Some albums are blissfully simple to review. The art speaks for itself, there is precious little narrative attached to genuinely detract from the music and for once, pretty much all the reviewers around seem to agree on a score. “The Ecology” most certainly belongs to that category, so – to my mind – a lengthy review going into every nook and cranny would be a waste of your time. Why? Because Fashawn goes deep enough with his sophomore, and you’d be better off listening to the beats, rhymes and life he lays out for you.
There is a bit of a back story, but most of you reading this are probably aware: Fashawn released his debut “Boy Meets World” more than 5 years ago, a well-received start from the Californian when he was practically the same age Nas was when he dropped “Illmatic”. Pretty soon after, Fashawn released a mixtape called “Ode To Illmatic” and then… Nothing. For years. All quiet on the Western Front. He suddenly signed to Mass Appeal, Nas’ label, and the cypher was complete.
Mr. Jones has overseen “The Ecology” and guested on a lovely number (“Something to Believe In” featuring Aloe Blacc). His thumbprint is clearly all over the album – in fact, if you spin it as more of a background listen, there are plenty of Fashawn flows that are dead on Nas. It’s not in a Stan-ish way, and once one of the greatest rappers alive who you’re written odes to subsequently becomes your boss, it’s a natural outcome to occasionally overlap.
Fortunately, Fashawn stamps his own footprint – along with the main producer, Exile – and does such a great job that it might just be a whole lot quicker to go over the tracks that I didn’t like: “Letter F” is one of those corny, slightly selfish tracks and is helmed by The Alchemist, and.. That’s it. Honestly. One song. The rest of the album is rock solid, even if it takes a while to sink in. Whilst it does occasionally have a bit too much of an underground feel, it also chucks in a couple of more commercial numbers (“Confess” and “Out the Trunk”) to help bring some ecological balance. There are also moments that recall J. Cole’s latest album, where the delving into past issues brings about emotional resonance (“Man of the House” could have been on “2014 Forest Hills Drive”).
It is also blindingly obvious that Fashawn has drastically improved as a rapper: his voice doesn’t always captivate, but his past 5 years have clearly been spent honing his craft, as the lyrics, flow and content are light years ahead of “Boy Meets World” (just take a listen to parts of “To Be Young”). It makes for an album you’re keen to repeat listen to and soak in over time.
It doesn’t necessarily have that elite level feel, but considering his time out of the game, it’s almost like Fashawn is a debut artist all over again. It’s like that old sports cliche of a player returning after a long injury and being “almost like a new signing”. It’s great to have him back, signed to Nas and repping the West Coast on lush head-nodders like “Golden State of Mind”. If ever an album were well-suited to RapReviews.com, it’s “The Ecology” and you have to check it out for yourself.