By | April 8, 2012 at 4:10 am | No comments | Featured Post

Fashawn the phenom. His name is pronounced with the same “pha” sound as in fashion. And if you got fashion, you got style, and no matter if it’s high fashion, or grizzly fashion, one thing’s for sure… Fashawn got bars, no doubt. He’s been on tour with Talib Kweli. He’s been in the lab with the Alchemist, he drinks his champagne in styrofoam cups. His rhymes represent the architecture of higher learning and still reflect the streets. Born and raised in the core of central California, the Fresno emcee draws influence from all things CA. If you haven’t checked his mixtapes, y’all need to rewind, pause, and listen carefully. Fashawn is a strong voice emerging in a young generation of new emcees. For the unfamiliar, I caught up with Fashawn at Cypress Hill’s Smoke Out, presented by Guerilla Union, and built with the young lord for a couple of moments about his past, present and future. I could paint the picture of a talented artist and flesh out the details in hieroglyphs, but instead I think it best to let Fashawn fill in the blanks and speak for himself…

We’re here with Fashawn, and for the people who don’t know who you are… can you fill them in?

I am an African-American, trying to survive in America.

And how’s that struggle going man?

It’s really hard man, it’s really like… you know what I’m saying? I’m kidding. It’s great.

Yeah… I bet.

You see the champagne in the styrofoam cup? It’s cool. (laughter)

You’re in a position where you can speak to the youth, plus the elders are listening to you, what are the important things for you to tackle in your music right now? What are you trying to spread awareness to and shed light on?

I really wanna spread awareness to individuality cuz I feel like it’s important for everyone to know who they are and not try to be what society tries to paint them as or what they want them to be. Individuality is important. Once you find out who you are, anything is possible once you know who you are in your heart and in your soul. That’s individuality. Also, the community… we’re nothing without our community. That’s where we come from. Don’t be a rapper or a successful person that blows up and forgets your community. Cuz that’s what grooms us, that’s what shapes us man, in everything, man, politics, which I think is bullshit, but we have to deal with it, and everything that has to do with life man. I feel like to be a complete artist, a complete artist, you have to tackle everything, every aspect of it. You have to document time as a whole as it is now.

As an individual, that people don’t know… who is Fashawn?

Fashawn is a young brother who is 23 years old. I’m speaking in the 3rd person at this point. A young brother who is 23 years old who feels he can change the world through his music. He has already changed his own world through his music, so he feels like anything is possible and he just wants to inspire people to feel the same, at least, you know what i’m saying? That’s all… that’s my main goal.

What are your inspirations? Where do you come from?

When I was young I used to stay in a trailer behind a church on the west side of Fresno. So every morning I’d wake up in a church, basically. So I initially wanted to be a minister or a pastor. I’d see the guy on the microphone every morning, I was like fuck, that was my calling. It’s just ironic that I wound up being the guy on the microphone. You know what I’m saying? Making the people go out and preaching my own gospel and shit like that, so that’s kinda where the roots of Fashawn really come from. That’s why I do what I do. As far as my name, I got it from a Rakim song called “When I be on the Mic” which came out like 1999. That nigga said, “My Fashawn last long like apparel.” And my cd, record skipped, it just kept saying “Fashawn, Fashawn, Fashawn, Fashawn….”

That’s a DJ Premier production…

Yeah, c’mon man… Classic. That’s kinda where I heard my name for the first time. I heard Jim Jones say it on a record with Master P. “My nigga Fashawn…” I was like, “YO! That’s my name… that’s me!” That’s who Fashawn is man, word up.

So what’s the hip hop community like in Fresno?

In the FC man.. It’s awesome. I love it. I got to grow up in the 90’s where I walked outside of my building and there were people with cardboard on the concrete, just breaking, graffiti, all of that shit. In the midst of all of this gangbanging and crazy shit that was going on, I actually gotta taste of hip hop. I felt like I gotta taste of what New York was like just through the culture that spread it all of the way over here. Yeah man, I got all of that. I feel like I represent the school of hip hop that Afrika Bambaata founded, know what I’m saying? I gotta piece of that, all of the four elements and shit back where I come from. That’s what Fresno hip hop is.

I’m a get real brown sugar with it for a moment and ask when did you first fall in love with hip hop?

I fell in love with hip hop about the same time i got introduced to all of these elements that i’m telling you about. ’93, ‘I believe, ’93-94. It’s always been around since I was born. I was born in ’88, and that was like the golden era to some people. But for me, ’93-’94 you know what I’m saying? Like when Bone Thugs and Illmatic came out and like Biggie and like Snoop was killin’ it, the west coast was dominant. The whole 90’s man, really rap consumed my life, hip hop consumed my whole life.

So in one of your lyrics, you say something along the lines of “home of the 3 strikes.” What did you mean by that?

Well where I’m from it’s one of the first places to instill the 3 strikes law, the whole process. Know what I’m saying? That’s all, just to state facts, that’s all. It’s some California shit. Super Cali shit. I’m from the home of the 3 strikes and before you trust a nigga, think twice. Know what I’m saying? That’s just how we live. It’s just a reflection of how we live every day.

How do you feel about west coast hip hop at the moment? Like during the 90’s, there was a minute when it was on. And everything was gangsta rap and g-funk’d out, and it was cool. But then it took a little nose dive in popularity. I feel, me personally, we got a real organic culture out here, and I was wondering your thoughts on the state of hip hop in the west.

I feel like, the west coast, technically, we haven’t went anywhere. We’ve been here the whole time putting in work. But now it’s like a new generation to some. It’s dope cuz you can see the hierarchy, you know, the level of legendary. Like the young legends, like young Kendrick Lamar, your ScHoolboys, your Pac Divs, like the new legends of the west coast. That are kinda being the inspiration for these next kids coming up. You know what I’m saying? But you also got the OG’s like Snoop, Ice Cube, Ice T who inspired us, who inspired brothers like myself. And it’s really just that cycle coming around. Now it’s like a new dynasty. You got Bear Gang, Grizzly City, you got Top Dawg. You got all these people, Dirty Science, Exile, Blu, that whole branch of the tree. It’s like so much, it’s kinda nostalgic to what it was back in the day. It’s just a different message, you know what I’m saying? Because we are the kids who got to learn from all the shit that we were fed, and now it’s just regurgitated out from all influences, from Hieroglyphics to fuckin’ N.W.A. It’s like the yin and the yang, but it’s all from the west coast. That’s why I hate when niggaz say you sound east coast. I listen to Hieroglyphics and Planet Asia. All these niggaz is from Cali. You know what I’m saying? Ras Kass, C-Bo, Brother Lynch. Those are the brothers who inspired me as well.

I always feel that they’re slept on, for some reason, west coast true emcees are always slept on…

It’s always been like that since the beginning, everybody knows that New York is the mecca of hip hop. And some would consider California like a sister, or a cousin to that. We’ve been fighting for our respect for a long time. We feel like what we did is organic enough to be considered the equivalent of that. Not to be called a sister or a cousin, like we do this shit too. This is a battle that is gonna keep going on forever. It’s a beautiful thing. It just makes us deliver at a level that we feel is correct or proper.

We checked your performance…

Hope you enjoyed it.

You got all the people congregating. They definitely started coming in once you started rocking.

Shit was empty before i came in right? Shit was empty! It looked like a skating rink yo!

They flooded in once you touched the mic. You had a Grizzly Bear on stage with you. What’s the symbolism behind the bear?

The grizzly bear, if you look on the California flag, there’s a grizzly bear on it. Know what I’m saying? And the whole Grizzly Gang, the reason that shit started, my whole gang is because of that. We feel like we represent the heart of California, we’re from central California. We supply the rest of California with everything. I’ll just say this, with agriculture, we help feed the rest of the world. We’re the heart of California. That’s how the Grizzly Gang was developed. Just looking at that flag and wanting to embody that whole mentality, that attitude that is California, that’s what the Grizzly Gang is. It’s really just a personification of why the fuckin’ Grizzly Bear is on the flag of California, why that represents the whole state. You know, that’s what Grizzly Gang is. You don’t even gotta be from Grizzly City to be from Grizzly Gang. You can be from Compton, you can be from Humboldt County. You just gotta be on your grizzly and be a grizzly about yours. And have that attitude. That’s why I have my grizzly. His name is Smokey.

One last question before you dip out, what are you working on? What do you got coming up next? What should people check for and where can they find it?

Look for Champagne & Styrofoam Cups, coming this spring and summer, produced by various people. Look for the album with me and Murs. It’s called, Murs and Me/Me and Fash. It’s a project we’re working on, and it’s about 50% done right now. It’s coming together really well, produced by K. Salaam & Beatnik. Got the Antidote project with Alchemist. We actually went back in the studio and made some new records to add to the old records that we did. We felt that it was slept on, we dropped it right around the same time as the album, and the album kinda took all of the attention. Which is not a bad thing, but… it’s a good problem to have, if you will. That’s coming out, we’re gonna press up like a thousand copies. It’s limited edition. It’s gonna be like a scrap book filled with pictures from my life, pages from my rhyme book, some vinyl in the back with the new songs that I recorded with Alchemist. All the new shit is gonna be on vinyl for all the collectors of vinyl and things of that nature. Yeah man, I got like a 36 date tour with Andre NIckatina, the legend. Starting on the east coast, and we’re gonna try to touch everything, all of the states. As much as we can. That’s it man, staying busy the whole time man. 2012, it’s the end of a lot of these niggaz worlds, not mine.

So the 12th letter is an L, for Love Hell or Right…

As if it gets better than the 6th letter, when will he slip? Never. Who mislead him? Twist lettuce, passing spliffs with my big brethren, high enough to kiss the heavens. Stick figure, dick bigger, than Nick’s Cannon, plenty chickens I did damage, the kid manage, to blow up despite the fact that I had to grow up in the home of the 3 strikes, where no one succeeds.


Peace man.

Fa sho brother.

Thank you.

And that’s the run down of the true and living. Make sure to keep an eye on the young man as he keeps doing his thing. Expect hip hop on the verge of greatness, expect break beats and rhymes, expect Fashawn to stay on his grizzly. Expect Fashawn to succeed where others would not. And whether you finna pop Moet, Chandon or even the barefoot bubbly, pour your champagne in styrofoam cups and make a toast to the Grizzly.

– live & direct from ya man’s… “Drop Jewelz”
Photos by Mackenzie Lenora

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