According to an old boxing adage, styles make fights. Like most such sayings that have been repeated to the point of cliché over the years, it’s rooted in a certain amount of truth. Each participant—be they a brawler, counterpuncher, a slugger or one of a handful of other types of fighter—brings their own unique style, which determines how each individual match plays out.
For the average Hip Hop listener, styles can be just as important if not more so. From the nasally, rapid fire delivery of Big Pun, Pimp C’s Port Arthur drawl and even the more recent helium warped intonation of Kendrick Lamar, listeners are drawn at least in part to emcees based on their styles. Aside from their respective stylistic flair, Hip Hop and boxing have enjoyed some mild crossover through the years, ranging from “frienemies” 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and even Keith Murray’s obscure threat to “fuck you up like Tyson did to Mitch Green.”
Welterweight Champion Timothy Bradley Jr. will display his style when he defends his title in an April 12 fight against Manny Pacquiao. Walking Bradley into the ring will be Fresno, California native, Fashawn—an emcee who has displayed a myriad of styles since his 2008 emergence on the mixtape scene. The pair of inland, California natives (Bradley represents Palm Springs, California by way of Cathedral City) have admired each other hone their crafts from afar and since became friends; Fashawn has also linked with Exile to craft the custom fight song, “Champion.” In advance of the Pacquiao match, they briefly took some time to discuss their respective styles and approaches to their profession.
Tim Bradley & Fashawn On The Origins Of Their Styles
HipHopDX: Fashawn, how did you formulate your style?
Fashawn: I don’t really know how I formulated my style. I kind of just soak in whatever my eyes see, whatever my heart tells me and try to make harmony out of those two things. Usually the words, a melody or something comes out. But something definitely happens when those two connect. So those are basically the main ingredients for everything I do lyrically.
DX: How about you, Tim?
Timothy Bradley Jr.: My past affects my style because I’m aggressive. Where I come from, you gotta have that ruthless mentality. That’s how I am in the ring. I take chances. People say I take chances when I don’t have to. They’ll tell me, “Tim, you’re winning the fight easily by boxing! Why are you brawling with this guy?”
Fashawn: That’s what I be saying!
Timothy Bradley Jr.: I don’t know. I’m fighting hard every single round. It’s just how I grew up; I had to be a tough guy and prove myself to these guys. That’s my thing…I like to break their will.
I came from the bottom. There’s a ghetto everywhere, but I came from the ghetto streets of Palm Springs. When people look at us or look at me and say, “Ah, he ain’t gonna amount to nothing but another dope dealer or a gangbanger,” that’s the M.O. they had on us. To see me come from that area and actually make it, it inspires a lot of kids—especially in my area. They see that where you started from isn’t necessarily where you’re going to finish. You can get up out of there and make it.
Fashawn Explains Writing Rhymes In Advance Versus In The Booth
DX: Fash, we talked way back in 2008, and you had a ton of verses just saved on your Blackberry…
Fashawn: I still do.
DX: In terms of styles, do you alternate between fully written songs and crafting your verse right there in the booth?
Fashawn: Absolutely. I battle with that all the time, because I come from the pencil and paper/pen and pad era. This was before rappers started to brag about, “Oh, I don’t even write anymore.” Before that fad came in, I was straight pen and paper. But I went through that phase too where I was just recording with no middleman, no notebook, no Blackberry. Nothing.
Nowadays, I keep at least two phones on me, and they both got notepads. I still switch depending on what the moment requires.
DX: Obviously we’re looking at the intersection of boxing and rhyming styles. How did you find out about Timothy Bradley?
Fashawn: I first found out about my man Tim Bradley when he fought Devon Alexander. It was an older fight, but I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve been following his career, and every time there’s a Bradley fight on in the studio, the session usually stops. What he does as a boxer inspires me to do that in my field. I’m just here to support my guy.
I feel like he can take a punch as well as he can throw one, and that’s a really rare quality to have in this field. I’m inspired by his life story as well. Tim is that greatness, man!
Timothy Bradley On Appreciating The Stories In Fashawn’s Rhymes
DX: What about you, Tim? You and Fashawn were talking about Boy Meets World earlier. What about his style appeals to you?
Timothy Bradley Jr.: You know what I like about it? I went home and did my studying, and it’s real Hip Hop. It’s not all about bling, bling and all this stuff about being in the club. That stuff gets old after a while. How many songs can you make about a Lambo and all that? Let’s hear some real stuff! His lyrics are real, and there’s stories behind it. That’s what I like about him, because I can relate to it.
DX: What similarities do you see between sparring and spitting?
Fashawn: You need intense focus, dedication and both of them take a tremendous amount of sacrifice. My brother might train for eight months, and he’ll have to be away from the family and everything he knows just to zone in on the sport that he loves. I have to do the same thing. Sometimes I might take a year or a few months off depending on how important I feel this piece of music is. Every piece of music I create is important, so I can relate to his resiliency as a boxer…that determination to win.
DX: You’re walking Tim out to “Champion,” a custom fight song you created with Exile. Aside from “Mama Said Knock You Out,” it seems like Hip Hop has slacked off with the fight songs.
Fashawn: Yeah, we are missing joints like that. We haven’t had one like that in a while. There was “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and for me, the second one was when Canibus did that LL Cool J diss record [“Second Round K.O.”]. That was the second one that gave me that kind of energy. With “Champion,” I really just wanted to pay homage to that energy, because it hasn’t been felt in a while. I got with my brother Exile, and as soon as I heard that beat, I was like, “That’s it. Boom.”