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Exclusive: Fashawn Talks 'The Ecology' Album, His Childhood And Working With Nas

Gold Jesus pieces, hefty Hublot wrist wear, and foreign cars. Such said subject matter has been the main topic in hip-hop for a while now. That much is evident by turning on the radio or checking any current rap blogs. Missing from the culture is the fortune of validity and thought provoking narratives that capture the heart of growing up in the hood.

With that said, VIBE wants to re-introduce you to one of Nas' newest hand picked messiahs, Fashawn. If hip-hop was a war, Fash would be the toxic sniper in the cut knocking heads off. His flow is fierce, but by nature, he's somewhat of a reserved individual. He's doesn't boast about outrageous purchase like everyone else. He just knows that he's nice.

Fash has been blessing beats and ears with substance driven lyrics and gripping commentary for a minute now. Unfortunately, that's that shit that radio don't like, so the Cali MC may be under the average listeners' radar. Back in 2006, Fash kicked in the door with Grizzly City, a mixtape that garnered the then rookie rapper a slot on Planet Asia’s tour. Soon after, the Frenso native inked a deal with the independent One Records for the release of 2009's critically-acclaimed album, Boy Meets World.

BMW was welcomed by mainstream media outlets and hip-hop fans alike. Thanks to the impeccable Boy Meets World, Fash earned a few coveted magazine covers and re'd-up on co-signs from the likes of Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah and Wiz Khalifa.

Since then, Fashawn has worked with iconic producers 9th Wonder, Alchemist, with whom he recently released the FASH-ionably Late mixtape with — Evidence, J. Cole and more. He even joined Left Coast's golden child Kendrick Lamar on stage for a healthy freestyle set.

Fast forward to 2015, Fash’s blood shot eyed-grind, exceptional commentary, fierce lyricism caught the attention of Nasir Jones, resulting in a deal with Mass Appeal Records. With his sophomore album, The Ecology — executive produced by Nas — in-stores now, Fash is back to wax poetically about the hardships, dreams, rainy and sunny days in the every day struggle. VIBE hit Fash on the phone to discuss The Ecology,working with Nas, being nicked-named Lil’ Nas, his childhood, and much more.

Fash's Introduction to Recording
“I was raised by a single parent home so I kind of gravitated toward notebooks and that gravitated into me putting it on record. They weren’t ever raps at that point, just me expressing how I felt. This was around six or seven years old. Fast forward to years later, and I dropped Grizzly City 1 with my manager Aren [Hekimian]. I was just a kid running around getting in trouble. But one day I just kidnapped him (Hekimian) and threw him in the studio, and I’ve been recording since."

On His Writing Style.
"I used to spend days and hours on verses. Now I know what I’m doing with that verse so I really put more thought into it. It’s just raw emotion. As I grew older my perspective broaden. I didn’t read too much but I live everyday. Everyday something crazy happens. So I stay awake, you know what I mean?”

The Preparation for Boy Meets World.
“By the time I recorded my first album, I’d had like six mixtapes. That was making me better. By the time I dropped Boy Meets World I was overly prepared. “

Surpassing Boy Meets World.
“I’m going to go past and beyond that my brother.”

How He Made The Ecology.
“I been working on it for like the last year or so. This is the moment that I’ve been waiting for. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a really dope dynasty, a dope album and it’s been brought to reality. And to have Nas' blessing... he is one of the most elite MCs in the world.”

Linking with Nas.
“I was making a lot of music and somehow I came across his radar. He heard what I had to say and that was enough conviction for him to buy me a plane ticket to South By Southwest to meet me in person. After that moment I was flying back and forth, and we were getting to know each other in person. We inked the deal last year and been working ever since then. It was already mutual respect so it was just a matter of vibing with him. Everybody was already calling me "lil' Nas" around here. If you would’ve asked my three years ago, I couldn’t have guessed this."

“I’d send Nas something, and the next morning I’d get a call from the god about it or something about the album. So, he was really involved through the whole process to the point where he wasn’t just putting his name on it but really executive producing it."

“When I turned in my final project, well what I thought was my final project, I played him this called…I think that might be on the iTunes version but I played him the song all the way through and he was like, ‘This record is not what it can be. You might want to approach that second verse differently.' So I did another verse, he wanted me to play the record again. So we played it again and he was like, ‘You know what? That’s quality.' That’s the only time that I someone suggested I do a verse over."

On working with other producers other than Exile and Alchemist.
“I’m not messing with other producers except Exile. I mean, if Lord Professor or DJ Premier give me a beat that’s a no brainer. I know what my sound is and over one of those beats I'll fit like a glove."

Favorite songs on The Ecology.
"My favorite record on the album is “Something To Believe In," with Nas.”

On recording "Something To Believe In."
"We were both in Europe and I got back in Paris before he did, and I had the song but I didn’t have the verse for it so before I got back to America me and Nas had a conversation that was at least three hours long. It was motivating. I left Europe with fire in my heart and soon as I got back to America I wrote the verse that you’re going to hear. We talked about so much stuff, hip-hop, good quality music, how to approach music, it was so much. His range of knowledge is so deep."

On what he wants fans to take away from this album.
“Walk away with this album with a new thirst for life, hope and belief that can do anything that they put their mind to.Live now, and and be happy with your life."

What Fashawn has learned about himself from recording The Ecology.
“I’m not perfect. I have ups and downs, I cry and laugh. I’m not made of steel. It’s deeper than music.”

The Ecology drops on Feb. 24th, and you can pre-order yours at Shop.massappeal.com.

Written by darryl @darryl_robertson

While you wait on The Ecology to drop, stream Boy Meets World below.

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Meet Afro B, The UK Artist Whose Hit Song "Joanna" Put Him Atop The Afrobeats Wave

Afro B is tired. Or at least, he’s got to be with the nearly gap-free schedule that’s been carved out for him this week. It’s a brisk Friday in February, and while he’s chummy upon arrival at VIBE’s Midtown office, the London-raised Afrobeats artist with deep Ivory Coast roots is trying to keep his energy level up.

He hasn’t stopped running around since he landed in New York a day or so ago, already hitting a bevy of popular local radio stations. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of the stops he has to make before preparing for his 3 a.m. performance alongside Funkmaster Flex at Brooklyn’s Milk River tonight. Well, tomorrow. Yeah, R.I.P. to that sleep schedule.

But why nap when you’re running off the high of a world finally catching wind and diving into the genre of music he’s long held close to heart? A DJ by trade, the man born Ross Bayeto has always been plucking and curating songs for his listeners to really move to, but now when it’s his own music? Game over.

“I call it Afrowave, just a wave of what's happening at the moment,” he says of the rise of Afrobeats music and his rapidly rising place in it. It’s been a full year since his banner song, “Drogba (Joanna),” hit the airwaves, but there’s virtually no way to tell. Based on how fired up the dance floors of the U.S., UK, African countries and beyond get when it comes on, the song hasn’t aged a bit. It still sounds as fresh as when it first rang out in London clubs. Afro B knows better than anyone that there’s no expiration tag on a vibe, especially when the music ignites a new moment every time it reaches a new international border.

“This song has lasted long, long and it's still lasting,” he says. “But it's just touching. The world is a big place, so it's just hitting people that haven't heard it yet. I just have to keep going.”

With “Joanna” under his belt and another potential hit on the way ("Shape Nice," a new collaboration with Vybez Kartel and Dre Skull drops on Feb. 25), it’s now about maintaining that momentum, riding that wave into the next level of his career, and representing the sweet sounds of the culture he loves so much. “If I'm standing for Africa and the culture,” he says, “I need to push what's going on inside it.”

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VIBE: Tell me a little bit about what brings you to New York. Afro B: For 10 years, I've been pushing this Afrobeats genre and African music and the culture. I had a [DJ] residency at a club called NW10 [in London] and they predominantly played dancehall music and R&B. So, it's kind of hard to break free because I only have sets that would last for 5-10 minutes, or two songs in and the crowd's not dancing because they're not used to what I'm playing. As time went on and we're getting big records from Wizkid and stuff, that's when more people warmed up to it, and, yeah I'm here today. I made the transition from the DJ to an artist five years ago. I made the hit “Joanna,” and that's what brought me to this club world, to New York.

Were people hesitant at first when you were like, "okay, I'm not DJing anymore?" Yeah, of course. ‘Cause people are used to me just shutting down the clubs, making it lit inside. But then they're like, "oh why are you making music, why are you leaving this behind?" At first, I was the DJ making music, now I'm the artist that can DJ. Every week I got a rager show. An Afrobeats rager show that's promoting it every Saturday, 11 p.m. until 1 [a.m.].

What made you want to decide to be an artist? Specifically, an Afrobeats artist? When I was growing up I always listened to African music and I used to play keys in church. So, yeah. The typical story. African music has always been in the blood. I've always been proud about being African and just promoting where I'm from. That's definitely the reason.

 

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Following God’s lead that’s all. 🙏🏾🏆🇨🇮

A post shared by Afro B 🇨🇮‪ (@afrob__) on Jan 23, 2019 at 10:53am PST

Can you break down Afrobeats for those who are unfamiliar? It's easy to just say anyone of African descent making similar music is doing Afrobeats, but maybe that's not the case. Can you break down if there are any distinctions surrounding the genre? Sub-genres like Afropop? Afrobeat without the “s”? Right now it's a bit confusing because there's so many elements merged into one thing. You could hear a track and hear like a dancehall melody in there with a hip-hop hook or the straight-authentic African. So, it's hard to pinpoint where exactly it is, but Afrobeats is the name we're giving it. But Afrobeat without the "s" is more traditional, then over time the sound just started to evolve and evolve, now it is what it is today.

Are people open to it being called or labeled Afrobeats? It's mostly the Nigerians that always have a debate on what we should call something. Yeah, most people are familiar with just calling it Afrobeats. I call it Afrowave, just a wave of what's happening at the moment. I still call it Afrobeats at the same time. Wave is my thing. That's my brand. Just a wave of what's happening at the moment, the new school kind of African sound.

So who else would you put in the Afrowave category? Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy—Burna Boy bounces from dancehall sometimes. There's a lot of UK artists doing that sound, like mixing rap with Afrobeat melodies and dancehall. There’s an artist called J Hus. Kojo Funds. Yeah, there's so many names, man. And the Ghanaian artists as well. There's even a whole French scene that's crazy as well, but they call it Afrotrap, which is more uptempo. Then you got the Angolans and South Africans that have their house vibes. There's a lot of different angles. We should just call it African music but Afrobeats is what the majority call it, the English speakers call it.

Let's talk about the song I got to know you for: “Joanna.” Or “Drogba.” Who is that? He's an icon from my country, Ivory Coast. He used to be a top soccer player—we say football—who used to play for a team called Chelsea and he had incredible impacts. Everyone from my country just saw him as a hero because you know he was representing us. So, in African music, there can be a lot of shout outs towards different people that are making noise or have a lot of money or whatever. There will be artists that will shout out politicians, footballers, maybe NBA players or just random female names like what I did with Joanna.

Yeah, I was about to say, who is Joanna? What does she have to do with anything? We concentrate more on the vibe than the lyrics. When I was in the studio, I was putting more the melodies first and then picking out the words that I thought I could hear. Joanna's what I picked out. Do you want me to explain the lyrics? So "your busybody" means there's a lot going on. “Your busybody busy tonight/Joanna don't leave me outside. Your busybody giving me life." Yeah, that's it. And then, "how you going to play me like Drogba," and that's kind of a metaphor ‘cause he plays soccer. Don't play me like how he did. Don't play with my feelings, you know what I mean?

Why do you think that now it seems that the U.S. is catching up to songs like “Joanna”? Usually we’re late to the international party. Yeah, I released it this time last year. Last year, I took multiple trips here [to New York], just making the most out of it when I was out here. Pushing the song, going to different shows and just drilling it into people's heads. So amongst the African community here that were bringing me out here, it was popping amongst us. I think now it's gotten to a point they did word of mouth to the mainstream people. And now, yeah, now it's picking up here. It's gotten to a point where it's hitting different territories and then it's fresh there. Then it's just like a brand new song again.

Do you think it's necessary to come in and put in that groundwork? I feel that social media's good, but when they see you in person, it's something else. It's feeding your energy, connecting with you, and just getting a better understanding of what it is. When I was coming up, it was a few people calling it reggae and dancehall and then I had to correct them. "This is Afrobeats," and I was showing them different artists and my other songs so that they get a better understanding of what is.

That seems like your DJ sensibility kicking in, too. Working it into the crowd. You just understand the crowd. Yeah, and then it just builds up from there. And also another thing that helps, I attached a dance challenge to it, mainly on Instagram. That was the #DrogbaChallenge, and the craziest thing is, a lot of people that got involved with the challenge were not African. So I was getting Colombians doing the dance, Indian, Dubai, people from out here [in the U.S.]. That gave me an indication that this tune is actually spreading like wildfire. Let me just keep pushing the challenge to see how far it goes. And even after now, I'm still getting videos of people dancing to the song, so that was like a way to market and make it spread.

Where's the craziest place that you've seen your song or your work appreciated? I think it was at an NBA game. I'm not sure what game it was, but just to see the DJ play it. It was a [Dallas Mavericks] DJ Poizon Ivy that played it. And then she just sent me the video, but I didn't know it at the time. She played it during the break time and just ran the tune. That was a big moment.

What songs do you think paved the way for this global movement that Afrobeats is having? The first one I recall is Dbanj’s collab with Kanye West. That opened doors. I think that Snoop Dogg did a song with Dbanj as well, but that didn't impact as much as the one he did with Kanye. That was called “Oliver Twist.” There’s an artist from the UK called Fuse [ODG], he had more impact in that, the European and the Middle East and the UK as well. So he has songs called “Azonto” and “Antenna.” Obviously, the cosigns from Drake as well with “One Dance,” and I think Beyonce posted a couple clips and had like Afrobeat music in the background. Little things like that are just helping it elevate. And Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You" had some African influences so, that was helping it come from underground to mainstream. Just getting cosigns from the major artists.

What does it feel like when you as an international artist see your music get bigger than where you're from? It's crazy because it's gotten to a point when I'm not surprised a celeb is vibing to the song because people that I grew up listening to are vibing to it as well. So I was like, damn. The other day I received a clip of Trey Songz singing it on the mic, I think he was hosting a club night. Ashanti. It was Cardi B in the background, and her sister was vibing to it. And they're fully posting it on their main page and stuff. 50 Cent's son as well. I use it as an indication to show me that, I should keep pushing it because it could get to a serious level. ‘Cause I think the issue is that they give it a certain time, then they'll just move onto the next song and then they don't let the song that could potentially blow up everywhere enough time to grow. Like I said, [“Joanna”] came out this time last year, I'm still pushing the same song. And I’ve only dropped two songs. Well, two songs with a remix in between. That's it. Add more to the fire.

So you're letting it cook. Because attention spans are so short now, that I think people are scared. But that's what's crazy. This song has lasted long, long and it's still lasting. But it's just touching. The world is a big place, so it's just hitting people that haven't heard it yet. There's large amounts of people, I just have to keep going basically.

Do you think it's necessary to have a cosign? It helps it, it helps speed up the process. It going from underground to mainstream. And it also makes a listener who's not used to the sound warm up to it or accept it. Whereas before if it wasn't cosigned by these people, nothing worked. "What the hell is this?" And then just continue listening to whatever they listen to. So, it is kind of important to get those cosigns from major people or major influences for sure.

 

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@treysongz singing Drogba (Joanna) 🔥🔥 See the joy! This is mad mad mad #AfroWave

A post shared by Afro B 🇨🇮‪ (@afrob__) on Dec 29, 2018 at 2:14am PST

Some Afrobeats songs will be in English, then weave in native language or dialect slang. Do you think there's a way for songs to still have a huge impact globally and really connect without incorporating English? I don't think so, ‘cause I think people need to connect somehow. And I feel that they connect through the lyrics as well as the vibe. The vibe is always there, but if they can understand what's going on, what the artist is saying, what message the artist is trying to send, then they can connect with it more. That's why I feel that “Joanna” works because 95 percent of it is in English. Then there's a bit of Pidgin, a bit of French.

Are there people you'd like to collaborate with down the line, both within the Afrobeats space and then outside of it? Inaudible. Within, I’ve already ticked off who I wanted to collaborate with, which is Wizkid. He did the remix to “Joanna.” Vybez Kartel was in the wish list as well, so, I've ticked that. That's on the way. American-wise: Drake, Swae Lee, Tory Lanez, the melodic people that can add to the vibe. I grew up listening to 50 Cent, Akon. All of the melodic people. I think these days people prefer vibes more than lyrics because right now, there’s a lot of mumble rapping. We don’t know what’s happening, but it sounds lit, innit? Instrumentals are right. Young Thug is an example. He sounds wavy, but we don’t know [what he’s saying].

I looked at your video for your song, “Melanin.” Shout out to you for casting those all those shades of black women. What is it that you love most about the black woman? Everything, man. Everything. I feel like I want to promote them, put them in the forefront, because watching a lot hip-hop videos or whatever, they don't promote the black woman. They'll promote all these models and whatever, Instagram models, but they're not promoting the black African beauty. And if I'm standing for Africa and the culture, I need to push what's going on inside it.

Who do you make your music for? Who do you have in mind when you're creating your music? Everybody. Global. I just want to promote the culture, give them an insight. Shine a good light towards Africa, because I feel like when people think about it, they just think it's poor. If you’ve noticed, for a lot of music videos, they always go to the streets, the projects or whatever, to shoot a video. Like, there's other parts, you know. They always do it. I think the Americans do it the most. I think, "why are you always going there?" Omarion's video, he's in the middle of nowhere, he's in a tribe, and I'm thinking, we're not like that. We're normal people! At the end of the day, everyone's African. We understand each other. The only difference is probably our accents, at times, but you know, there's poor people in America. There's poor people everywhere. We're all the same. But, I don't know, sometimes people think there's a difference between African American and Africans, when that isn't the case. I just wanted to add that, that everyone's one. They should be together. Unity. That's what I stand for.

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Alicia Keys Vibes Out In New "Raise A Man" Music Video

Alicia Keys is getting personal in her music video for her latest single, "Raise a Man." The Bill Kirstein-directed visual was shot in a recording studio with the singer's friends and features the R&B singer's 4-year-old son, Genesis.

"I just dropped something for y'all! I was in the studio and I wanted to VIBEEEEE out!" she wrote on her Instagram post. "My friends were there, my Gen was there!!"

Keys brings viewers into her own little world of her creative process, making us feel just as home as she was in the studio. The music video comes after the release of the single on Feb. 11, after the "If I Ain't Got You" singer hosted the 61st annual Grammy Awards earlier this month. The song appears to be dedicated to Keys' two sons as their faces appear on the song's cover.

On the six-minute single she poses questions about vulnerability. "Is it okay that I'm not independent? Is it okay that I...Is it okay that I show weakness? Is it okay that I..."

The natural beauty's make-up-free skin is front and center in the new visual as her friends and family trickle in later. Watch the video and "catch the vibes" with the bare-faced beauty!

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Lil Wayne Joins Lil Pump In Video For "Be Like Me"

Lil Pump teamed up with Lil Wayne for his single "Be Like Me" from his newest album, Harverd Dropout, which is an ode to those who imitate but could never duplicate them.

In the video for the song, which garnered a million views in the one day since its release (Feb. 21), a bevy of Pump clones are present. From children, to animals, to grown adults, it appears that everyone wants to be just like the Florida rapper, who says in the song, "I’m a millionaire, but I don’t know how to read."

Throughout the video, Pump fakes are seem doing things that the 18-year-old would do, such as donning dreads, puffer jackets and chains as well as sipping lean. In fact, there's a whole instructional lecture on how to do the latter correctly.

During his verse in the song, Tunechi, who is seen in a room full of mirrors, also spits about his experiences being copied by many people in the industry. However, as he puts it, "Only one 'I' in my E-Y-E."

Harverd Dropout, Pump's sophomore effort, features guest appearances from Quavo, Kanye West, Smokepurpp, Lil Uzi Vert, 2 Chainz and more. Check out the colorful video above.

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