“Right back to the valley/just to show em how we do in central Cali my home/on the map now, they tell me sit in the throne/I tell em im not concerned with a crown or a robe/just wanted to meet the world become a man on my own/and I did now the names household Santiago/C-A get hot as Iran, I hit Chicago/it’s the heart that guides me, my mind just follows/I go where the wind takes me/samsonite bag full of clothes like jack hit the road/to the next city fuck it let’s travel the globe/luggage already packed who knows when ill be back.” -Fashawn, Samsonite Man
A couple weeks ago, Clutch and I caught Brother Ali, Fashawn and BK-One in Providence on the East Coast swing of their Breakin’ Dawn Tour. Clutch is a big Brother Ali fan, and although I was hyped to see him too I was most interested in catching Fashawn (real name Santiago Leyva), who made major waves in ’09 with his debut solo album Boy Meets World. More than Fashawn’s individual talent and character, the young Fresno-bred emcee has an incredible knack for surrounding himself with great people. At just 21 years old, “The Phenom” (as he is aptly called) already has a resume that rivals many veterans’ credentials.
Clutch and I got a late start on our way down to the Jerky’s for the show, so by the time we got there we could already hear Brother Ali’s warmly deep voice booming through the PA upstairs. Angry at myself for having missed Fashawn, we hung back for a second and puffed down to the labels until we (I) were (was) ready to go upstairs, resigned to the fact that I’d missed my shot at seeing one of the best young emcees around. As we were about to climb the steps, a compact but lively dude bounded down them, fitted slanting up from his sweaty brow, and immediately pulled out a sizable spliff, turning to me for a lighter. Without thinking, I reached in my pocket and handed over my nahbud-light, then asked Clutch if he was ready to head in. Like a ton of bricks it hit me:
“What’s good, Fash.”
Immediately his face brightened. “Whaddup homies?” he asked, passing the spliff our way. “It’s from Europe, but it’s Cali love,” he grinned. We talked for a minute, about the tour with Brother Ali, our radio station, the West Coast team he’s on, musical preferences, stories of trips and women abroad, the origin of his name (which he said stems from a Rakim line). He joked that he wouldn’t want to see himself perform either, especially if he had to leave his house before 11. “In Europe, you don’t go out until after midnight. But let me tell you, this one time…” and he launched into a story, corroborating everything I knew to be true about him from listening to his music- that he was a storyteller, that he was an intelligent and friendly guy who could just as easily laugh over an L as he could bruise a mic like Tyson.
Fashawn ft. Blu – Samsonite Man
Fashawn – The Ecology
Fashawn ft. J. Mitchell – Life As A Shorty
Many people underestimate- or flat out don’t understand- the strength of this young crop of rappers, singers, artists, and musicians coming out of Cali. Fashawn is the youngest and perhaps the one with the most potential. The XXL Freshman combines a hardened streetwise savvy with an incisive ability to tap into listeners’ emotions through compelling storytelling.
Already he’s linked up very successfully with MPC-guru Exile (who was the exclusive producer on Boy Meets World), and he’s collaborated with rapper-turned-producer(-turned-filmmaker?) Blu, of Below The Heavens fame, a classic indie hip hop album that was also produced by Exile. The list goes on: the lyrically gifted Co$$, musician/singer Aloe Blacc, whose work is reminiscent of a soulful crest in music that has long been forgotten (and who is one half of the hip hop duo Emanon, with Exile), plus the colorful hip hop pair U-N-I, Dilated Peoples’ talented emcee Evidence, legendary producers Terry Urban and Mick Bookie, and heavyweight beat-smith Statik Selektah.
Fash ft. Aloe Blacc & Devoya – Hey Young World
Fash ft. Exile – Bo Jackson
Fash ft. Co$$ and Mistah Fab – Sunny C-A
What has emerged is a dense web of a network, amongst these musicians & artists, as well as between them and relevant entities (for example, Sound In Color Records, home to Blu and Exile, and Blu’s peer MainFrame). The very best thing about these cats is that they are all about their art. Blu was quoted as saying he sees himself as a producer longer than a rapper, a filmmaker longer than a producer; they make music for themselves, their team, and their fans, and that’s it.
Fashawn ft. Evidence – Our Way
Mick Boogie Presents: Sha Stimuli, Promise, James Watts & Fashawn – MCs Act Like They Don’t Know [prod. nVMe]
Fash is lucky, albeit deservedly so, to have come up around such talented people. It is a testament not only to his capability on the mic, which is superior, but also to his good nature with people. Fashawn is near the forefront of a new crop of rappers who are just as much akin to folk icons like Bob Dylan as they are to storytelling masters like BIG or Pac. The West Coast oozes outta their bars, but their music is by no means confined by place or time.
That night, Fashawn was genuinely happy that we’d recognized him; completely content to chop it up for a few minutes in between his appearances on stage. After clipping the jimmy, we caught the tail end of Ali’s set (which included a dope performance of ‘Breakin’ Dawn Boys’ with Fashawn), and then dipped to grab some food before the city shut down. Fashawn is long gone, moving between and around cities, amongst fans, people and cultures on his endless journey to meet the world.
Download: Blu X Fashawn X The Superblenders