The dark horse candidate is one of the most enviable positions to be in. While its peers are lauded and placed under scrutiny, they’re free to go about their business without all the extra attention and expectations. If for some reason they exceed the modest expectations placed upon them, they’ll rightfully be lauded along their contemporaries and not bashed if they stumbled out of the gate. Short on buzz and name recognition. but not talent; Fresno, CA emcee Fashawn has placed his hat in contention for one of ‘09’s top rookies with his debut album Boy Meets World.
With a natural ability to morph words into a vivid picture, Fashawn effortlessly brings the listener into his realm regardless of whether he’s speaking on personal situations, his surroundings or creating his own tales. Like a fresh coat of paint, he makes situations heard countless times sound newborn once again. “Samsonite Man” (featuring Blu) deals with the tolls of traveling and touring, while on “Life As A Shorty” he waxes poetic on his meager upbringing. While neither reinvent the wheel, he interjects enough detail and personality to make them work. Showcasing his storytelling abilities “When She Calls,” Fashawn spins a tale of suicide from three different viewpoints over a haunting harp loop with flute and drum accents. It also doesn’t hurt that Exile, who produced the album in its entirety, provides him with production that is as full of life and spirit as the words flowing on top of them.
Stepping back into the real world, on tracks “Ecology,” “Sunny CA,” & “On Our Way” Fashawn brings the streets of Fresno to the listener’s earlobes as he depicts a street life similar to tales told by artists throughout the great state of California. “Ecology” is the standout among the trio as, the other two are bogged down by guests (Evidence, Co$$ & Mistah F.A.B.) who don’t go as in-depth with their verses to match Fashawn. Exile proves to be a much better accomplice on “Bo Jackson” when he gets him to let his guard down briefly while the two trade barbs and punch lines back and forth.
If one song was to be singled out, the meditative “Father” stands as the disrupter. Granted it’s decent filler, but it makes its mark as one of the few times album drifts wayward. Forsaking flash for substance, Boy Meets World doesn’t rely on any gimmicks to be accepted. Thanks to Exile overseeing the production throughout, the album flows extremely well while maintaining a soulful vibe. He switches up the tempo and instrumentation up enough to keep listeners tuned in, all while still allowing Fashawn to be the focal point. While not perfect, Boy Meets World is an excellent debut: It serves as an introduction, leaves the listener with an idea of who Fashawn is and cements him as a formidable voice in reality bites.