Fashawn Breaks Down New EP 'Manna,' Working With Large Professor & Kool G Rap Being a Personal Hero

Fashawn, 2015
Waytao Shing/Getty Images for SXSW

Fashawn performs onstage at the FLOODfest showcase during 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Cedar Street Courtyard on March 20, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

In today’s hip-hop culture, there's a growing fixation on dividing rappers and their signature sounds into many unique sub-genres. For Fashawn, however, being put into a classified box is not in the cards for his mission in music.

Hailing from the West Coast in Fresno, CA, the Mass Appeal signee is moving into a new wave with his Manna EP, which dropped Friday (Aug. 11), but keeping the same universal sounds that his loyal supporters know and love.

Known for his eclectic pen game and wordplay on the microphone, Fashawn’s new brief project delivers a slew of different themes. Taking influences from his humble beginnings in his home neighborhood, he's hit on major success that's led him to tour the globe and work with legends on anticipated albums such as Dr. Dre’s scrapped Detox project.

Picking out Snoop Dogg, who he deems “King of the West,” as the only feature on Manna, the Boy Meets World MC keeps the spotlight on his rhymes and messages. Gathering production credits from his consistent production collaborator, Exile, as well as Evidence, his recently-released self-titled track, “Fashawn,” hears some magic from the iconic Large Professor, which was a long-awaited collaboration for the rapper.

We got a chance to speak with Fashawn, who detailed his new EP, working in the studio with Large Professor, as well as his love for Kool G Rap and other rap heroes.

Just before you dropped Manna, you released your self-titled track, “Fashawn.” What inspired that record?

I mean, I feel like everyone deserves their own anthem celebrating themselves. If everyone had that, I think everyone’s self-esteem would be a little bit higher. I wanted to do something that was definitive, that made people understand what’s the epitome of what I do, which is just really raw rap. Rapping over the boom-bap tracks; that’s my forte. I’m versed with many styles, but that’s what I love doing. That feels like home to me. That’s why I self-titled it.

How did you hook up with Large Professor for the record? What was is it like working with him in the studio?

I met Large Professor around eight years ago in Los Angeles. He was in the lab with The Alchemist, who I collaborate with a lot. He was one of the first people who I got to play my album for. He was the first person to give it a thumbs up, and that meant a lot to me because it’s Large f--king Professor. He’s been involved with so many classic albums, so if he says your s--t is classic, he might know what he’s talking about.

That’s where it started at, but I didn’t get a beat until damn near a decade later. I’ve realized that it had to happen organically for me to get the track that I did, and for it to happen like it did. You can’t force it. He gives you a beat because he wants to and he trusts you. He didn’t give me a batch of beats. He sent me one specific beat, and that’s the [self-titled] track that you heard.

Manna only hears one guest on the project, which comes from Snoop Dogg. What made you choose him as your only feature?

For me, he’s like the original king of my coast. I still call him the King of the [West] Coast. I grew up on Snoop. That was really more so a selfish bucket list thing. I always wanted to do a record with Snoop. Now, we got somewhat of a cool relationship, where it’s cool enough that I can just call him like, “Yo, wanna hop on a record?” And he will and he does.

I value our relationship more than that song. If it wasn’t for our relationship, that song wouldn’t happen as fast as it did. I didn’t have to jump through no hoops or go through his team or his label. It was like a dream come true.

What are some of the messages and themes that you want listeners to take away from the project?

Man, it’s a big plate. It’s like a big table with different plates of food for thought. Some songs are going to make you think about the society that we live in, and about America at the time. Certain songs put the mirror up and question if you living right. It’s a very spiritually inspired album, hence the title. You might walk away with a new thirst for life because that’s what I found when I was creating it.

Hopefully you walk away with a new thirst for life, knowledge, wisdom and understanding. I think that’s what manna did for the Israelites, if you’re familiar with the story. That’s what manna did when they consumed it.

You recently mentioned that Kool G Rap is one of your heroes. What makes him a hero to you?

He really don’t get the credit that he deserves. What he instilled in the art of rhyming and rapping, he don’t get enough credit for that. I really love him because he always kept it street. He always kept it authentic. He never really crossed over like a lot of MCs did, to that super commercial realm. He always kept it G, no pun intended. Yeah, that’s one of my favorite MC’s. To get a track with him would be an honor.

Have you reached out to him to get him on any new music?

I don’t got a line to him. I’m trying to get a hold of him. I might have sent him a DM. I don’t know if the OG is on Twitter like that [Laughs]. Since I’m in New York, I might have to make it happen.

Do you have any other musical heroes that you already had the opportunity to work with? Who do you want to still work with?

Yeah, I mean Snoop is one of them. Nas is one of them. Large [Professor] is one of them. But the people I haven’t gotten a chance to work with yet is Flying Lotus. I really want to work with Lotus. I would also say Anderson .Paak and Chance. I got to work with Kendrick [Lamar], but not in the studio. He’s brought me on stage a few times, and I’ve gotten to share the stage with him and rap with him. I would really love to see what would happen if these two brains got on one track.

I want to work with Common. I love Com. On the production side, I’d love to work with Hi-Tek. Man, Preemo. I’ve always wanted a track with [DJ Premier]. I got to work with Dr. Dre already, but no one got to hear that. I don’t know if anyone ever will because Detox… I don’t know what he’s doing with that.

What did you get to do with Dre for Detox?

I did like five or six songs when I was over there. I was there for a few days, and that was life-changing for me. Every session after that was like, yo… it’s gotta be at least somewhere up to those standards.

How do you feel about today’s rap culture? Being that now there seems to be a lot of rising sub-genres such as mumble rap, “woke” rap, trap, etc.

I hate how people classify everything. It’s all hip-hop. It’s all rap. You can keep trying to divide and conquer as a culture and as a community, but we’re all basically speaking from kind of the same perspective. Trap rap is kind of conscious in a sense, because it’s at least aware of its own surroundings. I hate how people try to just treat us like we all different. We’re all cats from the hood just trying to make a living off of something that we love doing.

Mumble rap… I don’t even know if that’s a real thing? Is that real? Is that officially a genre now? I can appreciate it too to an extent, because it makes the art of rap that much broader. It’s just like what happened with rock. There’s soft rock, heavy metal, this genre, that genre. The same thing is happening in hip-hop, hence the fact that it’s officially bigger than rock n’ roll now.

Being that you’re from California, who would you say are names in hip-hop that we should look out for right now?

There’s this dude named Boogie, but he has a song that’s talking about “I need to save my roaches and smoke forever.” He’s a really incredible artist. This girl named Tia Nomore from the Bay Area; she’s a really dope female spitter. She spits darts too. Her ear for production is crazy as well.

I think Dom Kennedy deserves a lot more credit and love. I feel he’s one of the best out there on my side. IAMSU! Also needs more love. This kid named P-Lo. I f--ks with P-Lo on the production, and I f--ks with his raps too. There’s a whole new generation coming up. I’m excited to see all of these guys flourish.

How do you feel you represent for the West Coast in your music overall? You have a pretty universal sound.

I don’t think I have a regional sound by any means. I rep the West, but my sound isn’t confined to just that region. I’m a child of the ‘90s gritty sound [that stemmed from the East Coast]. The record collection that I had consisted of every coast like the South, East, West, Midwest…I had all of these albums, and my brother would take the West Coast stuff and ride to it in his car. He’d leave me with all of the Goodie Mob and A Tribe Called Quest. So that’s the stuff that resonated with me by default.

After consuming all of that, I regurgitate it later in life. I definitely want you to understand that these influences come from everywhere. It’s not just regional or coastal. That’s the only way we can touch all of these people. Don’t put yourself in a box.

The most West Coast thing that I do is when I take out all of the boom-bap and the whole turntables, and I rock with a band. I feel like the West Coast is really prevalent [with] bringing musicality back in hip-hop. I mean, Dre was like the Godfather of that… bringing musicality back to it. I feel like I do the same thing in my music. Not all of it is sample-heavy.

What’s coming up for you after this Manna release?

After this, I’m finishing my LP. I won’t throw the title out there just yet. I’m going to let y’all digest Manna first.

Do you have an estimated release period?

Nah, because I didn’t even really have one for Manna. The songs just came to me, and really felt like it was complete. But, this album is coming to me quick, so I would say the top of next year or next summer for sure.