Friday, August 18, 2017

Fashawn - Manna Review

In retrospect, Fashawn's innocent meets cutthroat biography Boy Meets World wasn't truly his to begin with. In the late 2000's, when Hip-Hop was desperately waiting to be reignited (thanks, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) Exile was on a self-effacing mission to prove his preeminence. A trove of producer seats on various albums showcased his soul-tastic Boom Bap, but none greater than the two he solo produced in Blu's Below The Heavens and Fashawn's Boy Meets World, two inseparable albums that acted as big brother and little brother arming themselves for the hate, violence, and discrimination they'd soon face. Like some mournful contract to magnify the significance of the two albums, both Blu and Fashawn's careers never exceeded that of their debuts. The former struggling mentally, endlessly putting out projects in hopes of a brighter future, the latter succumbing to a natal lifestyle that put his rapping on hiatus. Six years later Fashawn returned with The Ecology, and disappointment was met even though promise had arrived. The times hadn't changed as much as Fashawn merely matured. His virginal debut a time capsule that couldn't be refurbished. Today, he's a wise West Coast channeler, intercepting the temperament of those around him in relation to the problems out of their control.

The nine-track EP, that bleeds over the thirty-minute mark, is entitled Manna, a word handed down from the Bible to mean an unexpected or gratuitous benefit. For Fashawn and his faithful followers, Manna is a gift, one that embraces the positives of life during times of distress. Through its duration, Manna reflects on political turmoil, embraces shifty nostalgia, celebrates for those who can't, and brags in ways only a West Coast savant knows how. More than any album in recent memory, maybe apart from Domo Genesis' Red Corolla or Blu's Crenshaw Jezebel, Manna evokes the West Coast heritage innately, as Fashawn clutches the style, accentuates the slang, all while representing for the nation as a gatekeeper. One minute he's imploring black youth to memorize their heroes on 'Proud,' the next he's shaking up sexy sultanas alongside Snoop Dogg on 'Pardon My G.' Sticking to a single theme has never been the West Coast way. This, unfortunately, lessens the impact of the emotionally-charged tracks like 'Proud' or 'Mother Amerikkka,' the latter of which closes Manna out with a powerful protest. This track, originally released over a year ago, finds new poignancy with the chaos erupting in Charlottesville, Virginia. A wise decision to re-release it.

Those two tracks, along with 'Clouds Above,' represent the best of Manna's material. Much of this can be attributed to the production, as 'Mother Amerikkka' flips Son Lux's 'Lost It To Trying' effectively, 'Proud' travels to the Big Band Swing era with some rowdy horns, and 'Clouds Above' chops some vocals to heighten the reflection. 'Crack Amerikkka's' desolate chains and palpitating drums personifies a slave gang, even though the track's success diminishes when Fashawn sings. That's not the only occurrence of that, as the same happens with 'Celebration,' a weak spot following 'Pardon My G's' weak spot because of some out-of-tune singing and amateur synth work. However, out of all the tracks, it's ironically 'Fashawn' that fails to impress the most. At least in the aforementioned cases, some bounce and sway kept the party alive, but on 'Fashawn' bland bars, a sterile beat, and regurgitated ideas (See: 'Letter F') prevent the track from being anything above filler. Manna's inconsistencies are expected, this is just a West Coast-loving EP after all, but that doesn't negate the looming issues overall. Truth be told, Manna's exactly the project Fashawn set out to create, it's just not one aimed at critic appreciation. He's for the streets, and always will be.

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