Every one of your favorite artists has a similar story of how they got on. Some artists get on when they are 30 years old, and some get on when they are 17 years old. Some people are lucky to find their path early in life, just like Fashawn.
Hailing from Fresno, California, Fashawn started rapping at an early age and was featured in the Fresno newspaper at only 16 years old. After years of grinding and putting out quality music, his dreams came true. In 2014, Nas signed Fashawn to his new Mass Appeal Records imprint, and have dropped his second solo album, The Ecology.
We recently chopped it up with Fashawn about his journey and crazy career. He talks about his first interactions and recording with Nas, meeting 50 Cent, his new album The Ecology, and performing for Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley and Batman.
You just got off tour right?
I did a little promo tour and one show out in France. I also did an in store in Berlin. I just got off a real tour called “The Ecology” tour, I did that for a month.
Where was your very first show?
It was at this club called Babylon in Fresno, California. I was too young to be in the club and it was a big deal. They had an article in the paper about it because I already had a buzz in my city. They were writing about me when I was like 17.
How did that happen?
I just got on the journalist’s radar and they would come to my shows when I was in high school. They came to my crib and interviewed me.
How much material did you have out at that time?
I was probably on my second mixtape then. I had a crew called Section 8 at the time. We had solo mixtapes and group mixtapes, and my named kind of sprouted out.
What year was this?
CDs were still around, but Youtube wasn’t really.
Yea, we were selling them hand to hand, that’s my era. Youtube was just getting started around this time.
We are about the same age and I remember 2005 was the year of 50 Cent.
I just met 50 the other day and I was real hyped about that. I did Jack Thriller’s show for ThisIs50 and 50 was there. 50 is my idol and I was like 14 when he came out. I am from that era of 50 too.
What was the experience like?
Jack was making jokes about me being Nas’s artist. 50 turned around like, “If you signed to Nas, you must be able to rhyme then.” I told him my favorite song and he was real cool and we talked for little. I told him “Ghetto Q’uran” is one of my favorite songs. He got into 50 Cent mode and told me the story behind the song. He told me about his relationship with Nas as well.
Your next album needs to get Nas and 50 on the same song.
That would be crazy, I need to be the bridge that connects that.
You grew up in the older era and had to switch to digital era. What was that like?
It wasn’t too difficult. I remember getting on HipHopGame.com early and sites like that. Seeing these sites and the music transition was crazy how it segued. It was really interesting because you didn’t have to leave your crib any more. You could literally record in your room and blast it out to the people from the same room. It was a real eye opener for me to see I could make as much material as I want and make this a career. Soulja Boy was blowing up around this time and he was like a blueprint for what was to come as far as being independent. He also did most of his own sh*t.
I read that you dropped out of high school for rap, what was the tipping point for you to leave?
I didn’t really drop out, but I definitely tried. I would cut class go to the block and I didn’t have enough credits to graduate. I started rapping and selling my tapes and making money off it. Before I knew it, I could support myself, so I made it my career. I found what I wanted to do with my life and I just made the segue and stayed consistent.
I bet you got good grades too, or at some point, did well.
My teachers loved me even though I was never there. I always had the answers, but I never raised my hand. I was always nice and respectful, but I would just write rhymes in class. I was listening, but I wasn’t interested. Kids should definitely stay in school.
Lots of people have dropped out because they thought they could rap. Why do you think you succeeded in a one in a million situation?
I would definitely say my work ethic man and my will to never give up. I always prove people wrong, that’s been instilled in me for some reason. My passion for my craft and what I do helps. I’ve wanted this since I was a kid, so I’ve been through so many phases. I’ve seen a lot of eras of hip-op and it has taught me a lot. I figured out away to survive all the eras and find my sound and my lane. All this years I’ve been trying to find my sound and I’ve found it. I used to rap more street, but it evolved to something deeper after I saw the impact of my words.
Did you have a manager or a team?
Yea and I built it up after I started with my rap crew. Then, I went solo and thought I had something special. I found a manager, then that connected me to the whole game. Then, the more people I met, I would keep building my team and I got a solid group of people. Mass Appeal has taken me to the next level.
I know you told the story about meeting Nas a million times. What was it like the first time meeting Nas?
I was about to can my album The Ecology and start something else after putting in a lot of work. I was shopping it to different labels and I didn’t like any of the deals really. We get to Interscope, one of the last labels we see. My man over there, he asked me if I’ve been connected to Nas before. I said “No, never met him or nothing like that.” He thought I should link with Nas and he connected me with his people. I eventually meet for a Nas meeting and we have a sit down in Beverly Hills. Nas was supposed to come, but he couldn’t last minute. I kind of got discouraged, but the meeting went well. I get a call little while later and the homies, like “Man, Nas wants to sign you.” We set up another meeting again and Nas doesn’t show up again, but the meetings go well. To make up for no showing twice, Nas flies me out to Texas and the first thing he said was, “Make yourself at home.” We were in Austin, Texas and it was just insane. The best thing to hear from your favorite rapper is “Make yourself at home.”
What do you even say like, “Hey Nas, it’s nice to meet you?”
Nah, I was like star struck and told him how influential he was in my career. He said he liked my stuff and I said I like your stuff too. He’s a real rap god, so it meant a lot.
You did a lot before even linking up with him and that says a lot.
This sh*t doesn’t happen overnight and I am proof of that. It takes more than just a hit record or a mixtape or an album.
Can you talk about your recording process vs. Nas?
He’s a lot more decisive when laying down his vocals and how he records them. I am never satisfied with my first few takes, I gotta get into a certain rhythm. He’s a seasoned veteran, he knows what he wants to hear. I kind of sketch a picture that takes a few tries. I’m still sharpening my skills and he’s a grand master.
The Mayweather vs. Pacquio fight, you got to be a part of Pacquio’s second fight against Bradley. What was that experience like?
It was phenomenal, it was the biggest audience I ever performed for in my life. Live on PPV at the MGM Grand and I am in the middle of the ring rocking it. I saw like Dave Chappelle and the n*gga that played Batman in the crowd (laughs).
Which Batman? There is like four of them.
The newest one, The Dark Knight. I’m rapping some song I recorded in my living room for Batman. I’m like “What the hell is going on?” My brother Tim Bradley picked my song to be his anthem. I had a suite at MGM Grand for four nights doing press with the boxers. I spoke at the press conference and everything with Al Haymon. It was an honor nonetheless.
Did you rehearse that?
We rehearse earlier in the day before the event, it’s me in an empty arena with a bunch of cameras. It’s me, my manager, Ashanti and her mom sitting in the ring. We each practiced our set and watched each other and it’s just us in this empty arena.
Let’s wrap it up and talk about your album out now, The Ecology. The beat on the song with Nas is crazy. Who made that beat?
It comes from Aloe Blacc and his band. I don’t know if he was going to use it, but he sent it to me. He sent me a few songs featuring him to put on my album. The first song I picked didn’t real fit the sound of the album. I sent it to DJ Khalil, so he could fix it and make it sound more like my album. It sounded more top 40 than urban and DJ Khalil is so talented, he did his thing.
The production line up on the album is crazy — Alchemist, DJ Khalil. You have a good ear for beats.
I try my best because I know I am competing with history. Look at Nas’s first album, he had a crazy line up. He had Premier, Large Professor, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, that’s a classic line up. I am under the umbrella of Nas and I am competing with history, so I knew I had to have a good line up. As a fan first and an artist second, I want my album to stand the test of times with my favorite albums.
Nas executive produced this album and that’s a huge deal. What exactly did he do for the album?
It means a lot. Creatively, I didn’t let him down, especially with the pen. He liked every song and it got his blessings. That’s enough for me, even if I sell one copy on some real rap sh*t, that means the world to me. I took it as a sign of respect and admiration from the guy.
There is no better stamp of approval than Nas executing producing an album.
Man, you said it better than me.
Photo credit: Estevan Oriol, exclusively for BallerStatus.com.