Fresno, California native Fashawn [for exclusive interview click here] has been making a name for himself this past year with mixtape releases, collaborations alongside the Alchemist, and touring with Ghostface. On his debut album, Boy Meets World, he teams up with the Los Angeles producer Exile (of Emanon) to paint a landscape of his upbringing that made him the man he is today.
I wasn’t really feeling the break on the album’s “Intro,” although the sample was very soulful and the scratches were done well. Fashawn makes it known he’s a force to be reckoned with, stating, “Rock like Aesop, sound like a fable/kerosene flow melt microphone cables” along with a slew of other lyrical gems. On “Freedom,” Fashawn proves that he can hold it down and captivate an audience with a streaming flow of conscious. The hook also benefits from a Talib Kweli scratch (“Living my life expressing my liberty, it got to be done properly”). “Hey Young World” features a sample that could have been flipped better. Fashawn holds it down as does his guest Aloe Blacc who rips it when he says, “he who never tries, never fails, but if you never try, you’re a failure/I don’t know what to tell ya.” Devoya Mayo doesn’t really add anything with her at the tracks conclusion.
Fashawn seems like an emcee best suited alongside optimistically soulful beats, which at times doesn’t please my palate, but nonetheless he grabs my attention on tracks such as “Stars,” where he sounds like a higher-pitch, younger version of Common. Fashawn tells the tale of youth growing up and surviving hardship without glamorizing the hood on “Life As a Shorty” featuring J. Mitchell. The beat took a while to get used to as it’s pretty untraditional, but Fashawn rips it with ease and smoothly bends his syllables uniquely (“remember, living in a trailer/ cooking dinner out a Crockpot or we’d microwave it/basic television same seven stations/ had to watch cable at the neighbors/didn’t know how broke we was ’til I got older/never knew I had a father until he showed up/out the blue trying to get back with mama/stepdad walks in here comes the drama”). This is an unexpected standout tracks on the album and displays Fashawn’s ability to remain true to himself while still appealing to listeners.
“The Ecology” is probably the second track on the album with outstanding production. Again Fashwan talks about what it’s like living in poverty while trying to maintain, as he paints a portrait of his neighborhood and his neighbors. The album’s inconsistency comes into play again on “Our Way” featuring Evidence. I’m not a huge fan of the production, specifically the break; I just don’t think it’s anything special, although the scratches are dope. I didn’t think Evidence brought anything to the table; not that he took away from the track or anything, but he could have came harder, as Fashawn trumps him on this. Such production trends are evident on “Samsonite Man” in which Exile brings his boy, Blu in. This is a solid joint, lyrically, even though I’m not crazy about the production or the hook. “The Score” featuring Planet Asia has dreadful production that at times is unlistenable.
“Why” has a solid beat though. Fashawn pulls a Jadakiss, asking some questions aloud, asking why “Aids took some many brothers/yet we still going raw under covers/it’s 2009, gotta think smarter/stop being baby daddy’s and be fathers/I can’t understand, some dudes vacate to the Hamptons/knowing their seeds need Pampers/wanna be part of their life/instead their tricking different women, no room for a wife of a family/God got a million names/and if we made in his image does he see it the same/and if we flesh of his flesh does he feel my pain”? Despite the concept not being original, Fashawn’s insight is enough to make it all his own. “Breathe” featuring Bravo is a great track and I can actually vibe with the production on this one. This is a narrative about Fashawn’s friend who was gunned down and he tells of he’s ready to retaliate. “Father” is another well produced track in which Fashawn articulates the difference between him and an average emcee, reflecting to his dead father which serves as a metaphor for God.
“Sunny CA” featuring fellow West Coasters Co$$ and Mistah Fab is a solid posse cut about their home state. Nobody goes in as hard as Fashawn on this one either. On “Bo Jackson,” Exile offers his vocals. This track is heavily lyrical and is just back to back bars which shows the talents of each vocalist. “Lupita” has an excellent sample that utilizes strings, as Fashawn tells of his Latina love interest on what appears to be the only cut on the LP with radio potential. Fashawn recalls, “when she called I had a knife to wrist” on “When She Called.” He tells of his love that cheated on him and leaving him with the feeling that he can no longer go on. “Boy Meets World” is an appropriate album closer that feels like Common’s “It’s Your World” from Be, with the emcee reflecting on his life. The sample is beautiful and is fitting to the lyrics on this ten minute epic.
Overall, Fashawn’s debut effort is not going to change the game in any sense. Despite the emcee’s superior penmanship, the album lacks in production at times, which is not uncommon when the burden is put all on one person. There are some outstanding tracks on this LP that definitely make it worthwhile, although you sometimes have to skip others to get to them.