|Recording information: Rec Room Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Soundproof East, Los Angeles, CA; The Green Room, Van Nuys, CA; The Lab, Santa Monica, CA; The Velvet Room, Fresno, CA.
|Fashawn's the kind of rapper that a lot of buzz grew around before he released his debut album, thanks to a handful of mixtapes, including One Shot, One Kill (with production by Mick Boogie and Terry Riley) and The Antidote (produced by the Alchemist). This is not to mention the support he received from underground-hip-hop hero Exile, who produced the entirety of Boy Meets World, and add this to guest appearances from Mistah F.A.B., Evidence, and Aloe Blacc, among others, and you've either set a rookie up for acclaim or sheer disaster. As it turns out, the hype has been on point, because on Boy Meets World, Fashawn shows himself to be a talented and controlled MC, capable of well-composed verses and catchy-yet-not-dumb hooks. His rhymes aren't the kind that necessary stick with you, but they're solid and smart, and perhaps more importantly, fit perfectly with the production -- tough when they need to be tough, witty when they need to be witty, soft when they need to be soft. It helps, of course, that Exile has crafted a pretty great set of beats, which move from the East Coast sparseness of "Freedom" to the West Coast swagger of "Sunny CA" to the indie rap jokiness of "Bo Jackson," which features two-bar tag-team rhyming from Fashawn and two-sporter Exile. Even more telling is that Fashawn sounds equally good in all of these, somewhere between Nas and the Game, between Mr. Lif and Murs, and in fact, his understanding of his place seems clear. He hints at other rappers' lines ("The world is yours," he says in "Hey Young World," while 2Pac gets a shout-out in "Our Way") without losing his own style. This isn't to say that Boy Meets World is flawless album, because it's not: there are a few too many heart-on-my-sleeve, dramatic-to-the-point-of-corny songs here ("Father," "Stars," "When She Calls"), but as the first official statement from a rapper, it's pretty impressive, the kind of thing you know is just going to get better as he goes along. ~ Marisa Brown