(AllHipHop Features) It’s amazing how much can happen in a person’s life in one year. Just ask West Coast emcee Fashawn. Over the last 365 days, the 25-year-old freestyled on stage with Kendrick Lamar in the Czech Republic, performed his song “Champion” as boxer Timothy Bradley walked to the ring for his rematch against Manny Pacquiao, and connected with his musical idol for a new record deal.
After a lot of speculation it was about to happen, last week Fashawn officially announced his signing to Nas’ Mass Appeal imprint. The new arrangement coincides with Fash putting the finishing touches on his second solo album The Ecology due out on September 30.
Fashawn’s latest studio project comes five years after his debut LP Boy Meets World (produced entirely by Exile), and the 2010 XXL Freshmen Class member feels it’s the perfect time to give the world the multi-themed perspectives presented on his sophomore effort. With Exile returning to quarterback the production and Nas endorsing the talent, The Ecology is sure to become a Hip Hop highlight of 2014’s third quarter.
Calling in from Paris, Fashawn spoke with AllHipHop.com the day after the Fresno, California native shared a stage with Nas in Cologne, Germany. Fash discussed his forthcoming album, signing with Esco, getting Aloe Blacc to display his rapping skills, and more.
How did the Mass Appeal deal come together?
Nas was interested in starting his own dynasty, ushering in new talent to the game. He’s doing it with Mass Appeal, and he hand-picked me out of a whole bunch of emcees out there. I’m really honored to a part of Mass Appeal alongside Escobar.
He really wanted to sign me, so he flew me to Texas, we shook hands, and we spoke. I wound up performing on stage with him. The rest is history.
Was that at SXSW?
You’re a really big Nas fan. What was that moment like for you when he introduced you at SXSW?
That moment was totally surreal. I’ve never had someone I idolized that much show me that much love and respect and tell me that they admired my work. It was mind-blowing. And to be on stage with him performing records that I literally grew up to was a milestone in my career.
You’re getting set to release your next album. It’s been a while since you dropped a solo studio album. Did the new deal with Mass Appeal spur that on knowing you’re in situation where you have support from somebody that you really look up to?
Honestly, I wanted a good home for this album. I’d been working on this album for maybe a year or two, but it’s been a thought in the back of my head ever since Boy Meets World.
There’s no better brand in rap to me than Nas. That was a no-brainer. Of course, if I’m going to put out my sophomore album, I don’t know anybody else that I’d rather put it out with and have on that album than Nas.
I’m glad we waited. I’m glad I took my time with it, because if it had come out prematurely, I don’t know if it would be what it is now. I’m happy I took my time.
You mentioned Nas is going to be on the album. Can you describe what that track sounds like or its theme?
What I can say about that record is that it’s probably the best thing since pants with pockets. That’s the only way I can describe that record.
What’s the meaning behind the title of the album?
The Ecology - it’s the study of our behavior based on the environments that we live in. But it’s more than just that to me. It’s evolved into something else. It’s just about life. It’s about love, hate, positivity, negativity, ignorance, wisdom, intelligence, prosperity. It’s about everything to me, because that’s what this album consists of.
It’s hard to tell you what this album is about, because it’s truly the album about everything. I don’t just rap about four things. I’m not that kind of emcee. The album is very broad on concept, and the production consists of producers that I can’t name yet.
You worked with Exile again for this project. Why did you decide to let him handle on the bulk of the production?
I definitely decided to let him oversee the whole project. The sound that we invented on our first album, I didn’t want to lose the integrity of that, so I’m having Exile oversee the whole project. All the beats coming in, that’s not from Exile, definitely got the okay from Exile. They definitely fit the mold of this album.
I gave that [job] to Exile for the follow-up to our album. Everything I dropped in between then and now wasn’t the follow-up to Boy Meets World. That was just me getting my bars off, but this is my sophomore album. Of course, Exile is all over that thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just to be clear, there are other producers that have contributed tracks. Exile’s just kind of serving like an executive producer?
Yeah, let’s be clear. I got some fire from a lot of prestigious, incredible producers on this album. A lot of people you guys are going to be familiar with, but I’m not going to drop those dimes yet.
What about features? You said Nas is on there. Anyone else that you can talk about now?
I really didn’t want too many features. I had a lot to say on this album, so I kept it short. I just wanted the people that I felt fit the mold of this album, that are cut from that kind of cloth.
So far, I got Aloe Blacc on there who’s one of my favorite artists out right now. And we’re from the same crew, so that’s not too foreign for me. And my brother Nas. Those are two of the most influential people to me, so those are the guys I have on the album.
I tapped one of my West Coast brethren on the shoulder for a verse, and maybe when I get back to the States I’ll snatch that from him. We’ll see what happens with that. I can’t confirm that yet.
Aloe Blacc blew up this year, and a lot of his new fans probably don’t know he has such a strong Hip Hop background. They just know him for his radio singles.
That’s why I got him actually rapping on my album. So if you’re not familiar with Aloe Blacc as an emcee, you’ll get to hear him get his rhymes off on The Ecology. He’s singing on there as well, but I’m probably one of the only guys who can get Aloe Blacc to rap.
You’re also going to be featured on the Mass Appeal compilation. Boldy James said you did a song together, along with Chuck Inglish, called “Off White.”
Yeah man, that record right there is a monster. Chuck Inglish’s production on that is silly, ignorant. I mean that in the most respectful way possible.
Boldy came to L.A., and we got in the studio, burned some weed, and did our thing. We had some cameras there and caught the whole thing on tape. Me and Boldy just let off on that song.
I spoke to the Don last night, and I think he’s going to drop a verse on that as well. The Mass Appeal Compilation drops September 2nd. It’s going to be an incredible day. Trust me.
Do you have any other tracks on the compilation besides the one with Boldy?
Yeah, I contributed a few songs. I’ll probably be surprised to see what makes it, because I contributed a nice handful of songs. Can’t wait for y’all to see what makes the cut, but we’re still recording for that.
Going back to your relationship with Nas. Did the two of you ever have a conversation about your Ode To Illmatic mixtape?
We did last night out there in Cologne. I told him I was scared to put it out. He told me, “Bruh, you’re good. You did that justice.” He wasn’t even mad about it, and that surprised me. It’s so rare to get a genius to acknowledge your talent. It’s mind-blowing.
I think the conversation we had last night was the real beginning of our relationship. We got to shake hands in Austin [at SXSW], but that was the first time we’d ever met. I was still star struck at that moment, but last night I got to talk Nas - the guy I’ve been listening to all these years. I got to speak with him. It was ill. It was “illmatic.”
You’re out in Europe right now. Can we expect you to tour off The Ecology album?
Absolutely, I’m a "Samsonite Man." I’ll probably be coming through your town really soon. Right now, I’m just soaking in this inspiration out here in Paris. I’m not even worried about touring. I’m just trying to make sure this album is amazing and make sure I don’t disappoint anyone on September 30th.
2014 has been a big year for you so far. You signed your deal with Mass Appeal. You have your sophomore album on the way. At this point, how do you feel about where you are in your career?
I can’t believe it. I never would have predicted I’d be here. I definitely worked hard at it and earned my stay in Hip Hop.
I never imagined I’d be performing at the MGM Grand on Pay-Per-View, signing with Nas, or just being where I’m at right now - looking out of a window in France and talking to people in America about my life, about what I do.
That’s where I’m at with my career. That’s where I’m at with my life. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Fashawn’s The Ecology is scheduled for released on September 30.
Mass Appeal Compilation Vol. 1 is scheduled for release on September 2.