Santiago Leyva, better known as Fresno, Calif.’s Fashawn, just released his first album on Nas‘ label, Mass Appeal Records, but he’s no rookie.
In 2009, Fashawn released his critically acclaimed Boy Meets World album, a project lauded for the Black-Mexican rapper’s lyrical introspection and flow. Years later, while working on a follow-up, Nas signed the 26-year-old rapper to his Mass Appeal Records imprint.
This week, Fashawn celebrates the release of The Ecology, an effort that’s gone through many revisions since 2009, and even more since Nas’ signed on as executive producer last year. The result is another stellar album from one of the West Coast’s most gifted writers and spitters.
“Something To Believe In” and “Out The Trunk” might be the initial attention grabbers on the album, given the star-studded guest slots. Nas and Aloe Blacc appear on the former, an inspirational cut that might have you trying to run a flight of steps Rocky style. Busta Rhymes, one of rap’s greatest hook providers, handles the chorus for “Out The Trunk,” a banger that might get a boxer ready for the next fight.
But Fashawn did not get to this point solely on guest appearances. He got here because of his own gift behind the mix. So when he’s alone on a track, Fash still shines with sharpness. Take “Man of the House” and “Mother” as the album’s greatest examples. Both songs deal with the rapper’s tough upbringing, one that saw him in foster care for a majority of his life until he was 18 years old. Fash discusses being fatherless and having goals about fatherhood. He deals with his mother’s addiction while praising her as a queen. There are layers of complexity revealed over hypnotic production. Elsewhere on the album, Fash continues to flex his pen, one that is able to capture the boastful nature of the emcee (“Letter F”) and the storytelling of a seasoned writer (“To Be Young.”)
While Exile handles a bulk of the beat, the album also gets some welcome assistance from talented beatsmiths like Alchemist and DJ Khalil. There’s range here that lies in Exile’s ability to adapt to various styles, from “Golden State of Mind” which features Dom Kennedy, to the upbeat “F.T.W.” Exile is able to transition from West Coast nostalgic bounce to uptempo futuristic beats with ease.
Overall, Fashawn has released an impressive project for 2015. Like Nas, who followed Illmatic up with It Was Written, Fashawn managed to chase his own celebrated debut with another solid effort, one that is different from its predecessor, but strong with its own flavor. This might just be an introduction to Fashawn for many people, and that is a good thing. He’s an emcee you should be familiar with and The Ecology proves he’s here to stay.
Stream Fashawn’s The Ecology on Spotify below.