Minutes before his album release party, we spoke to Fashawn for a recent feature with JENESIS Magazine. The rapper was warm, collected, and balanced his humility with a quiet confidence– traits that are hard to fit in one piece. We thought we’d let him spit for himself, so here’s the interview in its entirety.
When so many artists are shunning streaming music services, what made you want to release your album early, on Spotify?
I love Spotify. I mean, I’m a fan, I listen to Spotify every day. Me and my team decided to just put it all out there.
And how did The Ecology come together?
I take the time off as necessary, to be able to come back and give the audience something of substance. I don’t try to release music every day to try to stay relevant. I’m not out there doing interviews and being a rapper, peddling, whatever you want to call it. I’m just a full-fledged father. That’s the main thing in my life, I’ve been going to work, doing my music. That’s how I stay sane with everything I’ve got going on.
How old is your daughter now?
She is 5 going on 21.
Kids seem smarter now, they grow up a lot faster than they did in our generation. Now she actually has her own perspective on life. Our conversations are really intense sometimes. They’re a lot more intense than conversations I have with fellow 26 year old men. It’s just a pleasure, watching her mind evolve. Watching her personality come alive. It’s an inspiration.
We were watching the news, and she didn’t understand two guys or two girls getting married. She was really interrogative about the whole thing. Why are they two men, why are they kissing, is this ok? The fact that she’s thinking enough to ask me these questions, that’s the most intense thing.
You talk a lot about your hometown on this album. What do you think makes Fresno special?
What makes Fresno special for me, is it’s where I come to escape the industry. The paparazzi, stuff like that. I come here to get my head clear. In the same way, it kind of mirrors the arrogance of the industry. To me, that’s what makes it stand out. In the midst of two giants, like the Oakland sound and the L.A. sound, I think the Fresno sound is similar to a Nashville vibe. It’s really a hybrid of the Black Panther mentality of Oakland in the 70’s and the gang bang mentality of Los Angeles in the 90’s. The whole past is the present.
I hear a lot of Illmatic on this album. Can you tell me about your relationship with Nas, and how it’s changed as you’ve developed music together?
My relationship with Nas, I would compare it to—imagine if El Chapo and Pablo Escobar got to sit down and talk about the game, and where they sit in the game. That’s what me and Nas are. I get to talk to Esco, man, and we get to converse about hip-hop as a whole, what it is to grow up a black man in America, our take on spirituality and what religion is. I don’t get that kind of vibe from a lot of people, we just hit it off like that. I’m always asking him old stories, man, where were you when you wrote this song? What was it like? It’s empowering. He’s a mentor, he’s a big brother to me now. It’s a pleasure to be in his presence. I’m gonna continue the tradition, for sure.
Do you treat your tour openers like Nas treats you, as students of the game?
I wanted to take artists that reminded me of me, in the earliest stages of my career. I kinda needed that push. And Earthgang, with those ballads, I was down as soon as I heard them. That’s what pushed me to make that decision.
You talk about your hunger on “The Letter F.” When did you first find that hunger, and realize it was not something to ignore?
I always felt a need to create, a need to express something even if I didn’t know what I was expressing. This feeling in my stomach, the food was something else. My catalog is pretty extensive now, most of the times I’ve ever doubted myself, I’ve been trying to outdo myself. Finding food for my spirit is a progressive thing, I think.
And how do you stay true to yourself, and your daughter, with all this attention?
My definition of fame has kind of evolved over the years. I used to think fame was just being on a rhythm and being popular, stuff like that. Now, I understand that fame is just a big collection of standings. I know that I’m nothing without my fans. I know that I’m still an artist, even without an audience. But I know that the fans make you a celebrity. They cement your legacy.
Is there a mantra you repeat when you have doubts?
Remember why you got in this, remember why you spent all them nights sleeping on couches, to have enough money to support your passion. I always try to rewind back to those moments. Just appreciate it for what it is.
What are the three things for indie artists to keep in mind on tour?
1) Don’t be afraid of new fans, don’t be afraid of people who just heard of you that night. I’m thinking about, how can I impress someone who never heard my cd before?
2) You have to learn the town before you interact. Deal with the people that actually live there. When I go to a town, I really want to take in the historical places. After that, I get to play with my concert, just for that town. They’re not gonna get the same show every night.
3) You can’t prepare for tours, it’s the most unpredictable thing ever.
Catch Fashawn at Club Cafe, March 14th.