There comes a time in every rapper and athlete’s life when they have to stop being the next...
DJBooth Album Review
What does the future hold for Fashawn? First round bust, or hip-hop hall of fame? It’s still far too early to tell, but there’s no denying that the time is fast approaching when the Fresno native will have to go from rap phenom to rap teacher, from that underground cat with the critically acclaimed debut album to a true player in the game, from a XXL Freshman to a graduating senior. But that time is not now. For now, we get to enjoy Fashawn and his new mixtape Grizzly City 3, a project that should not only continue to build his lyrical legacy, but show that his transition from boy to world-renowned man is going very, very well.
If there was anyone doubting Fashawn’s dopeness – I frankly don’t know any, but I’m sure they’re out there – I would direct them to la Cuidad de los Osos Tres’ lead track, Santiago’s Revenge. Who is Fashawn (born Santiago Leyva) exacting lyrical revenge on? I’m not sure, but whoever it is, I almost feel bad for them, as Fashawn takes an absolute banger of a beat and somehow ups the ante, maintaining a measure of lyricism while coming as hard as concrete. Much like Wu-Tang, Santiago ain’t nothin’ to f**k wit. But Revenge is far from the mixtape’s sole murderous impulse, as he holds his own next to none other than Lil Wayne – the good little Wayne, not the mail-it-in Wayne - on the grenade blast The F and gets on his grizzly (pun intended) on the west coast narrative cut California Streets. Boy Meets World won Fashawn the support of the “backpack” crowd, but on Grizzly City 3 there’s no doubt his hip-hop heart still beats on the streets.
(Pause to shout out DJ Skee, who, unlike some other DJs I could name, recognizes that people are more interested in hearing the music than him yelling. Thanks for making Grizzly City 3 so listenable Skee. Seriously. That is all.)
Unfortunately, in today’s single-centric game a rapper who wants to truly make waves has to have a deft radio touch. That doesn’t mean Fashawn has to auto-tune his vocals and recruit T-Pain, but rappers like B.o.B. have shown it’s entirely possible, and your impact is greatest, when you can attract the hardcore hip-hop head and casual listener alike. Fashawn has shown he has mainstream appeal on songs like previous single Samsonite Man, and he continues to flirt with a radio touch on Grizzly, most overtly on Give You All I Got. When you bust out a MJ sample on the hook, you know you mean business. While lyrically Fashawn is a little too aggressive on All I Got for true hit potential, his comfort over a more pop beat speaks highly of his potential, and Remember the Times and the rocking Use Somebody freestyle are both also more street-focused, their more bouncing beats show that the man might just have a hit record in him.
I have to assume that Fashawn’s sophomore album will contain some more travels into the land of Samsonite Man, but Grizzly City is first and foremost a mixtape in the original sense, and Fashawn centers the bulk of Grizz around the aforementioned bangers and some more deeply autobiographical material, the majority of which are concentrated towards the end of the tape, starting with I Can’t Go On This Way, a soulful cut riddled with self-doubt and regret and ending four tracks later on I Need to Know, a darkly angelic joint that looks back on where Fashawn is going, and where he’s headed. Tracks like these truly separate Fashawn from the crowd, that get the people talking and wondering just how far the man can go in the game. Thousands of rappers have found themselves lost in the ether between here and there, but at this very moment Fashawn’s not the next hot emcee, he’s just a dope rapper from Grizzly City, and we should simply lean back and enjoy the sonic scenery.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Aug 30, 2010
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