Fashawn – The Ecology
Mass Appeal: 2015
A West Coast underground staple and longtime favorite, Santiago Leyva aka. Fashawn’s reputation as a wordsmith and musician have kept his name relevant since his Boy Meets World debut. It has been a while since we have had a proper studio album from this Fresno, California native. Nevertheless, he has remained incredibly busy over the six year gap — releasing several mixtape projects, solid collaborative albums with veterans such as Murs and Alchemist, successful tours with Ghostface, Talib Kweli and Brother Ali, while rocking appearances at Rock The Bells and the inauguration of his own Grizzly Fest music festival in 2012. Finally, with his signing to Mass Appeal records in 2014, and recruiting super-producers like DJ Khalil and Exile, Fashawn finally has the proper resources behind him to release The Ecology, his first studio album since his initial 2009 debut, Boy Meets World.
In the last decade, Fashawn has built a large and dedicated fan base throughout the West Coast, and the entire country by crafting indelible rhymes with purpose. Along the way, he has garnered the attention of or several notable artists, which includes music with Blu, freestyles with Wiz Khalifa and Kendrick Lamar, along with performing musical grand entrances with WBO Boxing Champion Timothy Bradley. It wasn’t until his own musical hero, the incredibly influential Nas, who immediately took to Fashawn’s talents, calling the emcee; “one of the most underrated in the game” – when things began to shift. After becoming head of the brand new Mass Appeal records, Nas quickly signed Fashawn, who instantly went to work on his FASH-ionably Late EP with Alchemist (who also has production credits on The Ecology) while simultaneously crafting the beginnings of his first full album for Mass Appeal.
Since his signing, Fashawn has clearly found new life in his art and music, taking his time to craft the right songs for his sophomore album The Ecology. With track production ranging from classic West Coast funk to boom bap beats, Fashawn straddles that line between lyrically and musically entertaining while remaining socially conscious and aware of the impact of his upbringing on his music. Throughout The Ecology, we hear Fashawn delving into important social themes; addressing his growth as a musician and a rapper on “Guess Who’s Back”, his family life as both a son and a father on “Man Of The House” and “Mother”.
On “Something to Believe In” as well as “Higher”, he discusses striving deeper meaning within his own life. At times, lyrical content and lines can be a bit clichéd for an emcee of Fashawn’s level, but it doesn’t detract from or diminish his overall message. The songs are well produced, decently constructed, and his delivery is clean, and standout tracks like the Exile produced “Out the Trunk”, the Sesame Street sampled “Letter F”, and the Krs-One sourced hook and beats on “Confess”, give this album the replay value it deserves.
Although a strong album overall, there are a few moments interspersed on The Ecology where it feels as if there is something missing. At times, it can feel like Fashawn is an artist is still searching for his voice, or perhaps searching the right music to match the vision he aims for. The hunger and drive, we heard on Boy Meets World, One Shot One Kill and This Generation don’t quite make it to The Ecology. There is no fault or negative in this; situations, people and energy shift greatly over a six year period, and with stellar appearances from Nas, Aloe Blacc, Dom Kennedy, and BJ the Chicago kid, there’s still enough cohesive material on The Ecology to make up for any nostalgia or preference that some may have in his earlier work.3.5 out of 5
You can purchase The Ecology on iTunes.