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With the unleashing of his critically acclaimed debut solo LP, Boy Meets World [2009], produced entirely by Exile, Santiago ‘Fashawn‘ Leyva had officially arrived.

From there, the Fresno, California, based emcee and XXL Magazine Top 10 Freshmen alum, would later go on to ink a much deserved recording contract with Nas’, then newly established, imprint Mass Appeal Records.

February 24, 2015 finally saw the release of Fash’s – at that time – highly anticipated sophomore studio collection, The Ecology.


First things first, last year (August 11th to be exact) marked the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop — What exactly does that mean to and for you?

Fashawn: Hopefully, it means Hip Hop as a whole has finally entered its elder state and its impact can never be debated. As for me, the 50th year means just as much to me as the first year of Hip Hop. I don’t know where I would be in life if this culture and form of expression didn’t exist.

To quote the late, great The Notorious B.I.G., “You never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far!” — Was this something that you ever could’ve imagined?

Fashawn: Absolutely. The artists I was blessed to see growing up were already larger than life in my eyes. Where the culture is now is at a level that probably would be unimaginable for some pioneers, but not me. I believe the next generation is going to take it even further.

What are some of your fondest, most stand-out moments / memories during your lengthy tenure in this thing called Hip Hop?

Fashawn: Probably my time with Mass Appeal Records, and being able to build with Nas. I pulled up on him in Germany one time, and you should’ve seen the look on his face. He didn’t know I had been touring overseas years before he signed me. That was the first time I actually got to pick his brain and vice versa. That’s just one amongst a plethora of memories I’ve collected over the years.

That said, what are your future plans and / or goals throughout the remainder of 2024 and beyond?

Fashawn: My new project Where The Sidewalk Ends will be releasing in June, and I couldn’t be more excited. Just dropped the first single on May 3rd. That’s going to be the beginning of what I call “The Fash Flood.” After that, you’ll get a full length album from me entirely produced by Little Vic titled Carte Blanche. Following that is All Hail The King 2, entirely produced by Sir Vetarano. I also executive produced my first film as well titled Grizzly City Boy, which also will be releasing this year. Of course, I will be hitting the road soon as well. I’ve been a very busy man as of late I must say.

Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?

Fashawn: Peace and perspective.

If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

The era we are in now with this AI stuff, man, anything is possible. Just heard a new Tupac verse the other day. To be honest with you, I’m just focused on getting better at my craft. Not really thinking about collaborations at the moment.

If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?

Fashawn: The Lincoln Memorial, and for this reason…I want to play right where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech, and The Honorable rallied a million black men together in the name of peace. If I had to pick any stage, it would be that one.

On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?

Fashawn: I don’t think it was invented to make me happy. Respectfully, I’m not really sure how to answer that question.

What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?

Fashawn: Authenticity.

Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?

Fashawn: I’d like to get an honorary doctorate someday from a University, preferably Fresno State. I think Dr. Santiago Leyva has a nice ring to it.

What’s an average day like for you?

Fashawn: I’ll start with my Fajr prayer, then check some emails after. Hit the studio and catch a body before Sunrise prayer. Head home and take my daughter to school. Catch up on life with my Wife and my Mother. Head back to the studio and make 3-5 beats. I’ll do that until it’s time for Dhuhr prayer. Pick up cub from school, grab some food, spend some quality time with her, etcetera. Pray again, reply to some fans on social media, catch up on some emails. Hit the post office, and send some merchandise out. Listen to a few mixes and masters from one of the new albums I’m making. Dinner, a recap, sleep, wake up and repeat. Sounds like a good day to me.

Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…

Fashawn: Like a human being. I talk to my fans like I talk to my actual friends. In person, I’m very approachable and chill. Online, I’m the very same way. My favorite response is: “Is this actually Fashawn?” I get a kick out of that.

What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?

Fashawn: Practicing the actual craft is my favorite part. There’s no feeling like being in the middle of delivering a rhyme or creating one for that matter. My least favorite part is the fame. It has its perks, but it’s very isolating. It’s almost like every time I gain a fan, I lose a friend.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Fashawn: Find your purpose and blaze your own trail.

Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

Fashawn: Hopefully, happy and still healthy. I don’t need much.

Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?

Fashawn: Not at all.

Any “parting” words for our readers?

Fashawn: Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.

P.S. Free Palestine!


Fashawn: The Fash Flood #HH50

Fashawn: The Fash Flood #HH50

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