July 16, 2010

Reader Review: Fashawn - Boy Meets World (October 22, 2009)

(Today's Reader Review features FLX tackling rookie rapper Fashawn's debut, Boy Meets World. This is another one of those albums I never got around to listening to, mainly because I wasn't impressed with Fash's cameo on The Alchemist's Chemical Warfare album. But FLX may have convinced me to give him another shot. Enjoy!)

Let me get right to it: Fashawn is the future. He is a young, aspiring MC from Fresno, CA who, I admit, was a virtual unknown to me prior to listening to his debut album, Boy Meets World. Sure, he released some interesting mixtapes before dropping his proper debut, including one produced by The Alchemist, but I still had no idea who he was. It seems that, while I was sleeping on him, Fashawn was named Rookie of the Year on some other hip hop sites, participated in some well-received tours, and garnered some other accolades, as well.

I caught up on his projects after listening to Boy Meets World, but even if I had memorized every single song he ever did prior, I never would have guessed that Fashawn could come up with this. I realized that I had completely neglected some cameos he made on albums that I had actually listened to before Boy Meets World. What I'm saying is that there is a pretty good chance that you two may have heard of Fashawn already, and you probably knew much more about him on Boy Meets World's release date than I did back then.

Shame on me, I guess.

Luckily, there were others who recognized his talent much earlier than I did. Dilated Peoples member Evidence used to be Fashawn's mentor and biggest supporter; Planet Asia is, well, cordial with him; and in Exile, he managed to score a well-known and very talented producer, and I say this even though I'm not the biggest fan of his stuff. I've always held Exile's extremely creative work in very high regard, but before the release of Boy Meets World, I never quite dug it. Crazy, I know, but let me finish: even though I think that Emanon (a duo made up of Exile and Aloe Blacc) is pretty good, and even though I realize that Blu & Exile's Below The Heavens is a great album, and even though I think Exile's instrumental album Radio is a work of art, none of it ever clicked with me. (Sometimes the feelings that music can conjure up cannot be classified as anything remotely logical.)

But that all changed with Boy Meets World.

You can't talk about this project without mentioning its fascinating parallels with Illmatic, from the boy on the album cover, to the vivid storytelling, to the creativity with the individual songs (more on that during the actual review). Thats not to say that Fashawn bites Nas or that Boy Meets World is as good as Illmatic, though; it's just that you feel the warmth of deja vu because it reminds you of that other great debut album from fifteen years ago. Fash probably felt the same way; since the release of Boy Meets World, he's unleashed a mixtape, Ode to Illmatic, a tribute to the original in remake form that you can download for free if you want to.

But let's focus on his debut for now.

Hold your sighs: there is only a very short introduction before a quick one-verse wonder that properly introduces both main attractions: a rapper that tells a vivid story on how he got to this point, and a beatsmith who brings a banging, playful beat for Fash to rip. Nice!

Another banger; these guys certainly don't give the audience much of a chance to breathe. Fashy attacks the bouncy beat from, like, fifty-eight different angles, and Ex has a fun time throwing the sound bites that form the melody toward the general direction of his host. Also includes a nice Talib Kweli sample for a chorus.

Okay, here's where the Illmatic parallels become impossible to deny. Fash even uses the phrase "world is yours" multiple times, and there is a saxophone solo at the end! However, this song is much more unique than what I just described, with the soulful chorus, a spoken word poem at the end that doesn't suck (I know, right?), and a snappy beat to work with. Fantastic!

It's jazzy, sure, but a bit too unspectacular when compared to the rest of the disc. Fashawn does his best to keep you interested, but the song is so boring that there's no way you can't skip it.

Whoa! Exile brings an eye-popping, incredibly fresh and rhythmically unusual beat, and Fash tells stories from his hard childhood, all while still managing to deliver a positive message to the youth. The hook, sung in angel tongues, is just the icing on a delicious cake. Yummy!

This reminded me of the Marvin Gaye song of the (sort of) same name. (FLX originally began this paragraph with the phrase “Laugh if you wanna”, and I couldn't understand why anybody would make fun of someone's appreciation of Marvin Gaye, so I cut it out.) Exile delivers a beat that is great on at least twelve different levels, and Shawn spits his heart out over it. Another winner, and this track is as short and sweet as they come.

How the fuck does Exile manage to make something this slow and sparse and turn it into such a banging-ass motherfucker of a beat? Shawn and guest star (and mentor, in case you forgot) Evidence waste no time shining on this song like freshly polished chrome. Or, more appropriately, chrome accessories on an Abrams tank.

8. WHY
Fash searches his soul with a little help from the vocal sample (which repeats the song's title) and a fantastic, melancholy beat. Loving it! My only complaint: the skit at the end is completely unnecessary and distracting. “Why” could have worked so much better if Fashawn had simply allowed it to lead directly into the next track.

Fash is joined on this lickworthy track (not sure what “lickworthy” means, but it made me laugh) by the other west coast rapper Exile worked with on his respective debut. The three of them have a natural chemistry, and they even manage to craft something rare in rap music: a really good hook! This was the first track I heard from Boy Meets World, and it is still the best, despite some fierce competition. It is great traveling music, as well, so the title is fitting.

A very calm track (despite the heavily-chopped horn sample), but very strong nonetheless, making for beautiful headphone music. Fash gives listeners his two cents about religion, a topic I tend to avoid in conversation, but this track is too good and charming to neglect.

The most West Coast-sounding track on here by far; it almost sounds like some vintage G-Funk. Fash and his guests tell some vibrant tales about their home state and manage to make the Golden State sound like quite a dangerous place, as this feel-good beat sounds inexplicably menacing. (Because most West Coast hip hop doesn't sound menacing?)

After some begging in the interlude prior to this track, Fash lets Exile provide some vocal support. Unfortunately, this song isn't any good, so you won't care that much. It'll make you wish the 'skip' button on your stereo was larger. And red. With a kill switch. But, at least worrying about that will prevent you from actually listening to this.

This is much better, but I'm still not feeling it very much. Fashawn gets dissed by some J.Lo-knockoff when he tries to get with her. Good luck, amigo: I skipped the track already, so I will never hear the end of the story. Whoops!

This is much more my style. I won't even mention what the story is about, as I don't want to spoil it. All I'll say is that it gives “Samsonite Man” a run for its money, it's that good. Exile provides another otherworldly beat (one which was initially earmarked for Jay Electronica, and would have fit him wonderfully as well). I could listen to this on a loop all day long.

Okay, yet another rap album has a final song with a hidden bonus track tacked on, or at least that's what I thought, until eight minutes in, when I realized, holy fucking shit, this track is truly ten minutes long. This was a very good way to end a very good album, although I initially didn't care for it all that much. It grew on me with each subsequent listen.

There is a deluxe version of Boy Meets World that contains two extra tracks worked into the actual sequencing and a bonus track, so while we're at it, let's dissect those, as well.

Big homey Asia finally makes an appearance, as he couldn't make the original cut because he was stuck in traffic or something. Unfortunately, he would have done Fashawn a bigger favor had he stayed at least one hundred feet away from this supposedly-hard-hitting-but-much-too-busy-for-its-own-good instrumental that has one of the most horrible excuses for a melody that I have ever heard. Damn Ex, what the fuck were you smoking that day? Agent Orange?

This Exile gem, on the other hand, is incredibly catchy and won't leave your mind until it retreats for the woods on its own accord, in order to to find a comfy spot to hibernate for the changing seasons. Hold your applause, though: Fash and his guest Bravo (who probably only has name brand recognition around his mother) waste it on an overly violent tale of retaliation. Bravo truly ruins the track, as he sounds amateurish compared to...well, actual amateurs, I suppose.

Hmm. This bonus song wasn't bad (save for the unnerving hook), but it doesn't add much flavor to the original album. Which is kind of the arching theme for all three of these new tracks on the deluxe edition, to be honest. The first version of Boy Meets World is much more focused and cohesive without these late additions.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Holy guacamole, Boy Meets World is Megan Fox tits! This is yet another example that proves rap music works best when an artist works exclusively with one producer for an entire album, as it leaves the listener feeling much more satisfied with the overall listening experience. It helps that Fashawn and Exile are two incredibly talented and creative people, of course. This is actually as much Exile's show as it is Fashawn's, as he almost consistently brings fantastic beats to the table; he has even challenged me to try harder with my own beats because you can hear the creativity and the urge to make something special in Exile's work and I admire that (so thanks for that inspiration, homey!). Fashawn himself shows lots of potential. He isn't the best rapper ever, especially in regard to his technique and versatility, but for a debut, Boy Meets World is very promising. Hopefully he will still have something to say after he has used up his experiences and stories from his childhood days for this album; I remain cautiously optimistic. Besides, Fashawn has mentioned that he and Exile have a ton of unreleased tracks in the vault that couldn't make the project due to sample clearance issues. Sounds like a hip hop Fort Knox to me...

BUY OR BURN: Buy this. It proves that hip hop isn't dead, and for giving listeners that hope, it is worth your hard-earned recession cash. In return, you'll receive twelve songs rating very good to fantastic (and three other tracks), and sixty-four minutes of musical enjoyment. There is no need to track down the deluxe edition, though.

BEST TRACKS: "Hey Young World"; "Life As A Shorty"; "The Ecology"; "Our Way"; "Why"; "Samsonite Man"; "Father"; "When She Calls"; "Boy Meets World"


(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave some notes for FLX below.)


  1. I totally agree with your review, this album is fantastic.

  2. This album fucking rocks, gives below the heavens a run for its money IMO

  3. I'll definitely be picking this up. I'm listening to a good part of the album on YouTube right now, while working on a paper, and it's making my writing better.

    That's, ah, kind of a good sign.

  4. Dope album, Fashawn putting it down for the west coast.

  5. AnonymousJuly 17, 2010

    Finally a full-fledged positive review on this site. No wonder its bout Boy Meets World.

  6. You should pick up the special adition 2LP...Got more tracks on it.

    Any way this albuum is fire.

  7. AnonymousJuly 17, 2010

    just sounds like any 9th wonder album - d plus

  8. F.A.T. - to be fair, FLX does mention why it isn't worth picking up the deluxe version. More tracks doesn't always equal more greatness.

    To the first anonymous poster - this write-up, while overwhelmingly positive, was actually more negative than my own How I Got Over review. Still, HHID isn't all about trashing everybody's favorite artists.

    Thanks for reading!

  9. Well I kinda liked "The Score" and "The Outer City" so...
    Its a great album anyway with or without the extra tracks.

  10. AnonymousJuly 18, 2010

    Picked this up after the review and cannot stop listening to Stars contrary to the review, haha.

    Love the site, Max. Keep up the awesome work.

    Someone review Big Boi's album next. :(

  11. AnonymousJuly 18, 2010

    If within the next 10 or so days I don't find a review on a gangsta rap album, I'll completely stop visiting this blog.

    Thank you very much.

  12. Should that truly be the case, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    Thanks for reading!

  13. A.R. MarksJuly 19, 2010

    Max, perhaps the first Anonymous was blindsided by my How I Got Over review and it tainted his review of the site.

    Of course that could have been caused by any number of the reviews on here. Eh heh heh.

  14. Suge KnightJuly 19, 2010

    Here's a review of gangsta rap: it's usually terrible.

    Prehaps recommend a good album to review.

  15. Tile GroutJuly 19, 2010

    FRESNO!!! I'll have to check this one out.

  16. UK Real Hip HopJuly 21, 2010

    Checked this out after the review and i'm loving it! Thanks for the heads up FLX, nice write up. You had a listen yet Max?

    Where's that Big Boi review Max? Keep up the good work.


  17. The Nimble GuruJuly 24, 2010

    Listened to this for the first time in a while today. Forgot just how utterly soulful it is.

  18. the antidote, with alchemist is even better.

  19. This album frikkin rocked. I've been listening to him for a while now and this is one of the XXL freshman that hmm let's see, doesn't suck.

  20. Good comments everywhere, I shall try it and see if it is worth my money.

  21. One of the few up and comers that I actually consider real and makes dope hip hop. This kid is nice and has mad potential. More team-ups with Exile please Fash!

  22. AnonymousJuly 04, 2012

    Agree on the Buy. Well worth the purchase.

    Max, how does Fashawn drop one official album and get a review, when Planet Asia has multiple killer albums/collabos/mixtapes that have gone unnoticed?