HomeFeaturesColumns/OpinionsReviewsAbout Us

Grizzly City Gusto: Fresno emcee Fashawn rises from the minor league

By Jessica Barcenillafeatures
Oct 19, 2009 - 4:08 PM

[Ed.'s note: This article originally appeared in Oh Dang!'s premier issue. Click here to view the digital edition of the magazine.]

Santiago Leyva sits on the scorching hot front porch steps of his mother’s house in Fresno, Calif. He’s waiting to see minor league baseball team, The Grizzlies, play their opening game. A rusted ice cream truck cruises down the street blasting its music. Santiago rhymes to himself over the nostalgic jingle: “Fuck my outside attire; it’s my soul that writes with desire.”

Better known as rising emcee Fashawn, he snickers when people confuse his name with “fashion,” because he’s never been able to afford the latest trends. “When you’re broke, you wear whatever the fuck you got, whether it’s a 7XL white tee, some bummy ass jeans or whatever. But since muhfuckas been giving me free clothes and shit, I be thrashin’ shit now,” he says.

Fashawn is part of a new breed of young talent emerging in the hallways of hip-hop. Artists like Kidz in the Hall, Wale, Kid Cudi and Blu represent the resurrection of the cool and conscious. But if these artists are the leaders of the new school, Fashawn is the transfer student.

Listen to "Life As a Shorty"

Download: Fashawn - "Life As a Shorty"

Download: Fashawn - The Antidote [Mixtape], produced by The Alchemist

The newest of the new guys, Fashawn doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of his contemporaries. He comes from the middle of nowhere—Fresno, the valley desert land wedged between LA’s cinematic cocaine glam and the Bay Area’s herbal tech intellects. Fresno, aka The Grizzly City, is Central California’s underbelly, teeming with violent gang rivalry and rural methamphetamine labs. The harsh realities of his grim environment shaped him to become a level-headed emcee, one with equal parts street knowledge and book smarts. Well-equipped with fierce poetic artillery and an unmatched rhyme caliber, he poses a threat to any emcee.

Grinding harder than ever for the past two years, Fashawn has gone from a local legend to an international familiarity, and all before reaching legal drinking age. The 20-year-old already has six solo mixtapes and three tours under his belt, along with co-signs from artists like Talib Kweli, Evidence and Alchemist. [Ed.'s note: He's currently on tour with Ghostface Killah, with an SF stop on 10/20. More info below.]

“By the time I was 16, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Fashawn says. “I grew up around a lot of knuckleheads, some roughnecks. But I liked to read and I had a bigger vocabulary than the average nigga around my hood. That’s what made me stand out—not trying to stand out.”

Fashawn’s debut, Boy Meets World, produced entirely by Exile, one of LA’s finest underground beat technicians, will be released on October 20. His passionate verses are spit from the heart, revealing an old soul with an innovative mind. A tasteful and refreshing blend of hood tales and street scholar, Boy Meets World is a future classic providing only a glimpse into the wunderkind’s genius.

Exile, who collaborated with emcee Blu on 2007’s Below the Heavens and dropped his instrumental project, Radio, to critical praise earlier this year, became an instant fan of Fashawn when Fashawn’s manager sent him a few songs. The two were later introduced at a concert in Fresno in 2008 where they decided to collaborate on an EP. “He sent me like five beats and I blazed ‘em,” Fashawn says. “He was like, ‘Fuck that, we’ve got to do a whole album.’ ”

Influenced by his mother Veda Gibson, who was a singer and poet, Fashawn was raised with a heavy dose of soul, blues, gospel and pop music. “I was always into poetry. My mom taught to me express myself through writing,” he says.

The practice sharpened Fashawn’s skills and wit, and freestyles soon turned into written verses. When Fashawn first heard Fresno rapper Planet Asia’s metaphorical block talk on “Fresno State of Mind,” he became confident in rapping about his hood. “I never heard a nigga paint or describe the area where I’m from in such an eloquent, descriptive way,” Fashawn says. “That’s what birthed me to talk about where I’m from and not be ashamed about it, ‘cause niggas be like, ‘Fresno?!’ I’m like, ‘You don’t know about Fresno man, home of the Three Strike Law!”

In 2002, at a local hip-hop event hosted by future manager DJ Hecktik, a then 13-year-old Fashawn got to see Planet Asia perform. A few years later, Hecktik, a local producer and DJ, would feature Fashawn on a mixtape track remix of “We Takin’ Over,” featuring local legends Planet Asia, Diego Redd and Shake the Mayor. Shortly after, Hecktik became his manager—a pivotal step in accelerating Fashawn’s career at rapid speed.

It was through Hecktik that Fashawn met Planet Asia. “Planet Asia is the big bro in this rap shit,” Fashawn says. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ Then a few years later I’m on a track with him. It’s pretty cool.” Planet Asia later introduced Fashawn to L.A emcee/producer Evidence and they hit it off.

“He was surprisingly humble, real cool,” Fashawn says about Evidence, who’s featured on “Our Way.” “The next day, he laid down his verse and was like, ‘This is gonna be hot, it’s gonna be a banger’—it was classic.” Evidence recorded more tracks with Fashawn, introducing him to producer and emcee Alchemist. The three appear together on “The Far Left,” a song off Alchemist’s The Alchemist’s Cookbook. They later brought Fashawn along to play spot dates as an opener on the California leg of Method Man and Redman’s Still High tour in the fall of 2008. Evidence then took Fashawn with him on his World Layover Tour in Europe. Upon his return, Fashawn was added to the West Coast Rock the Bells lineup.

The last year alone has been a whirlwind for the young emcee. He’s no longer the kid rapping on his mom’s porch but a young man poised to dominate the rap world. But as he awaits the release of his debut album, he’s already thinking ahead.

“I feel like I’ve evolved from a boy to a man,” Fashawn says. “It’s more challenging to write now, even more than before. I’m praying that God gives me the energy to connect to people through music. But I don’t want to stay the same my whole career. Sometimes I just get bored looking at myself in the mirror everyday. I want to evolve into different things.”


Fashawn’s Boy Meets World drops Oct. 20, 2009. He supports Ghostface Killah with Souls of Mischief, Strong Arm Steady and Deep Rooted on Oct. 20 at Slim's in San Francisco. For concert information, click here. For the latest on Fashawn, visit www.fashawn.net.


Jessica is a 23-year-old pirate-mouthed, chain-smoking insomniac. Indulgences include: shoes, dope art, live music, cheap beer, expensive liquor, drunken banter and bootleg snacks. Oh, and the daily chuckler.

Comments (26)

Anonymous says:
October 20, 2009 8:38 AM

reverse phone lookup says:
July 17, 2012 9:26 AM
i love to receive birthday cards specially if that they have been custom built birthday cards

http://www.cellphonelookuped.com/ says:
July 17, 2012 10:25 AM
botox can be very helpful with skin wrinkles and it can also help treat bruxism.

reverse phone says:
July 18, 2012 8:55 PM
Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything such as this just before. So nice to seek out somebody with some original ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this fabulous website is actually a thing that is certainly needed on the web, someone after a minor originality. beneficial problem for bringing a different challenge on that the net!

payday loans says:
November 7, 2012 1:16 PM
never saw a website for instance this, relaly impressed. compared to other internet sites with this article this was definatly that the best site. will save.

how to lose weight fast says:
November 21, 2012 3:06 PM
Hey dude. what kind of wordpress theme are you using? i want it to utilize on my blog too ,

payday loans by phone says:
November 27, 2012 6:18 PM
I like this website greatly so much fantastic information.

cell phone lookup says:
December 2, 2012 3:41 PM
some stores have really bad customer service while others have topnotch custmer service,,

how to get your ex back says:
December 28, 2012 9:46 PM
I have not checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, in spite of this that the last few posts have been first-rate quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

term paper monster says:
March 5, 2013 8:01 AM
Excellent Article ! This young man is going places , very jazzy style that appeals to even the older music listeners .

urgentessays.co.uk says:
April 3, 2013 7:21 AM
So interesting post! Thanks a lot.

reverse phone says:
May 4, 2013 1:05 PM
I actually appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thanks again

super real says:
August 10, 2013 11:40 AM
Make money by becoming your personal second-hand trader, and find out how to get items that can resell for a profit [url=http://www.totallyrealsitenotfak7e2.com]super real[/url] some allow you to possess the quantity directly paid towards the agency that issues you the funds yet others require you to generate a payment personally.

voyance gratuite amour says:
August 20, 2013 10:14 AM
Rat horoscope chinois signes astrologique ascendant My web site [url=http://www.foryou-wasserbett.com]voyance gratuite amour[/url]

Website link says:
August 20, 2013 3:19 PM
Very creative blog, every word is very classical, hope can write more articles of this type.

circuit design says:
August 20, 2013 3:22 PM
The article is very useful, I hope you can to write more creative, inspiring articles.

voyance par telephone says:
August 20, 2013 7:39 PM
Affinites par signe astro tarot jour Also visit my weblog; [url=http://www.natashasfoodforpaws.com]voyance par telephone[/url]

Buy Articles says:
August 29, 2013 1:25 AM
i really enjoyed this article,because this was me many years ago,and to a certain degree,this is who i am today Great column. You sound exactly like someone I'd love to know. Keep celebrating you. The world needs a lot more people just like you. Thanks for your honesty. I really like to read about other people trying new things, to get an idea of what it's like. This is an amazingly open and personal and brave post, and I admire you so much for writing it. http://www.contentproz.net/buy-articles/

Recommended Site says:
August 30, 2013 1:01 PM
Hey very nice blog!! Man ..Beautiful..Amazing ..will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also.

voyance gratuite immediate says:
September 16, 2013 4:56 AM
Horoscope du jour du taureau astrologie affinites entre signes Stop by my weblog [url=http://www.voyancegratuiteenligne.biz]voyance gratuite immediate[/url]

my website says:
September 20, 2013 5:09 PM
The monthly interest with an agreed overdraft is probably to be better than that of a bank card, however your bank may well not approve the job [url=http://www.tj67d4se2.com]my website[/url] aspect everybody in the fees towards the loan, particularly when you'll find needless charges furthermore to the curiosity.

facebook login proxy server says:
October 11, 2013 6:37 AM
Ahaa, its good dialogue concerning this post at this place at this web site, I have read all that, so now me also commenting here. Also visit my web blog :: [url=http://www.instructables.com/member/obwboycetyxv/]facebook login proxy server[/url]

[url=http://www.rcdrocks.com]Additional sports apparel san diego[/url]He said a few of the of them had created a pact to enter his wife funeral holding hands. That were there promised one that they would continue holding hands throughout her service. Any kind of us has a hard time, we just squeeze each other well hands, he told his son and daughter. While in the women's poll Central Missouri is picked to get rid of second just one point ahead of Missouri Southern who landed the opposite first place vote. Pittsburg State is picked to complete fourth just four points in advance of Emporia State who seems to be picked to get rid of fifth. Nebraska Kearney is picked to do sixth arriving ahead of Southwest Baptist who has been picked for you to complete seventh..Additional sports apparel san diego

VenusFactor-Reviewed.blogspot.com says:
December 12, 2013 4:48 PM
Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren't loading properly. I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I've tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

hp printer parts says:
December 21, 2013 2:02 PM
Thanks for the marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it,

book of ra kostenlos says:
January 30, 2014 10:20 AM
I do consider all of the ideas you have offered to your post. They are very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for starters. May just you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

Post a comment

     Verification (needed to reduce spam):

byline=Jessica Barcenilla thumbnailtype=jpg thumbnailname=fashawn-thumb

Oh Dang! Copyright © 2006-2007. All Rights Reserved.