Like a desk globe, rap rookie Fashawn uses the small and precise to convey the colossal. On the marvel that is Boy Meets World, the author's basic vocabulary yields universal truths, and his heart-on-sleeve candour shatters the force field of ego that encircles most rappers. Fashawn is a slum dog Fred Savage, tracing back his coming-of-age story in a fatherless Fresno, CA home, where he was raised by a manic-depressive mother and wrote his way to international rap tours and Planet Asia collaborations. "When my parents was out in the streets/I built a world on a blank sheet," he raps. And now we get to read his diary. Meshing beautifully and exclusively over the soulful loops of producer Exile (who wowed with Below the Heavens, his 2007 collaboration with Blu), Fashawn's audio biography touches on his series of stepfathers ("I called them all daddy/even though they didn't have me") and even a friend's suicide ("Bottle of yak/knife on his lap/death on his mind/matter of time/before he just snaps"). Yet he still finds time to play, swapping boasts with his producer on "Bo Jackson" and plotting his way out of the friend zone with "Lupita." Fashawn may only be 20 years old, but he has the wisdom of a man thrice his age.
When did you decide that your album would be so personal?
I put out seven mixtapes before this album, so I had a lot of practice. The reason I wanted to go creative with this is because I knew I wanted to create a story; I wanted to create a novel. I had no choice but to dig deep inside and pour the first 20 years of my life into 15 tracks. I wanted to give the people me. A lot of artists that's out now, you don't feel like you know them. They're all over television and you see them in interviews, but I don't have that feeling like I know them.
Which song was most difficult to write?
The last song on the album, "Boy Meets World." I was really vulnerable in that song, telling people stuff that I wouldn't even tell my homies. People didn't know I was involved in Islam for a year of my life, that I didn't graduate high school, that I didn't go to college. A lot of people wouldn't expect that because of how articulate I am and how I carry myself. I wanted to let people know I'm not just this fly rapper nigga. This is my real life. You have no idea what I had to go through to get to this point. I know everybody struggles. I want you to feel my struggle like you're there when you listen to it. (One)