“We are hip-hop, we preserve it, we protect it and we are the ones who are doing it, and we are not criminals. In fact, we are scholars, we are philosophers, we are priests, we are ministers, we are activists…” –Krs-One
Fashawn is an artist KRS-One would say is providing his audience with what he calls: edutainment. I remember first listening to Fashawn through Boy Meets World, and replaying the track, “Our Way” on the 405 N Freeway I rolled on daily. I also remember thinking to myself, Fashawn’s gritty flow — along with the unique rasp in his voice, complimented what he was spitting about, and everything about it was just so authentic. Yeah, original.
Since the origin of hip-hop, there’s been something notable and earnest about a rapper fighting to articulate their experiences of battling through life; Fashawn is an artist who is helping to anchor hip-hops inner soul. On each of his body of works, Fashawn emphasizes this reoccurring theme to ‘think like a king.’ He uses samples that embody that; like in Boy Meets World’s “Intro“, he sampled KRS-One’s “Mortal Thought“, “you never will conquer the champion”. With Fashawn’s mental endurance, he knows what he can advise to lift you up, but will also utilize that same mentality to flow about tragic realities through his perspective. Fashawn spits street knowledge beautifully, and you can continue to hear it throughout his latest project, Champagne and Styrofoam Cups. To top it off, the production on this mixtape is stellar, but I already expected that from Fashawn’s circle of influence.
“This ain’t a rap, it’s a biography…”
Listen to this line, because that’s what Fashawn gives you. Throughout Champagne & Styrofoam Cups, Fashawn showcases his mood swings by boasting about his ‘glamorous life’ in songs like “Diamonds and Girls” and “Worldwide”, and then flipping it on “In Love With A Lie”, “Living To Die”, and “Just A Man” to express how fed up he can get sacrificing time from his private life for his public one. When Fashawn spits, “my life is a movie”, things get moody.. if his fans can understand that first, they can blast this mixtape, and let it all sit in how he intends it to.
“Now it’s yellow tape, ambulances/ Bullet holes and no news cameras/ The question is when will it stop?/ Defend your own, can’t depend on the cops/ May the Lord strike me if that ain’t true, true/ Fact remains that they are game too/ So forever at war/ please, somebody tell us what for?/
On his previous mixtape, “Grizzly City 3”, Fashawn put out a song called “California Streets”, that rides along with the lines of the lines above, forewarning the troubles a color can get you in. On “Color Blind”, he spits lines like “even a blood feel blue inside…” and “we gotta stop killing each other, man…”. Fashawn is an artist whose childhood was around the time street life turned harsher, especially in California. Since the ‘90’s once Proposition 21 was passed, California grew to be the biggest prison population in the nation. Proposition 21 allowed prosecutors to try juveniles as adults and allowed police to wire-tap “suspected” gang members. The racial disparities in the criminal justice system became the new civil rights issues of the millennium. Black and Latino youth were filling up California prisons with record numbers. This type of reality is still going on and it brings out the rise of the most robust socialists in the hip-hop movement. In essence, the harsh sentencing in California effects young artists like Fashawn, who in turn, just started using the pen to cope through the injustice that was going on around familiar neighborhoods. Fashawn articulates a vision of his world that is insightful, at times optimistic, and at times critical of the circumstances that restrict ability for targeted youth to impact the world. Sometimes, it’s ok to fantasize about being Color Blind.
“In Love With A Lie”
“For the love of the public got me stuck in this climate/ Yeah, wondering why I’m even fucking with rhyming/ Since a youngin’ all the struggle with timing/ All I need some good weed, some red wine /Yeah, instead of all of these dead lines /Anticipation, fancy and waiting /Knowing nothing of your man’s situation /I travel light but the load’s heavy enough”
He doubts that his fans really know what he’s going through “fans sittin’ waitin’ knowin’ nothing of your man’s situation…” While they relate to similar experiences he spits about, they might not understand his struggle to find worth in living a glamorous lifestyle when he is sacrificing so much heart for it. Yeah, he doesn’t need much, but much needs him. Sometimes, it’s hard not to doubt if much is really worth it. He goes on with contemplating on who is really worth it on “Heard It All Before”, where he spits,
“I don’t know what to believe in/ constantly chasing and dreaming/ Day to day and the reason/ to get this paper I’m eager/ Miseducated by teachers/ who said my destiny was death or incarceration/ But damn, didn’t I make it/ got no congratulations /Wondering who I can put my faith in/ Thinking about all this time that I’m wasting/”
Really, where’s more of the loyalty, besides hiding under BS and on top of self-gain on the shelf? Hmm.
“Diamonds and Girls”
“Sitting comfy on the money/ Done with paper chasing/ Second to none, and nothing’s adjacent/ Could probably see us from space we did it up in Vegas/ Picture me rolling, in a pair of Penny Loafers/ European chauffeur/ I’m waxed like shit is cautious/ Uh, that’s how it had to be, no/ That’s how it gotta be/”
One of my favorite songs from the mixtape is “Diamonds and Girls”. After sinking in his songs of sacrifices, pain, and doubt, it feels good to hear Fashawn brag about the good things that come his way as a talented artist. In the end, the struggle is only beautiful when you overcome it and show it off.