If luck is the residue of good design, then Fresno favourite, Fashawn is one grand designer. From touring with Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples and Rakim to studio time with Aloe Blacc, Dr. Dre and Alchemist; it’s been an enlightening path that continues to drive such a young aspiring artist. This time around Fashawn, and long time associate Exile, head to our shores to bring some West Coast sounds and sun-blessed saunter to the stage. ACCLAIM delves deep to discover the journey from mix tape maestro to ‘next big thing’.
On the eve of your first tour to Australia, what are your expectations of the ‘land down under’ and the audiences who’ll greet you?
I honestly don’t know what to expect from Australia. Hopefully some of my friends who have been there before can give me some guidance.
You left school at 17 to tour with fellow Fresno kid, Planet Asia. What did you gain from those early explorations on the road?
I gained a lot of knowledge from Planet Asia early in my career. I got the chance to see first hand what it was like to be traveling artist. I learned how to control a crowd by watching him night after night. Being on the road with him at that point meant a lot to me because I was still just a fan of his.
As a 21 year old you released the highly acclaimed debut album, Boy Meets World, hit the cover of XXL magazine and toured the world. How does a young performer handle such as meteoric rise?
I just stayed focused on my main goal which was being one of the greatest, if not the greatest to ever bless a microphone. My work ethic is also what helps me to stay grounded, it always has. Even when there was chaos going outside my window I managed to pen some of the most beautiful songs. I never expected on rising at such a meteoric level like you claim.
Boy Meets World included the somewhat autobiographical Life As A Shorty, how important is demonstrating a social conscience in your lyrics?
I feel like my words spark dialogue and bring awareness to things that are happening socially when you hear them. It’s important for me to give my audience not only dope beats and rhymes but, subject matter that is just as potent.
Do you believe the next generation face a brighter future than your generation?
As long as the culture keeps evolving the future will inevitably be brighter for the next generation.
Every kid dreams; beside the aforementioned accomplishments, which of your childhood dreams have come to fruition?
I always dreamed of going to a record store and purchasing my own album. I finally got the chance to do that when Boy Meets World was released. I felt like I had finally arrived in the music world that day.
2012 sees the release of The Ecology, how has the approach differed this time around?
It’s really my perspective on the world now after meeting it. I was being sincere but, I was a bit naive on the first album. I thought the world was bigger than it actually is. I thought everyone on the planet knew how to speak American. I soon would learn that those assumptions were wrong.
In what ways have you stepped it up?
I’m taking my time a bit more with each verse on this album. I wanted to introduce new methods of rhyming that I’ve never executed before. I wanted to enhance the production this time around and really make something timeless. I feel like I definitely accomplished that goal with the help of my team.
ACCLAIM’s most recent issue looked back at 40 years of hip-hop tapes. What are your fondest memories of these classic cassettes?
Putting paper inside the top of the cassette and recording music from my favorite radio station at the time. If I bought a tape I did not like it was going to get dubbed over immediately.
Your own release of mixtapes has been prolific, beginning with Grizzly City Vol.1 in 2006. How crucial has it been to the development of your own skills, sound and fan base?
It was important for me to find my self as an artist first of all. Every one of those mix tapes enabled me to experiment with so many different styles and techniques. If it wasn’t for all of that material I wouldn’t have known what it feels like to even produce an album. Now I feel like I have my own brand of music that I can call my own. I wouldn’t have had a career had it not been for the mix tape scene. It definitely was not something that developed over night.
Your presence on social media sees ‘Grizzlies’ continuing to salute the Grizzly City series. For the uninitiated, who are these people and where’s all the love coming from?
The Grizzly Gang is something that originated in my neighborhood, It’s basically our identity. It trickled down to my fans eventually and they would begin to scream it out at all my shows across the country. It became more a part of my music the deeper I got involved with the gang.
Every morning I check in with “The Bears”, which is another nick name for my fans. My OG Grizzly Gang members have been down since volume one. Anyone can get involved as long as there true to themselves.
Collaborations and guest appearances are synonymous with hip hop. What do you look for when teaming up in the studio?
Someone who is decisive in the studio is the most important to me. It’s nothing better than working with an artist who knows exactly what they want to do in the studio.
How critical are the ‘right’ associations in satisfying your own creative desires and commercial desires?
It’s important for an artist to collaborate with other great artists at the end of the day. I think when you collaborate on behalf of commercial desires the creative aspect becomes a bit tainted. I always look to connect with artists who share the same integrity that I do. Some people that I work with have platinum plaques and some don’t. They all have one thing in common though and that’s true talent.
Exile joins you on the tour to Australia. Describe the musical journeys and understandings you share?
Me and Exile have traveled a lot together these past few years. He is one of the only people who can hang with me when it comes to free styling. We both share the same understanding of sound and lyrics. Both of our experiences in life resonate through the music. I think that is what makes our material and live performance so dynamic. He reminds me more of one my uncles to be honest.
Like many successful rappers, you’ve diversified into the world of clothing design and sporting endorsements. How much is business and how much is pleasure?
I find pleasure in watching my business grow, it’s very hard to compare the two.
How do you best measure your personal success?
I measure it by how many lives I’ve impacted in the world. I measure it by the kids I helped finish school and families I’ve helped feed. The music is merely my instrument to be able to perform these things.
ACCLAIM wishes you well for your Australian shows. Any insights as to how you’ll be celebrating backstage?
A bag of my favourite berries and preferably some champagne. Bring styrofoam cups and the cipher will be complete.