As part of a long-term strategy to cultivate fans in new markets, Brother Ali and Fashawn found themselves performing in front of crowds as small as 200 during the “Breakin’ Dawn” tour. Needless to say, some of the stops were far from luxurious. During a stop at Nashville Tennessee’s Exit/In, their back stage quarters had a rider complete with peanut butter and jelly, Wonder bread, plastic cutlery, and a few scattered cases of water, beer and Red Bull. But those who did manage to catch the “Breakin’ Dawn” performances were privy to hearing Fashawn perform “When She Calls” live for the first time ever.

“It’s about my friend, man…it’s a real touchy subject,” Fashawn explains. Rhymesayers producer/deejay BK-One suggested adding the song to the tour’s set list. Despite never formally meeting each other, Fash and BK developed an onstage chemistry after rehearsing for a total of about three hours prior to the first “Breakin’ Dawn” date.

During a performance, which featured Fash stop a few times to regain his composure, he told the audience he usually avoids performing the track live, because it hits too close to home. Told in first-person narration, it tells the story of a friend who commits suicide after finding his girlfriend has cheated on him. Naturally, Fashawn had his doubts about how crowds who weren’t familiar with his work would receive the song.

“It’s a suicidal romance story, which isn’t the typical cookie-cutter type of rap shit,” Fashawn adds. “It’s about a lot of serious emotions that human beings go through. Sometimes emotions get that strong that you can’t handle them.”

As interesting and shocking as the story behind “When She Calls” is, Fashawn almost never recorded it. The track features a sample of folk artist Joanna Newsom’s “Cosmia.” The song avoided suffering the same fate as dozens of other unreleased works by Fashawn and Exile only after Newsom cleared the sample.

“‘Cosmia’ is one of my favorite songs,” said Fashawn who cites Wolfmother and other alternative artists as current favorites. Since Newsom counts herself as a fan of Jay-Z, Kanye West and The Roots, it’s not unconceivable that she and Fash may collaborate in the future. Stranger things have happened, considering the fact that the “When She Calls” beat was originally intended for another critically acclaimed emcee.

“That beat was actually supposed to go to Jay Electronica,” Fashawn said. “When Exile sent me the beat, the file said ‘Jay Electronica’ on it, so shouts out to Exile and Jay Elec.”

Fashawn’s debut album, Boy Meets World is currently available in stores and in digital formats.

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