Over half a decade has gone by since Fresno, California emcee Fashawn’s debut studio album Boy Meets World made its way to stores. After working over a year with longtime production partner Exile, Fash has finally given birth to his sophomore LP The Ecology.
The new album comes with a major stamp of approval. In 2014, Fashawn signed to Nas’ Mass Appeal Records, and the iconic Hip Hop figure took on the duty of executive producing his protégé’s latest project.
Besides leading the reigns for the musical effort, Nas lends his voice to the track “Something to Believe.” Fash’s The Ecology also features contributions by Aloe Blacc, Busta Rhymes, Dom Kennedy, BJ The Chicago Kid, Alchemist, and DJ Khalil.
It has been a long journey from 2009’s Boy Meets World to 2015’s The Ecology, but Fashawn is not taking any time to rest. The member of XXL‘s 2010 Freshmen Class is set to head out on tour with Exile starting February 26 in Los Angeles. He will close out the trek back in his home state on April 2.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Fashawn about his current music collection, working with Exile and Nas, touching on deeply personal subjects in his songs, and more.
[ALSO READ: Fashawn Discusses “The Ecology” LP, Getting Aloe Blacc To Rap & Chatting With Nas About “Ode To Illmatic”]
It’s been six years since your last album. How does it feel knowing your official sophomore album is set to be released?
It feels incredible just to still be here six years later. Artists in general have that sophomore slump superstition hanging over their head. I don’t think that’s the case with me and this album. I’m happy we finally have a birthday for the album. It’s been our album for a while, but once it drops it belongs to you guys.
Do you feel like you’ve changed as an artist between the two albums?
I think I’m clearer now about what I want to hear from myself than I was back then. I really know when I’m at my best, and I know when I’m at my worse. I’d be the first to tell you, “That was a trash verse.” Whereas times back then, they would have to tell me to rewrite stuff. I think now I have a clear view of what I want to hear and what I want to see.
What was the creative process like working with Exile for this album as compared to the first time?
The first time there was a lot more emails back-and-forth. It was like a battle of the emails. I recorded a majority of those vocals in Fresno, California, while Exile would be in Los Angeles or somewhere else around the world.
So the difference between that project and this project is he was more hands on this time. He was there for every session. We were just really perfecting the sound and making sure everything was right for this album.
Nas is listed as an executive producer for the album. What was his role in the project’s creation?
Nas was overseeing every song. Every song that I recorded, I would get the critiques from Nas the next day. He played a major role. I can’t thank him enough for that. He actually heard the project when I was still initially working on it. He decided he wanted to executive produce it, so pushing the album back gave him more time to flex his muscle.
You also have Nas on the record “Something To Believe In.” What was it like recording with him?
We actually didn’t record that song together in person. That happened over a course of a month or so. Aloe Blacc originally sent me the record, and we just tried to build it from there. I had no clue we could get Nas on this record.
It was one of the more powerful records out of the collection of music we had. Then DJ Khalil took what Aloe and his band had done and gave it a whole new lifespan.
Lastly, we got the verse from Nas. That was incredible. I scratched that off my bucket list instantly. It was a phenomenal experience knowing I’m listening to a verse from Nas that no one else in the world has heard before.
“Golden State Of Mind” with Dom Kennedy almost feels like your version of Jay Z’s “Empire State Of Mind.” What was the inspiration for that track?
Shout out to “Empire State Of Mind,” but my influence goes back to Nas’ “New York State Of Mind” off Illmatic. I always wanted an ode to my state. I felt like I was finally ready to do that. I’ve done songs about my region before, but I never really did it on this scale. My coast needed that. My coast needed an anthem.
There are a few songs on The Ecology that are very personal like “Man Of The House” and “Mother.” At the beginning of “Mother,” you say, “this is kind of like a love song, but it sort of hurts though.” Was it difficult opening up about such personal issues on a record?
Absolutely, It’s like sharing your scars with society. With “Mother,” I remember my manager specifically asked everyone to leave the room while I was recording that particular song. It’s a touchy subject when you’re not just doing flamboyant and metaphorical raps. You really tap into your personal life, it gets a little more intense. I wouldn’t call it difficult, but it’s definitely different from the normal day at the studio.
A lot of artists say they use the recording booth as their own personal psychotherapy session. Did it feel like that for you?
Absolutely, my music is my medicine. That padded room – that place they call the booth – that’s where I’m allowed to go insane or express whatever I’m feeling. It’s a whole other world in there. That’s my utopia. I get to create the world I want to see, as opposed to the world we see outside our windows. It’s a blessing to be able to call myself an artist.
I saw you posted on Instagram you recently debuted The Ecology documentary. What’s the idea behind the film?
The documentary is simply my life through the lens of my longtime video director/videographer Punit Dhesi. I chose to do it with him, because I don’t have a relationship with too many directors like I do with him. We’re actually from the same block, and he’s literally been there since day one.
We really just wanted to bring people in closer to my world. They’ve been seeing me in action, seeing what I do on the microphone. But they don’t know why I do it or the people who helped mold the person they see today.
When you came out the gate, you got a lot of exposure. Particularly from being on XXL’s Freshmen cover. Some people feel like that list can be a gift and a curse. Obviously, it gives you publicity, but at the same time it may put a sense of pressure on an artist to reach the level of success of other rappers on the list. Did you ever feel like being on the Freshmen cover put any pressure on you to reach a certain level of success?
I haven’t felt the pressure. I’ve never felt the pressure in that sense. I guess even when you graduate from the Freshman cover to being a sophomore, junior, or senior, you’ll always be put in the “freshman box.” Even in 2015, they’ll always say “2010 Freshman,” and I have no problem with that at all. I’m happy to be part of history with that cover.
Salute to all the guys out here doing their thing. Everyone has their time, and I think mine is now. It might not have been that other year, but that’s between me and God. I feel no pressure to be able to succeed like anyone else. I succeed on my own terms.
You end the album with the bonus track “Just Remember Now.” What are some of the moments in your life right now that you know you’ll definitely remember for the rest of your life?
February of 2015. This whole month, maybe this whole year. This is going to be a year to remember for sure. It already has been, but this month for sure. Giving birth to the new album will be a milestone in my life.
Stream Fashawn’s The Ecology below and purchase the album on iTunes.