When I heard a sample of Fashawn’s debut album Boy Meets World back in October of last year, I immediately purchased a copy on iTunes and started writing a review for the album. Unfortunately I got sidetracked from that review and never completed it, but an album the quality of Boy Meets World deserves the recognition intended. With a title like Boy Meets World, one’s mind might immediately refer to the 90’s television series starring Cory Matthews, Topanga, and Mr. Feeny, but I can assure you Fashawn’s interpretation has nothing to do with the teen drama portrayed on that sitcom. Relatively unknown outside of the underground rap scene, Fashawn is a lyrically potent emcee representing the Left Coast (Fresno, California to be exact) that has been making noise since 2006 with various mixtape releases (Grizzly City 1 & 2, The Phenom 1 & 2, The Antidote) as well a guest appearance on Evidence’s “The Far Left” (The Layover EP). In 2009 Fashawn sought to change his relative status with his debut album entirely produced by producer extraordinaire Exile known for his own 2009 release Radio as well as his collaborative album Below The Heavens with California emcee Blu, which saw critical acclaim back in 2007. With Fashawn lyrically skills and Exile strong track record, the question wasn’t if Boy Meets World was going to be a good album, but how good it would ultimately be.
Intro Produced by Exile
Right from the beginning producer Exile starts things off on the right foot with some slow tempo production that leads right into the main beat primed for Fashawn to deliver some introductory bars. Over a soulful, high energy beat Fashawn spits about his introduction to the world and transition to the mic, giving any new listeners a great introduction to who he is as an emcee and what they should be expecting from Cali wordsmith on this album.
Freedom Produced by Exile
Backed by a Talib Kweli vocal sample, Exile supplies Fashawn with some hard-hitting production, as he goes for dolo on the track in showing listeners why he’s one of the fiercest young lyricist in the rap game today amongst the mass of commercial rappers trapped inside a box of cliché and worn topics and concepts. Much alike to the song title, this song shows that Fashawn isn’t afraid to speak his mind as an artist and tell things how they should be said.
Hey Young World Featuring Aloe Blacc & Devoya Mayo; Produced by Exile
This was the first song I heard off the album sample and I was immediately hooked after listening. Exile does a fantastic job in providing some soulful, piano-driven production as Fashawn provides some motivational rhymes for the youth and young people striving to reach their dreams and achieve their goals. Aloe Blacc delivers a suitable guest verse while Devoya Mayo presents stirring words in strong spoken word fashion. Interpolating two classic Hip-Hop songs in Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World” and Nas’ “The World Is Yours”, this stands as one of the best songs on the album.
Stars Produced by Exile
Continuing in similar fashion of “Hey Young World”, Fashawn speaks some uplifting words on the concept of how everybody is a star in their own right, possessing special talents and gifts that make them different from the other stars in the sky. This time around Exile delivers some up-tempo, yet mellow production that carries on the mood and feeling of the previous track.
Life As A Shorty Featuring J. Mitchell; Produced by Exile
Displaying his narrative skills as an emcee, Fashawn tells about the hardships he had to overcome and struggles he faced in life as a child growing up. From his troubles in school to an old relationship and that girlfriend’s future to his parents’ own dilemmas, he speaks on how he relied on Hip-Hop and his pursuit to become an emcee helped him make it through. J. Mitchell’s vocal performance on the chorus is a nice addition to the song over some lively and joyful production from Exile that connects well with the topic of childhood on this song.
The Ecology Produced by Exile
After a few tracks featuring blissful production, Exile switches things up a bit with some a dark sounding beat driven by strings that match up nicely with the song’s topic and Fashawn’s rhymes. In the likeness of Marvin Gaye’s legendary song “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”, Fashawn takes time to speak about the scenes in the environment surrounding him filled with its ills and dangerous elements. This track does a great job of bringing the listeners into Fashawn’s world from vivid and descriptive lyrics.
Our Way Featuring Evidence; Produced by Exile
Maintaining the dark vibe and feeling that was heard on the previous track, Exile’s piano driven production serves as the backdrop as Fashawn and Evidence speak about their native California and the West Coast lifestyle that they both can be found within. This track basically serves as homage to their home on the Left Coast, giving listeners not familiar with the area an idea of what they can expect to find.
Why Produced by Exile
Getting back to the soulful production heard in earlier parts of the album is what Exile does on this track with a very smooth beat that allows Fashawn to give his rendition in the style of Jadakiss’ “Why” as he provides lyrics that question many things from unprotected sex, fatherhood/parenting, homecoming, street life, and government/politics. In the midst of all of these questions, Fash ultimately realizes that he can only be himself regardless of the changes that should be made in his life. One of the better, more introspective tracks is what you get from this song.
Samsonite Man Featuring Blu; Produced by Exile
The title of this track is derived from the Samsonite luggage company and is a play on words to convey Fashawn’s travels as an artist on the road in a clever way. As intended, Fashawn speaks about his traveling as an artist in moving farther from California, while Blu reflects on his time away from home and the life that he has lived since leaving. Exile’s lively production fits well with the two emcees that he has made collaborative albums with, as an album from all three doesn’t sound like a bad idea after hearing this track.
The Score Featuring Planet Asia; Produced by Exile
Production wise this is probably the most experimental beat on the entire album, which finds Exile switch back and forth between the sampling of Barry White’s smooth “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” cut and a hard-hitting, edgy groove. While Planet Asia (who I haven’t listened to since his The Medicine back in 2006) makes a worthwhile contribution with his guest verse, it’s Fashawn that steals the show lyrically with his two verses. If Fashawn’s lyrical skill and ability as an emcee hadn’t been clearly displayed on the previously heard tracks, it’s put on full display with this track.
Breathe Featuring Bravo; Produced by Exile
No, this isn’t the classic Fabolous and Just Blaze joint that you are probably well familiar with from the title; instead it’s Fashawn and Exile giving their take on the social ills of their surroundings. Similar to the previously heard “The Ecology”, Exile goes back to dark sounding production as Fashawn and Bravo talk about scenes of violence and killings in their neighborhood of friends losing his life and the thoughts of revenge for said actions.
Father Produced by Exile
Exile gets back to the soulful production on this track with Fashawn taking time to speak to God about the difficult times that he’s facing down on Earth and receive answers to many of the questions on his mind. The diversity of this track topic wise shows Fashawn isn’t afraid to go against the grain in addressing things on a more personal level, which is needed from more emcees nowadays instead of the usual cliché concepts.
Sunny CA Featuring Coss & Mistah FAB; Produced by Exile
From the title of this track you can see that it’s another one paying tribute to his home of California, but doesn’t come off as strong as the previously heard “Our Way”. The production from Exile on this track is a bit lackluster in comparison to what’s been heard from him on this album and what the listener knows he’s capable of. The same can be said for Fashawn, who delivers some mediocre rhymes, with the guest verses from Coss and Mistah FAB not really adding much to the equation. Unfortunately this tracks serves as one of the few average songs to be found on the album that could have been done justice to leave off the album.
Bo Jackson Featuring Exile; Produced by Exile
Not to be defined by a bad track, things pick back up quickly with the 90’s Hip-Hop-inspired production from Exile (similar to Large Professor) as both he and Fashawn get down on the track to spit rhymes in a back and forth fashion reminiscent of duos/groups like EPMD, Run-DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, etc. This song was a great way to get back on track following misstep of the previous song with Fashawn once again displaying while he’s one of the nicest up-and-coming emcees in the game and Exile showing us that he’s not just nice on the MPC but behind the mic as well. I don’t understand the song title though with its reference to multi-sport athlete Bo Jackson (…anybody???)
Lupita Produced by Exile
Most rap albums nowadays have the mandatory track for the ladies or one dealing with relationships, and Fashawn is not one to break that trend (sort of). While this is that track in the traditional sense, Fash keeps it different from the cliché with a song about his pursue of a young lady that has his attention. Similar to Lupe Fiasco’s song “And He Gets The Girl”, Fashawn talks about his fear in approaching said girl only to be turned down in the end after gathering the courage to overcome his fear. The guitar filled beat produced by Exile meshes nicely with song’s topic and lyrics resulting in track that some guys might be able to relate to on a personal level when dealing with “the one”.
When She Calls Produced by Exile
With the last dark sounding production of the album, Fashawn takes the listeners on a twisting tale of a broken relationship and fatal suicide in telling the story from multiple perspectives. In a sense, the structure of this song is similar to that of Lupe Fiasco’s “He Say, She Say” but with much darker narrative. Lyrically this is probably the most descriptive and emotional song on the album with Fashawn’s storytelling ability on full display with this track.
Boy Meets World Produced by Exile
The title track is saved for last as this song brings the album full circle with Fashawn telling about the struggles of his earlier years in a retrospective fashion, speaking about living in a group home, life minus a father figure, and using rhymes as his escape. The soulful production provided by Exile on this track gives the album a sense of completion and closure as the listener feels like they know all that Fashawn has been through as a person to arrive where he is currently as an artist.
During a period in Hip-Hop/Rap music where commercialism is at an all-time high with artists like Drake, Lil’ Wayne, and Jay-Z focused on being mainstays on airwaves and television, an artist like Fashawn provides some much needed oxygen to a genre that’s becoming stagnant. While said artists are good for the expansion and growth of the genre on a greater level bringing the music to the attention of a wider audience, artists like Fashawn are just as vital for maintaining the foundation of Hip-Hop/Rap music. The saying “To understand where you’re going, you have to know where you came from” holds true in this instance as Fashawn realizes the importance with an album like Boy Meets World. Music is supposed to evoke emotion and provide a sense of relation for multiple feelings, and there are plenty of songs that do that on this album. Songs like “Life As A Shorty”, “Boy Meets World”, “Lupita”, “Why”, and “When She Calls” accomplish that task with incredible fashion as they give listeners the chance to connect on a more personal level, while songs like “Hey Young World” and “Stars” serve a motivation to listeners on the road to their ambitions in life. The diversity of this album allows it to be found enjoyable to listeners of all kind no matter their preference. Despite The Blueprint 3 taking the honors, this was an album a lot of people deserving thought should have won along with Only Built For Cuban Linx… Pt. II. But while it didn’t win it shows that for a debut album an artist like Fashawn has great potential to deliver an even better album in years to come and has set the bar very high for his following albums (ala Nas’ Illmatic). While Hip-Hop next generation is described with the names Drake, J. Cole, Kid Cudi, Wale, and Nicki Minaj among others, Fashawn is a name that shouldn’t be excluded from that list as he has firmly cemented his spot in the game with one of the best and most slept on albums of 2009, and leads the pack in the West Coast resurgence.
nappyPicks: “Hey Young World”, “Boy Meets World”, “Life As A Shorty”, “Stars”, “Bo Jackson”, “Why”… Pick up an album that caught too many Zzz’s in ’09.