Q&A: Fashawn

Straight out of Fresno, California, is 21-year-old rapper Fashawn. His critically-acclaimed debut album Boy Meets World, produced by master producer Exile, and released in October 2009, is an honest insight into the life and struggles of growing up in Fresno. Adding to his growing list of accomplishments, the somewhat overlooked Fashawn is sharing the cover of XXL’s April issue, dubbed “A New Breed of Hustlers,” which include other up-and-comers J.Cole, Nipsey Hussle, Jay Rock, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa, in XXL’s third annual Freshmen Class feature.

Aptly described as a breath of fresh air in an industry that gets the bulk of its attention from rhymes on consumerist preoccupations, Fashawn is breathing new life into the stifling milieu of mainstream rap. Fashawn is a hardworking, but somewhat overlooked emcee who’s holding his own in what’s increasingly being considered the West Coast revival. Influenced by the golden era of hip hop, there’s no doubt that Fashawn has developed an artistry of his own in his self-reflective and politically aware music.

Fashawn, who counts Planet Asia, The Alchemist, Evidence and most recently, Talib Kweli as collaborators, is on the road to becoming a luminary in his own right. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Fashawn’s freshly released track, and homage to Nas, “Life’s A Bitch” featuring Talib Kweli.

LOOKOUT: How was South by Southwest?

Fashawn: SXSW was unforgettable. It was my first time experiencing SXSW and it was like a musical high school reunion because a lot of the people I’ve gotten to work with were there. And I just turned 21, so I got to drink free beer.

Your music has a really positive message. Despite what you’ve been through, how do you maintain that energy and motivation to keep following your dreams?

I still keep the same mentality that I’ve always had, like having nothing and trying to get out of the situation I’m in. Get out and get something. Now it’s just the start and you know, people call me the freshman. I’m doing well for myself and it pays the bills, but my mission has just begun.

To what extent is music and the writing process therapeutic for you?

It’s therapeutic because if I don’t get these emotions and ideas out, it’s just going to explode inside my head or my heart. If I put this energy out into the world and spread my joy and my pain, maybe it’ll help somebody. It’s all in the energies you put out and maybe some day down the road you’ll get something back.

Referring to the title of the mixtape you did with The Alchemist (The Antidote), do you consider yourself the antidote to all the crap in rap game right now?

Yeah I would. Me and The Alchemist called it The Antidote because we were sick of all the shit and we felt like we were the antidote to help the people, the rappers and the hip hop heads. With the project, I had the freedom to say whatever I said like. The Alchemist really hates typical, mediocre, club records, and he wanted to make something dirty and raw.

In terms of rappers currently in the game, who would you consider an influence?

I would say Jay Electronica, Blu, which is one of my peers that I admire, he's incredible musician and lyricist, and Black Milk, for production.

You’ve been hailed as the future of hip hop and some people in the media have speculated that Boy Meets World is going to become a classic. How do you respond to that kind of pressure?

I respond with a dope show, more music, and try to prove the people right. You know, every emcee has an attitude of “I’m gonna be the best” and hopes that their work will become a classic. But yeah, all I can do is try and prove them right.

Boy Meets World is a concept album with a cohesive narrative running through it of what life was like as a kid in Fresno. Do you have an idea on how you want to approach your next album?

The song called “The Ecology” on my first album is kind of like the science and the study behind the behaviour and the environment I come from. I want to take that concept and expand on it. With this next project, I can dish out everything I’ve seen and learned in the past year. The shit that I’ve seen in the last year, it’s really incredible compared to the last 20 years of my life. I’m even wiser now. My next album’s executive produced by DJ Khalil, with productions from Exile, The Alchemist, and some new people. You can expect a lot of surprises.

How has traveling, touring, and being able to be exposed to so much in the last year changed your outlook on life?

Now I truly understand when they say music is the universal language. I’ve been to places where they don’t even know how to pronounce my name, but it’s still nothing but love. I’m not a rich man but I live a very wealthy life because of these experiences. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have said that. I would’ve said, “Yeah, cool. The graffiti was dope.” I soak in different things. My life has more meaning now. I see myself when I’m fifty writing novels and shit.

So, I've seen some videos of you, and you’re a dope skater.

I’m okay. I could use some practice.

You’re also working with Orisue and etnies. Is it important for you to do things outside of rap, career-wise, to kind of diversify, if you will? Or is it more natural?

It’s just natural for me. I love skating, I love clothes and I’m from Cali where skating was born. Working with Orisue and etnies are really just extensions of my life.

You sampled “Shut up and Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings a few years back. What kind of music do you listen to outside of hip hop?

I love all kinds of music. I like listening to music from the '60s, '70s, '80s and shit. I’m not prejudiced when it comes to music, I like all different genres. I like Feist...

She’s Canadian!

Yeah, that’s right. Hopefully she’s out there when I come up. Maybe we can have lunch or something.

Fashawn begins his “Breakin' Dawn” tour with Brother Ali and BK-One on March 29th, and will be performing in Montreal at Foufounes Électriques on April 11. For more info, click here.
Tickets available at:

Downtown:
Foufounes Electriques
Off the Hook (1021a St. Catherine O.)
High Times (1385 St. Catherine O.)

NDG:
Sub V (5666 Sherbrooke O.)

Plateau:
Lunetz (4269 St. Denis)
G&G Barbershop (28 Des Pins E.)