Mass Appeal Records
Mass Appeal Records

The question on many people’s minds when discussing Fashawn and his more than 10-year rap career is why he's only dropped two albums? Well, despite what the mainstream lens captures, the Fresno, Calif. native and 2010 XXL Freshman has been steadily grinding even before he dropped his 2009 debut LP, Boy Meets World. In fact, during the six years in between his album releases, Fashawn has dropped seven different projects including mixtapes, collaboration albums and EPs, just like his brand new project, Manna.

The nine-song EP might not be a cannonball back into the genre’s forefront but it's proof that Fashawn’s pen and dexterity on the mic continues to get sharper with age. It's also a reminder he shouldn't be left out of the conversation of great MCs. A twangy guitar provided by Hecktik paves a path for Fashawn to confirm those prior inquiries from fans on the intro track “Manna (Moses)” as he says, “I admit/I been hibernating/Public saying, 'Why you waiting?/Must be off psilocybin/Left me out the conversation.” But instead of sulking within the confines of his composite notebook, Fashawn declares that he’s here for good and isn’t afraid to end a career or two.

This new school son’ing pops up a handful of times on the EP but Fashawn’s lyrical prowess isn’t limited to simply denouncing other rappers. On “Crack Amerikkka,” Fashawn talks about the perpetual turmoil facing the nation with eye-opening lines like, “Controlling your actions/A controllable attraction/And the globe is filled with madness/Only guarantees is death and taxes.” This is coming from a rapper that has seen the country face more polarizing ups and downs than his career. The somberness of “Crack Amerikkka” would make you think that Fashawn feels inherently depleted about the country’s foreseeable future but in fact, he exude the contrary on “Proud.” A horn-infused soul sample has Fashawn bigging up Black American greats like Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Marcus Garvey and Huey Newton, which is all to say that he’s indisputably “Black and proud.”

If there is one thing noticeably different about Fashawn as an artist and rapper on Manna, compared to past projects, it’s that he’s got a very well-rounded perspective on life and its unpredictability. On projects Boy Meets World and even The Ecology, Fashawn rapped with more of a one track mind whereas each track on Manna sounds like its own three minute mini-album. After taking firm political stances on “Proud,” he shifts into full-on party mode with the Snoop Dogg-assisted “Pardon My G.” Drinking and smoking with girls provokes smooth rhymes like, “If she lay with Shawn, she gon' stay til morning/Most likely give a grade A performance/No waste but her cake's enormous/Dirty ass mouth but her face is gorgeous/She gonna make a playboy pay her mortgage.” This comes as no surprise when he raps on “Celebration” that he and his team “don't throw parties” but instead they “throw festivals.”

Everything about the diversity on Manna is great. From the production team (Louie Lou, Large Professor, Jukebawks and Hecktik) to the subject matter, Manna touches all bases. However, Fashawn never changes his flow, delivery or verbal expressions. The same mood is delivered throughout the entire 30 minutes even though he’s rapping about vastly different topics. It sounds as if he’s falling victim to his own comfort zone and solidifying the saying that “you can’t teach an old rapper new flows.”

Manna finishes off with its most politically-charged track, “Mother Amerikkka.” While denouncing all that is wrong with the current American landscape and even controversially proclaiming, “the new KKK is Kim, Kylie and Kanye,” Fashawn raps about understanding the poor choices one makes given the “temptation of enemy” and asks, “How does man avoid it?” He doesn’t provide the answers to said question but the fact that he’s developed the ability to ask it shows growth not only as a rapper but as a man in America.

With more than a decade in the rap game, most of which being tucked away from the spotlight, Fashawn finds himself as honest and as comfortable as ever.

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