if you followed hip-hop in 2009, then you probably noticed a new generation of artists blowing up out of the West Coast, from gangsta rappers like Nipsey Hussle to creative crews like Pac Div. But there's only one newcomer who ended up on Complex's Top 25 Albums of 2009 list: Fashawn. His stellar debut Boy Meets World, which was produced entirely by Exile, landed at #13, beating out damn near every hip-hop veteran. To see what influenced the young MC, we talked about his 10 favorite West Coast rap albums of all time. See his picks below, then keep reading for a bonus Q&A about growing up in central Cali, his next album, and how Fresno really feels about K-Fed...

#10: Kurupt Streetz Is A Mutha

Released: 1999

Fashawn Says: "Ahh, one of my favorite albums. On songs like "Trilogy," I feel like he was just spitting acid, no hook, just spitting toxic fumes through the mic, just killin' it. And hes from the West Coast—thats where i draw my inspiration from. When people say, Yo, you sound like you're from Brooklyn or Philly or something. Nah, I listen to cats like Kurupt, and that album was a perfect example of East meeting West and West meeting East."
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#9: Ras Kass Rasassination

Released: 1998

Fashawn Says: "Dope album. His flow and attitude in that record is just invincible.  He just had this confidence about him and his abilities as a wordsmith, Ras Kass was crazy. My favorite song was 'H20 Proof'—the waterproof MC! That was one of my favorite joints."
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#8: C-Bo Gas Chamber

Released: 1993

Fashawn Says: "I think that was his first album. Thats just one of my favorite albums man. Crazy, straight gangsta shit from Garden Blocc, Sacramento.  I forgot where he was specifically from.  C-Bo was the only artist that I know of, or that I witnessed going jail because of his lyrics. He said something about [former California Governor] Pete Wilson."
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#7: Snoop Doggy Dogg The Doggfather

Released: 1996

Fashawn Says: "Back in '96, it was just dope. I remember he had this one freestyle joint on there, it was a huge freestyle, I forget the name of the song [ed.—"Freestyle Conversation"]. On that album, Snoop's swagger was just invincible."
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#6: 2Pac 2Pacalypse Now

Released: 1991

Fashawn Says: "Is that considered West Coast? 'Pac, he repped for the West Coast harder than anyone. Songs like 'Words Of Wisdom,' 'Trapped,'  he really painted a picture of what it was like to be a black man in '92, or whenever it came out.  Painted that picture perfectly."
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#5: Dilated Peoples The Platform

Released: 2000

Fashawn Says: "Classic. Classic. Every song—I don't have a favorite song, there's too many West Coast classics, i love that album! I was in Fresno, I was into graffiti heavily, I was skating, and that was just the soundtrack. Everything about them, even the visuals—I love East Coast stuff too, and those were the only West Coast cats to shoot a video on a train and shit. It was like they were in New York, but they were actually in Cali—L.A. had trains then. I loved that whole combination of what they were doing."
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#4: Planet Asia Jewelry Box Session

Released: 2007

Fashawn Says: "Not just because im on it. [Laughs] Great album. Songs like 'Coming Home,' 'Street Hop,' 'G.O.D. In The Flesh.' Crazy, man. I think for me was my favorite Planet Asia album of all time."
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#3: Ice Cube AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted

Released: 1990

Fashawn Says: "Cube! Just the fact he put the KKK in the middle of America. It was a crazy debut. I was like 'Yo, hes off the chain!' Amazing album."
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#2: Ice Cube Death Certificate

Released: 1991

Fashawn Says: "I gotta put another Cube album back to back at number two, I love Cube, and I can't really decide which album I like more...I love the artwork on Death Certificate. I'm a huge fan of Cube!"
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#1: Dr. Dre The Chronic

Released: 1992

Fashawn Says: "Gave birth to so many careers, classic.  It inspired so much. It's The Chronic! What else needs to be said."
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CLICK NEXT FOR A BONUS FASHAWN INTERVIEW!
—He talks about growing up in Central Cali, working with Exile, and how Fresno really feels about K-Fed...

 

Complex: Below The Heavens, the album that Exile did with Blu, is definitly a classic for underground hip-hop fans. When you started working with Exile on Boy Meets World, did you feel pressure to live up to that legacy?

Fashawn: I didn't feel the pressure until I was halfway into the album. When I first started, a lot of people didn't really know about me. But as I started dropping mixtapes and really building my buzz up, that's when the comparisons started coming in, about halfway through the project. But me and Blu are two different people, two different perspectives on lives. When I first heard Below The Heavens, it was like a motion picture about a character, about what it was like just being alive at that time, that era—2006 or something like that. So to Exile I was like, "Yo, i would love to work with you. I would love for you to do my whole album, paint my life as a movie." Hes real diverse—Exile could take it anywhere, he's like Thelonius Monk on the MPC.

Complex: Do you think your next album will be a one-producer project, or do you plan on working with a bunch of different collaborators?

Fashawn: I think I might keep going with the one producer thing. I just like the creative aspect of that, man. You're challenging the producer and the producer is challenging the writer. I think that chemistry is priceless, so I might have to do that for the second album. There's a lot of people I would love to do a project with—Large Professor, that would be amazing. People like Scram Jones, definitely Evidence, of course. I want to work with Salaam Remi, a bunch of people, man.

Complex: You had the line "They call me Fashawn, but I don't design clothes." I know you're not really a fashion dude, but I saw you did some modeling for a clothing company a little while ago...

Fashawn: Yeah, this company called Orisu—I did my first ad in Holiday 2008. I'm in Fresno right now, and I'm riding past a store where they have my banner—I'm lookin at it. I remember growing up, we had nothing so we had to shoplift for clothes. If you got caught, they took a picture of you and put the picture in the front of the store like, "Don't let this kid in." Now I got my ad in front of the store and I'm getting free clothes. It's such a big transition.

Complex: You're a young dude from Cali, but I don't really see you dressing like these other kids, rocking tight, bright denim and all that. How would you describe your style?

Fashawn: I would it describe it as "Central Cali," man. In central Cali, the whole skater lifestyle has been around since the '80s, or further back, and I reflect that. You could walk the streets around Fresno and all the kids, theyre most likely riding a skateboard or listening to A Tribe Called Quest on an iPod. That's what my fashion reflects, that world.

Complex: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I saw you skating a little bit in the "Sunny, CA" video. That was you, right?

Fashawn: Yeah, no stunt double! That was me. I've been skating about as long as I've been rapping. I'd probably beat Lupe Fiasco in skating [laughs]. If he's reading this, I'd like to challenge him to a skate-off.

Complex: You also came up writing graffiti, right? What was your name?

Fashawn: BRIEF 1. People always say i talk short, I don't say much, I always say less than necessary, which is where "brief" comes from. I used to write for this crew called 37cents—they still reign supreme here in Fresno, niggas know about it. But I put my Krylons back in the closet. I'm clutching mics now, but i still got my blackbook.

Complex: One of the only other rappers from Fresno who's blown up on a national level is Planet Asia. You must have been around 10 years old when he was coming out in the late '90s...

Fashawn: When I first heard of Planet Asia, i thought it was an Asian guy [laughs]. Or I thought it was a group. But then i saw him in concert for the first time at Fresno State University, it was crazy. He was the first artist to bubble outside from Fresno, gain notoriety in the Bay Area, LA, or even places like Germany, New York. He was the first and only cat to look up to from my town to have a deal with Interscope.  It was crazy when he embraced me. The legendary Planet Asia telling me I'm the future—that just really gave me a battery in the back, an extra boost of energy. I just started writing crazy.

Complex: Actually, aside from Planet Asia, there's one other well-known rapper from Fresno—Kevin Federline. How did Fresno feel about K-Fed's debut when it came out?

Fashawn: [Laughs.] Man, I dont think people were tripping off his music that much, especially when you compare that to what he did for Britney Spears—people talk about that more than anything. A Fresno cat bagged a pop princess, made her his baby momma? That's some Fresno shit! [Laughs] I don't think anyone's talking about his music though.

Complex: Okay, before we wrap this up, I gotta ask—did you ever watch Boy Meets World when you were a kid?

Fashawn: Definitely! Big Fan!

Complex: Did you have a crush on Topanga? Tell the truth.

Fashawn: Definitely! She was very hot. Her lips were incredible! And other things...but, yeah. [laughs]

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