. My raps would be a lot lighter…

The Journalist: Tell us a little bit about where you’re from. You’re from Cali, right; you’re from the West Coast…

Fashawn: Yeah, man and I’m also representing a section that’s been definitely overlooked for years… Fresno, California to be more specific. It’s a little town…you gotta pass through it if you’re trying to get to LA or to the Bay.

It’s diverse emcees like myself, Planet Asia, Diego Redd, Killa Tay. It’s a real rich history there, a lot of graffiti crews. I’m just representin’ for that.

The Journalist: I heard you and Blu hold it down on the West Coast.

Fashawn: Yeah, man. We get it in.

The Journalist: Explain that song that you and Blu did with “Samsonite Man.” I thought that was just a beautiful blend of beats and just lyricism.

Fashawn: That was just an ode to the traveling man, people like ourselves that be on the road like all the time. See the struggles of it; see the glamour side of touring and stuff like that.

That was one of the first times that I got work with Blu in the studio. That’s where we were both at in our lives, in our careers. And it was just the perfect setting—Exile laid the perfect canvas.

The Journalist: How is that, having a guy like Exile sort of lay the canvas for you so you can paint whatever picture you want to paint vividly to the audience?

Exile and Fashawn have a pulse on Hip Hop... just listen

Fashawn: Well Exile actually produces; he actually puts his two cents in and lets you know what he wants out of it. He’s a master of what he does, so I definitely respect his opinion.

It’s a comfortable feeling. He leads the direction and you follow. And it’s always a great result.

The Journalist: He hooked up with Aloe. He hooked up with Blu. And he hooked up with you.

How does that change how you look at a guy when he seems to, out of nowhere, find gems?

Fashawn: It really makes me honored to have a piece of work with him, because I’m an artist that a lot of people don’t really know about.

Just having Exile on the beats, you have to stand up. You can’t just sit down.

It’s amazing, because I see the talent and it’s almost like he’s ushering in a new regime of talent out the West Coast.

The Journalist: Is Exile around right now?

Fashawn: He’s sitting right behind me on the tour van.

Exile: (from the background) HI!

(laughter)

The Journalist: On Boy Meets World, there were three samples that jumped into my head. There was the Talib Kweli sample that you use for “Freedom.” Usually you don’t see the use of rappers as samples anymore, what made you do that?

Exile: Actually, to be perfectly honest, Hecktik actually brought in that sample. I think actually it was Fashawn’s idea. But Hektik laid the beat on top of that one, so I gotta give credit where credit is due.

But yeah, it just worked. I was thinking about rescratching it but there was no need to. So we just left it.

The Journalist: The next one is “Why”—really deep song. How did that work out?

Exile: I just laid down the drums, and then laid down some bass notes, and then the vocal samples over it, use that “why” part and an emcee can really use that as the topic however he likes. And Fashawn did what he did with it.

The Journalist: What sample did you use?

Exile: I don’t really tell samples, if you know what I mean. Can’t be telling samples.

The Journalist: The next beat that really got me was “Father.” That’s my favorite out of everything on the album.

Was that one of those beats that you already had that beat in your stash?

Exile: That was probably the oldest beat on the album. I had that one. I remember he had these lyrics and I really wanted to find a home for them.

In fact, toward the end of the album I was like, “Let’s try these lyrics to this.” And it just ended up working perfectly, we both loved it. It worked for the album.

That beat right there, shit, is really probably six years old.

The Journalist: You kept that under a rock.

Exile: Yeah, I don’t know. It went where it was supposed to go.

The Journalist: But what made you bring it out? Was it like you saw Fashawn and you were like, this is the artist? Why not Blu, why not Aloe Blacc, why not somebody else?

Exile: They heard that beat and they all loved that beat. Blu really used to love that beat but it really wasn’t for him; it was for Fashawn.

The Journalist: I had one last quick question for you, Fashawn. I wanted to know what you’re aspiring to do in this rap game.

Fashawn: I aspire to just keep dropping classic material, maybe put out some emcees from my hometown of Fresno and dope rappers.

I don’t plan on rapping when I’m 50. I’ll probably still write, but I don’t know… always being active, steady progression. Hopefully, they want to stay tuned.

I want to shake up the world just a little bit… just a little bit.

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4 Comments

  1. Fashawn’s Hip Hop DX Interview « Phresh Graffiti said,

    […] here or pic for DX’s feature… Click here for The Journalist’s feature on Fashawn… Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  2. Keys to the City- Richie Cunning ft. Fashawn & U-N-I « Phresh Graffiti said,

    […] is that spazzz out music. Shout outs to Fashawn the Twitterer. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Fashawn, Richie Cunning & […]

  3. Fashawn on Cali Mic Check – Boy Meets World « Phresh Graffiti said,

    […] Check out when Fashawn waxed poetics with me here. […]

  4. Fashawn’s Top 10 West Coast Hip-Hop Albums Of All-Time (Complex Magazine) « Phresh Graffiti said,

    […] Check this out… when he called in from tour with The Grouch, in order to speak with The Journalist […]

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