The Fresno-based emcee returns with his second LP since he debuted with Boy Meets World in 2009. Since then, Fashawn has gone on to release a couple tapes with The Alchemist, a collaboration album with Murs, and a handful of mixtapes. He was also featured on XXL’s 2010 Top 10 Freshman issue; he came out with Timothy Bradley while performing “Champion” in the title rematch with Manny Pacquiao; and as lately, signed with Nas’ Mass Appeal Records. Ecology is defined as the branch of sociology concerned with the spacing and interdependence of people and institutions. This album should be about what Fashawn has gone through to become the man he is today. Like good kid, m.A.A.d city and 2014 Forest Hills Drive, this should detail growing up and how the past has reflected in their current music and how the struggle has been for the best. Furthermore, the song “The Ecology” should give us a better example of what to expect to hear from the album. It’s been a six year wait, so let’s get into the review.
1. Guess Who’s Back Produced by Beewirks
Fashawn opens the album with a track about how he was destined to make it in the game no matter how hard it was to overcome challenges in the hood, “Before I ever seen an itinerary/I made 57 visits to the cemetery/From a derelict to a deity/Easily I make an atheist believe in me”. This is a great way to start the album.
2. Confess Produced by Exile
Exile makes his first appearance on the album with a heavy KRS-One sample on “Confess”. He laces a nice up-tempo beat, as Fashawn flips KRS’s “9mm Goes Bang” into his own sexually-motivated song. Fash does a good job reciting KRS-One’s (and Biggie) lines and putting his own spin on them, “Wa da da dang, wa da da da da dang/Step into the party with Bacardi in my veins/I knock her dang, her body I gotta bang/Like it was a 9mm that I aim”. Fash shows his true skills as a lyricist on this one.
3. Something To Believe In Featuring Nas & Aloe Blacc; Produced by DJ Khalil
Fashawn teams up with DJ Khalil, Nas, and Aloe Blacc to drop the most anticipated track on the album. Aloe Blacc gave Fashawn one of his previously unreleased song, and then handed it over to DJ Khalil to remix it. Khalil did not disappoint as he put his own Hip-Hop vibe into it without taking anything away from Aloe’s smooth jazzy rhythm. Fashawn & Nas also drop two incredible verses, and Aloe Blacc sounds perfect on both the hook and the bridge. Fash starts things off:
Guess I’m at the Crossroads
Lost hope and I lost quotes
My heart smokes for the fire that ya’ll done provoked
For the disbelievers guess the game was missing the leader
Now they kissin’ my sneakers, lipstick on my Adidas
Word to the reverend, I’m runnin’ this shit like Russell…
Simmons, the game is like scrimmage, I’m just stretchin’ my muscles.
They from front street, make believe block
Got an attitude avenue, liars lane
Your life ain’t compatible, not to mine, you insane
You belong in the liar society, you not as fly as me
The only music head that never slept with Superhead
Although I heard she suck like state troopers & feds
Is off the hook tonight/ If I don’t bag Halle, I take a lookalike
Last night we left the club with bottles, my future bright.
4. Higher Produced by Exile
This track is about the pressure fans and critics put on him to meet expectations. It’s been six years since his last LP and I’m sure he gets a lot of shit from anything to when his album is dropping to if The Ecology is going to be up-to-par with Boy Meets World. This is great from a lyrical viewpoint because every musical artist probably goes through the same thing. However, Fash buckles down and only takes us higher, “Became a prisoner of people’s expectations/Some of my fans are doctors, even they don’t have the patience/To wait up while I evolve creativity”.
5. To Be Young Featuring BJ The Chicago Kid; Produced by Exile
Here, Exile interpolates Eminem’s “Drug Ballad” on the beat. Fashawn takes us back to 1999 when he was dealing with the hardship of living in the ghetto. The first verse is about him being a young juvenile and causing problems when his friend got his hands on a gun. He takes us to his home on the second verse when his mother was seeing a coke dealer and he figured he’d be like that because that’s all he knew at the time. The third verse is about this girl named Neesha who he tried to get. Come to find out she was a prostitute who was murdered when her dough came short. This is a great conceptual track that starts to show the meaning of The Ecology.
6. Golden State Of Mind Featuring Dom Kennedy; Produced by Exile
Exile drops a heavy G-Funk instrumental that give Fashawn and Dom Kennedy a laid back vibe that give ode to the west coast. As expected, the two drop bars about Cali: the cities (Fresno, Los Angeles, Crenshaw, and Pomona), the lifestyle (weed, beaches, palm trees, bandanas, daytons, and beautiful women, sunshine), and the rap greats (Naughty by Nature, E-A-Ski, Humpty Hump, and Mac Dre). “Golden State of Mind” is a nice mellow track, but it’s really nothing new. I would of love to get a couple extra verses in here… maybe from someone in the Living Legends, Dilated Peoples or Hieroglyphics.
7. Letter F Produced by The Alchemist
The Alchemist chops up a beat that features old cartoons. This lets Fashawn bring some swagger to the track. The song is mostly about him and how he conquered certain obstacles to get where he’s at now. The hook is plain, but very catchy and meshes perfectly with the beat. This song may come off as senseless, however, Fash is still dropping heat:
It’s like I was one out of a hundred
Motherfuckers who had got just what they wanted in life
I had hunger to be unstoppable, conquer every obstacle
Accomplish the impossible, partner I got a lot to lose
Too much love, too much pride/ Way too much pressure for one guy
Soul of the west, behold it’s the best
Master of the ceremony, better known as the F.
8. Place To Go Produced by Exile
This song reflects on the deteriorating value of the economy. Fashawn reminds us to keep our heads up when things get tough in the community. This is another example of putting The Ecology in words:
Are we honesty programmed to hate one another?
Throw hands, bear arms, release fire on this cold land
Now minds confined by old plans
No more romance, no more slow dance
Shawty twerk somethin’ for me
Or dehydrate from your thirst for the money, sugar
Instead of BET, it’s EBT, dreams that don’t pass the TV screen.
9. Man Of The House Produced by Quince Tones & Jo Caleb
“Man of the House” explains how Fashawn would always become the man of the house when he wasn’t really expecting to be. It starts by him releasing his debut album and how the record gave him the recognition he deserved. How he put hard work in the booth to support his family. Throughout the song he still questions himself as being successful because his mother is still in the hood, his father unemployed, and he’s still not making money that defines success. The second verse is about how he has always been the man of the house because his father was never there. Deep track right here.
10. Out The Trunk Produced by Exile
We got a true banger here when Exile samples Busta Rhymes “Get You Some” for the hook. Exile speeds up the vocal and meshes it with a beat that features numerous vocals over a funky synthesizer. Fashawn moves away from his serious side for a moment and has some fun on this one.
11. It’s A Good Thing Featuring Aloe Blacc & Choosey; Produced by Exile
Exile laces up a smooth Latin vibe backed by an acoustic bass line and a broken guitar chord. This fits Fashawn considering he’s “half black, half ese”. We get two additional verses from Aloe Blacc and Choosey on the good things in life. Aloe Blacc’s verse is more about the good things he has now and how he hopes his music can lift our spirits. Choosey’s verse is more about how the everyday struggles in the hood is a positive thing because it makes us mentally stronger. Their verses are great but I personally enjoys Fash’s the most. This is the perfect song to play when you’re feeling down and having a bad day.
Tell me, what means the world to you?
Your spouse, or your house with the gorgeous view?
Is it the sand white and the water blue?
But your priorities are out of order, true? (You’ve got a good thing)
In an empty pursuit of profit and respect
Preoccupied, you collect more problems to neglect
Evidently a success, and obviously depressed
But the drama, the stress, it’s probably for the best
But will we all start realizing that we are blessed?
Excess expectations we accept
Let’s make a bet, homie
You stay in debt, don’t ya?
You take an L while your lady takes the rest
Enough is never enough, we want everything
Like every baby mama want a wedding ring
While you’re stuck on this planet
Focus on what’s important
And try to take nothing for granted
12. Mother Produced by Exile
This is another deep and personal song by Fashawn. He takes us through his narrative of how his mother struggled through addiction while raising him, but she always did her best to raise and care for him. He didn’t really appreciate her until he saw the bigger picture as he got older. The hook is simple, yet beautiful and real. Here’s another great song we can add to the Mother’s Day playlist.
13. F.T.W. Produced by Exile
Fashawn ends The Ecology with “Fuck The World”. This track is about how you can put so much into something, but it may still fuck you over in the end. I feel like it’s a great message after listening through the album. I’m not a big fan of the repetitive hook, but Fash still drops knowledge,
All of these compliments
Only boosting my confidence
As I sit in astonishment
Wondering where my conscience went
Empty words in your promises
Karma’s the only consequence
They got me caught up in all kinds of shit
Got me caught up in this life of sin
I can’t pretend like I ain’t lie
Let’s tell the truth
I told my share of mind
Broke so many hearts way too many times
I need a new start
No, finish your line
I scribble and rhyme
All this shit on my mind
I’d probably get life if it was a crime
I search just to find out this earth is unkind
Did dirt I decide on the turf I rely
After all is said and done, Fashawn got his point across on the meaning of The Ecology. His storytelling is both entertaining and from the heart. Lyrically, it’s top notch and the record will definitely be brought up for the end of the year awards.
On the producer note, Exile hit every key to stay entwined with the mood of the album. It may not have the 808 bangers some Hip-Hop fans expect, but true fans of Fashawn & Exile will be pleased and appreciate the tone of the record.
Nas did a great job as the executive producer. The record is very serious, but it’s nicely spaced where it’s not a mood killer. The future is promising for Mass Appeal Records. First, Run the Jewels and now this? RTJ2 went over heads and this will too. Hopefully, that changes here soon because this is a superb album for Hip-Hop.
I think a 4.25 is the perfect score for this album, but what do we do here at the ‘Fro? Round up.