For this installment of Sway’s Universe Spotlight Artist, we got to chat with Nas’ new Mass Appeal artist, Fashawn. The Cali native discussed what it was like being featured on the 2010 edition of XXL’s Freshman Cover. He also spoke about writing music at the age of 8 and working with artists like Nas and Kendrick Lamar. Read more about him before and follow Fashawn on Twitter @Fashawn.
1. Fashawn, tell me about growing up in Fresno, California?
Growing up in Fresno was good for me as a writer. It has the good, the bad, and the ugly like any other town in America. It’s a city that’s filled with so much diversity and so many different kinds of characters. I later used all of that and incorporated in my music.
I spent most of my days on the east side but, my childhood was spent moving from place to place. My mother moved from Los Angeles to Fresno, CA in the early 80’s and gave birth to me there. The thing I remember most about growing up in that city is moving around a lot and always having to be the new kid on the block.
2. Did that area influenced your music’s sound? Any particular artists who inspired you?
I was directly influenced by my area. Most of the pictures I paint in my music are about the places I grew up, the people who raised me, and how they left the impact on me that they did. All I heard blasting out of my older brothers scraper was artist like Mac Dre, Brotha Lynch, 2 Pac, C- Bo, etc. Those were the guys I idolized growing up. They weren’t from the same city, but they were from the same state that I was. I felt like they were speaking for me until I decided to find my own voice.
3. I read somewhere that you first started rapping at age 8 or 9? What inspired to you to pursue a career in music?
That’s statement is actually true. My Uncle Roy told me that I had a natural talent for it when I was a kid so I secretly stuck with it. He would buy me a boom box every Christmas and I would use them to record my own songs at home. One boom box was the beat while the other one played as my microphone. I still might have one of those cassettes lying around. I’m sure there are some gems on there.
It was an artist from my hometown in particular that showed me that a career in music was even possible. That guys name is Planet Asia. He gave me a lot of advice on how to enter the game and how to make a career out of what used to a be hobby of mine.
4. Before signing with Nas, you got recognition from being featuring on XXL’s 2010 Freshman cover. How did that co-sign affect your career?
It let the hip-hop world know that I was the complete package and a force to be reckoned with eventually. That look very much raised the awareness on who Fashawn is. Touring and booking concerts definitely became a bit easier after the XXL cover also. It was honor more than anything to be a part of history. I was in good company.
5. Before getting signed to Nas, your music and performances have been linked to many other influential rappers like J. Cole, Murs, and Kendrick Lamar. What has it been like creating music with/performing along side rappers who have influenced hip-hop culture at such a young age? Do you have goals to do the same?
I feel like I have the responsibility to carry on tradition just like the men you just named. I’m even more inspired to do so when I see my brothers out there winning. When I see Kendrick performing at The Grammy’s after just being on stage with me the week before, that’s motivation. I aspire to reach those same heights but, I also know it won’t come with out putting in the work first. I’ll have my moment in due time.
6. Recently, you signed with Nas, before I ask about how that happen, could you share with Sway’s Universe your favorite song from Nas and why?
My favorite Nas song is probably “Nas Is Like”. The beat, the rhymes, the flow, etc. I can go on for days about why that is one of the best rap records to ever be recorded. Dj Premiers production on there was second to none. The sample was something that had never been touched before and Nas blanked out on the rhyme tip. It’s hard for me to even pick one line to quote.
“I Gave You Power” is also one of many favorites. Dealing with an artist with a catalogue as big as his it’s hard to just pick one song though. For god sakes were talking about 20 years of amazing material. We can’t even say that about most musicians, no matter the genre. Nas is a Genius.
7. How did Nas get a hold of your music? What was your initial reaction when he expressed interest in your career?
One of Nas’s close associates played him some of my music this past year and he was very impressed. Just the fact that my idol was listening to my music was big enough for me. I never expected to get the phone call that I got last August though, not in a million years.
My manager Aren called me and told me Nas wanted to sign me. My jaw probably hit the floor at that moment. I was genuinely surprised. A few months later Nas flew me out to SXSW to finally meet in person and that’s when I knew it was real. We shook hands and the rest is history.
8. What have you two discussed in relations to the direction of your career? Is there a particular effort to focus on commercial recognition, etc?
Nas honestly just wants me to be me. For some reason he feels I’m ready to take charge now. The fact that he’s that confident in my ability says a lot.
9. What is the one thing you have learned from Nas since signing with him?
Thus far, I learned that everything I am trying to learn I already know. I say that with all due respect. Me and The Don have a kind of mutual understanding of each other. He’ll say “you know what you gotta do right?”. I’ll reply “You damn right” and that’s the end of the conversation.
10. Tell us about your new project, The Ecology?
This is the album about everything. It consist of love, hate, redemption, power, etc. Everything that this life consist of. Not just my life but life in general. It’s one part biographical and one part analytical.
I continue to tell the story of the kid on Boy Meets World who is now a man. This is what he’s been through after meeting the world and finding him self. At the same time you get his analysis on the world today as it is and how he would like to see it. These are just a few things that helped shape The Ecology as a whole.
11. How does this album differ from the others?
On this album, I’m making the kind of music I felt like I was born to make. Everything prior to this record was me discovering and exploring my own self. That’s why this album is much different from my previous work. On September 30th people won’t just see what I do they’ll get a chance to see why I do it. This is my most personal body of work to date.
12. Are there any particular tracks we should look out for and why?
Look out for the record with me and Nas. It’s a monster. We also have another special guest on that record that I’m not gonna name just yet. Other than that I’m eager for you all to hear the album in it’s entirety.
13. Are there any other things that we can expect from Fashawn under the Mass Appeal label?
Look for me all over the Mass Appeal Vol. 1 dropping on September 2nd. That’s going to be one of the dopest compilations to come out in years. It features me and all my new label mates from Boldy James To Bishop Nehru. After that get ready for The Ecology and the return of real rap.
Check out Fashawn and Nas’ performance below!