Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fashawn - The Ecology Review

Its been a long time coming but Fashawn, creator of the immediately seminal underground debut Boy Meets World, has finally graced us with a follow-up after an infinite amount of delays, broken promises, and lackluster mixtapes, EP's, and collaboration albums. And yet, with all those fleeting feelings of trust we can't help but love Fashawn, not just for what he's given us, but knowing that he's still pursuing the rap game following the birth of his daughter not a mere month before his debut that prolonged his potential exposure. Six years may have passed but his second album, The Ecology, feels more like a trip down memory lane to those around to experience his come-up. Through the uplifting lyrics surrounding the ghettos and brightly-tinged production spearheaded by cohort Exile, The Ecology feels like a spiritual successor to Fashawn's debut, a remark that's good or bad depending on how you view things. But rather than looking at his streets of Fresno through the eyes of his youthful self he's reflecting on it in the present day, eclipsing the maturation one must endure to succeed in the harshest of conditions. The Ecology may rely on tried and true concepts to ensure its success without taking many risks, but in the end Fashawn's earnest demeanor and skills as an emcee, paired with that sunny Cali sound, are just too gratifying to fail.

It's often said that an artist's first record takes a lifetime to make, while their second takes a handful of years. Boy Meets World, a tender record peering through the faded memories of a boy witnessing life in the hood, could only be made as a debut album. Fashawn's 2009 release, at the age of 21, was the perfect metamorphosis for the emcee to reflect on his childhood while soon to undergo the adult life, two true meanings of a boy meets world. So how do you follow that up? In the literal sense you don't, you just come back with stronger skills and another set of killer tracks. 'Guess Who's Back' kicks things off as a formal apology to his fans, while admitting his inability to take his music as anything less than art. Throughout The Ecology listeners are taken through a series of Fashawn's philosophical beliefs centered around positivity, songs like 'Higher' and 'Something To Believe In' preach for a wider lens to intake the surrounding world whilst improving your own. Fashawn's style, lyrically-conscious with splashes of storytelling, rival that of J.Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive, another album content with smashing Hip-Hop's violent mindset, looking down on those who commit crimes rather than glorifying them. 

The bubbles cascading across the cover of Boy Meets World as the yellow hue shone in the background reflected the production beautifully, as light chord progressions, soft piano melodies, antique soul samples, and hollowed drum loops echoed in nearly every corner of the album. What The Ecology changes is minimal, profiting off the success of "if it's not broken, don't fix it." Nine of the thirteen beats are constructed by Exile, the sole sound provider off the debut, with the other producers filling in around his characteristically radiant sound elegantly. Plenty of beats here shine in their ability to replicate that sunny C.A. sound, only a few coming up short. 'To Be Young' features a jittery piano melody, hand claps, and subtle female vocals to create a resoundingly dense atmosphere, while 'Out The Trunk' reincarnates classic 90's boom-bap thanks in large part to an essential Busta Rhymes sample. These are just two examples forming the cohesion that glues The Ecology together, with many tracks sporting leading pianos that stylishly parade around Fashawn's street tales. However not all flourish, with Alchemist's 'Letter F' rehashing one of the most overused drum loops known to Hip-Hop (See: Honeymoon Dippers' 'Impeach The President'). A couple forgettable beats here and there muddle their presence but otherwise Exile's sound shines through as a beacon of hope.

If you were being hyper-critical of The Ecology, nothing really sets it apart from the competition. Fashawn rarely diverts from his emblematic flow, and uses a lot of overused rhymes (Doctors/Patience, Dollars/Sense, Reverend/Run DMC, the entire concept of 'Higher') but, just like with J.Cole and Blu, he's charismatically likable. What all these emcees have in common though is a supreme knack for storytelling, from J.Cole's 'Tale Of Two Citiez,' to Blu's 'Cold Hearted,' to Fashawn's 'Man Of The House.' The latter stands as the tallest skyscraper off The Ecology, nearing the pinnacles set by 'Samsonite Man' and 'When She Calls' off Boy Meets World. Its an eye-opening look at maturation through the ghetto where one can be proud to be a father, an action his own father failed to take. The slowly-evolving beat reeks of blissfulness in an age of aggression. Better yet, nothing here feels forced or exaggerated, just purely emotive. Unfortunately though this spark only appears on a handful of tracks, 'To Be Young' another clear calling card. While the content is there, and told from a confident perspective, many of the topics at hand are worn out cliches in Hip-Hop, a glaring negative directed towards 'Confess,' a needlessly boasting track about Fash's dexterity with the ladies.

For what its not, The Ecology makes up with in heart, pride, and sentiment. No, it doesn't have as many unforgettable tracks as its predecessor, but with such imagination shoes to fill that task would have been incrementally difficult. The style that Fashawn has honed in on neglects experimentation in place of a bonafide mastery of a niche craft. From the enticing lyrics of optimism in the hood, to his parsed, cracked voice, to the brisk Exile beats posing as tattered visions of nostalgic memories, few can compete with Fashawn and his own lane. Years down the road people will hear songs composed of these sound structures and say "this sounds like a Fash track," it's that nuanced, that refined. With a few slight hiccups, down to the features that don't leave a lasting impact besides Nas, which is largely itself due to his name, The Ecology is the spiritual successor that Boy Meets World deserved. Few believed the Fresno rapper could outdo himself, but many will leave surprised with what he's left on the table. As the last notes fade out on 'F.T.W.' with Fashawn's contradicting rebellious yet grateful message being all that remains, it's clear the emcee respects his life and denounces those who don't, a visage of the rapper showcasing his honest heart for all us to see. 

No comments:

Post a Comment