Fashawn has been around for more than decade now. The Frenso, Calif. MC caught the attention of hip-hop heads with his 2009 debut album, Boy Meets World, an album that’s packed with real world commentary from the perspective of a Black child coming of age in urban America. On songs like “The Ecology,” “Freedom” and “Life As A Shorty,” to name a few, Fash’s fierce flow and gripping narrative offers hope to a marginalized group of people. After the success of Boy Meets World, the Grizzly MC's buzz grew and earned him a spot on the coveted 2010 XXL Freshman cover alongside the likes of Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole and Freddie Gibbs.

After a slew of mixtapes, a new record deal with Nas’ Mass Appeal Records came down the pipeline last May and an Alchemist-produced EP, FASH-ionably Late, arrived in December. Now, Fashawn is back with his sophomore effort, The Ecology, executive produced by Nas and backed with banging production from longtime collaborator Exile and Fash looks to take his storytelling to the next level while outlining glimmers of hope to the downtrodden.

The Ecology commences with the chilled-out “Guess Who’s Back” as an ode to the daily grind, while the Nas and Aloe Blacc-assisted “Something To Believe In” finds Fashawn trading aspirations with God's Son over boom-bap production. The aforementioned Exile meshes well with Fash on “Higher,” “To Be Young” featuring BJ The Chicago Kid, "Places To Go” and the emotional “Man Of The House,” which are all part of Fashawn’s grand scheme of delivering optimism to his fans. For hip-hop purists, Fash waxes lyrical on “Letter F,” the KRS-One sampled “Confess” and the Busta Rhymes-assisted “Out The Trunk.” All three show Fash's lyrical adroitness.

The Ecology’s core throbs with an MC offering an array of content matched with the confidence to tell his story, even if it's not about moving tons of drugs, fucking bitches and being covered in jewels. However, the criticism comes with the continuous vibe of childhood woes and the ills of the world, like on the album’s last track, “F.T.W.” To some listeners, hearing about one's distress can get mundane. But Fashawn's lyrical assaults are just as potent as his moving commentary and his core fans would like to hear more. Despite these small missteps, The Ecology leaves its slice of hope for the world jam to. —Darryl Robertson