Fresno, California's Fashawn recently traveled to Berlin, Germany with one of his childhood idols, Nas. For Fash, however, Nas is now more than just an emcee he admired while growing up. Now, the man who dropped Illmatic twenty years ago is also his label boss as Fash prepares September 30's The Ecology, his debut album, for Nas' newly-launched Mass Appeal Records.
While in Germany, Fashawn and Queensbridge, New York's Nas met, rolling through streets that were "smothered in graffiti," as Fash puts it. The two were there to work, but Fash says they were able to take in some of the country's joy as fans celebrated Germany's World Cup 2014 run. With all of this going on, the two still managed to sit and connect uninterrupted for the first time since the Mass Appeal signing.
"It was cool," Fashawn says, in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. "I got to link up with the boss, or The Don, if you will."
Fashawn, who made an Ode To Illmatic in 2010, and Nas, who released "The Don" as part of 2012's Life Is Good album, spoke for three hours without an interruption during their Germany trip. Their conversation, which spanned through Hip Hop, life, spirituality and the prizes and perils of the music industry, also included praise from Nas.
"He told me his favorite songs on the album," Fash recalls. "That really shocked me. I didn't know he was really paying attention like that. He should. He's the boss, but you know, when he told me his favorites on the album...Well, one is this song called 'Mother,' produced by Exile, which you're gonna hear soon. He said that's one of his favorite songs and then a song called 'Golden State of Mind' is one of his favorites, as well."
Fashawn Discusses Nas' Stories Regarding Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.
During the lengthy sit-down, Fashawn also learned more about Nas. "He's a cool guy and I already sensed that from the music, but he's cooler in real life," Fash says. "He's a really down to earth guy. Nigga loves scary movies. He's like a horror movie fiend. That might explain some of the crazy stories he writes. But yeah, we spoke about artists in the game and legends who aren't here, stories about Big and 'Pac. Right now, it's all a clouded memory because he poured a glass of champagne and then I poured some Hennessy after that. But it was cool. The Don is a real dude and he's brilliant.
"I really wanted to know where his mentality was at being in the midst of these giants in Rap," Fashawn adds, speaking about Nas amongst Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. "He told me how much of a warrior he was at that time and how hard he went with his pen game and how impactful these guys were while they were alive to the whole Hip Hop community. I didn't really get that growing up because I was so young. I was just watching from afar, from Fresno. It really felt like I was in that era [during this conversation] especially speaking with [Nas]. I can definitely say that B.I.G. and 'Pac were there for sure...They were sitting next to us."
Fashawn stands among other artists in this game today who he also has to compete with, he says. That said, the Nas conversation also helped him solidify something about his own career.
"What I gathered is that I feel like I really belong in Rap," Fash explains. "He told me that. He said, 'You're about to do damage in the game.' I needed to hear that from a person of that caliber. His specific words were that I'm 'about to part the game like The Red Sea.' That was big to me coming from The Don.
"I feel like, just on a competitive nature, yes, I belong," he continues. "I can probably destroy more than half the rappers out right now. I say that with all modesty. But yeah, I feel like my style is a lot more different. It's a lot more authentic. It doesn't sit comfortably in radio. It doesn't sit comfortably in the mainstream, but now I'ma get the chance to get my tyranny on and just become a tyrant and infiltrate the game and keep carrying the torch for a style of Rap that I feel like Nas invented. I feel like I'm carrying tradition."
Fashawn Explains How Nas Added His Influence To The Ecology
Now back from Germany, Fash can focus on the prep for The Ecology, an album that's years in the making. While Fash has been crafting it carefully for so long, he says Nas' influence has dramatically changed the album's anatomy.
"Ah, man," Fash says. "It gave me a second wind, if you will. I was working on The Ecology for so long...[Signing with Mass Appeal] made me write a lot better. I think I really just zoned in on my pen game even more after signing with the god. It took The Ecology to a whole 'nother level. I wanted to take even more care of it. I wanted to make sure it was more perfect. And it is."
Fash says that he's now made records he couldn't imagine making prior to the deal, including "Something To Believe In," a song that features Nas and Aloe Blacc, which is set to be the album's first single.
"The record with Nas and Aloe Blacc is a monster," he says. "That record is a monster. That song is a monster...If you would have asked me five months ago, I couldn't even imagine making a song like this with artists of this caliber. That's probably gonna be the first song you hear off The Ecology. Everything has evolved...I'm so happy I took my time with this one, especially in the climate of Rap."
Fashawn is prepping The Ecology for Mass Appeal September 30.
For more on Fashawn, view the DX Daily below.