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Q&A with Fashawn

Straight Outta Fresno

Fashawn only recently reached drinking age, but he has already had a life marked by experiences that many people will never see. Born in Fresno, at a young age his father was incarcerated, while his mother dealt with substance-abuse issues. After spending time in a foster home, his uncle took him and pushed him in school. His interest in books grew and he began writing poetry, which led to rhyming and rapping. By eighteen he had released several mixtapes, building a buzz until his first album Boy Meets World dropped in October. Fashawn performs at Slimís on December 10th. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview.

SF Station (SFS): Youíve been rhyming since you were twelve did you always know you wanted to rap?

Fashawn (F): No. I always loved rapping ever since Snoop said ď1-2-3-4,Ē I was repeating lines, but I didnít start writing my own lyrics until I was twelve.

SFS: When you were young, what were your favorite books?

F: One of my favorite books was called ďRaising FencesĒ by Michael Datcher and I also loved ďArt of WarĒ by Sun Tzu. ďWhere the Wild Things AreĒ was the first book I picked up. I hear they got a movie out. Iím going to check it out.

SFS: I read once that RZA was a big fan of ďArt of War.Ē

F: I was told that most of the great leaders read this book at some point. People look to me as a leader, so I just felt like I needed to read that.

SFS: How do people look at you like you need to be a leader?

F: In my community everyone seems to listen or have an interest in what I have to say, what Iím wearing, or what Iím doing. They just follow what I do, I donít tell them to. I just try to lead by example.

SFS: How long has that been going on?

F: í06 is probably when it started. I started calling my town, which is Fresno, Grizzly City. Before I knew it, I saw ďGrizzly CityĒ tattooed on catsí stomachs and arms. That is where it started.

SFS: Were your parents supportive of you becoming a rapper?

F: Yeah, my mother especially because she was an artist as well. She used to sing background for other people, and things of that nature. I guess my uncle, who is my father figure, always told me to stay in school and get my education. He always wanted me to put rap to the back, so to speak. Since Boy Meets World dropped heís been excited.

SFS: You have said you are not a hipster rapper or a gangsta rapper, how so?

F: I guess people would categorize hipster rap just by how rappers look ó skinny jeans and fashion rap. I was never that. In my music I never put the emphasis on clothes. I wonít talk about my supers or my skinnies; thatís how I saw myself as not being a hipster.

As far as gangsta music, I come from the West Coast and we created that whole feel. I donít think I bring that same nostalgia as Ice T or Ice Cube. I donít think my music really provokes the kind of energy that makes people want to grab AKís and rally through the streets. I donít think my music is gangsta in that sense.

SFS: Whatís the Fresno scene like today?

F: The scene is pretty good. We have graffiti crews and b-boy crews, but itís not like how it was in í99. I can say that because Iíve been here, I witnessed it. Itís not the same kind of energy. Just seeing the whole evolution of rap a lot of things have changed.

SFS: What was it like in í99?

F: We would always have events like this thing called, Urban Combat. B-boys would come, and everybody involved in the hip-hop community in central California would go to these events ó Urban Combat, Street Rock, Hip Hop in the Park. Itís not like that anymore. I remember walking the streets, coming home from the school, people would just bomb the walls on liquor stores and it would be okay. Now I ride by the same walls, and itís just painted over blank, the flavor is not there anymore.

SFS: Thatís surprising because I feel like graffiti has more of a mainstream appeal these days.

F: Maybe thatís why they painted over it.

SFS: Zion I has a song called the ďThe Bay,Ē that describes other places taking Bay Area slang, and the Bay never getting the credit. Do you feel thatís been true for Fresno?

F: No, I wouldnít say that. I donít think people really steal from Fresno because a lot of people donít even know that we exist. I donít think we have blown up in the mainstream for people start biting us.

SFS: Do you ever feel caught in between the NorCal and SoCal mix?

F: Yeah, Iím right in the middle. Iíve seen both of those movements. The Bay Area movement swept through my neighborhood, and Iíve seen LA cats sweep through.

SFS: Where do you fit?

F: I think I fit right where Iím at.

SFS: Why did you choose to stick with Exile to produce the entire album?

F: Good question. I stuck with Exile because heís like Martin Scorsese. His music really reflected my life. Even if you take all the lyrics off, and played just the production, it feels like riding through Fresno, or living in Echo Park or Venice. Itís the same feelings that reflect my life. I donít think anybody else could have done that, just because of the chemistry I had with Exile.

SFS: In a 2007 interview, you were asked where you want to be in two years, and you responded, ďI want to be on my hustle.Ē You seem to be sticking to it, so where do you want be in two years from now?

F: I want to be in a new house. I want to be still making music. I just want to be alive.

SFS: Letís dream; whereís this house going to be?

F: This house would be in San Francisco. I love San Francisco. It would be close to Haight Street but not specifically on Haight Street. Making babies!

Fashawn performs at Slimís on December 10th. Tickets are $18. Doors open at 8pm and the show starts 9pm.