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Fashawn is the performing alias of rapper Santiago Leyva, a lyrical realist whose work has been supported by the likes of Nas, the Alchemist, and 9th Wonder. Born to an absent father and a drug-addicted mother, the Fresno, California native grew up quickly. At age 12, he was living in a group home, but he was also writing his first rhymes -- inspired by the likes of Public Enemy, N.W.A, 2Pac, and Dilated Peoples -- and by 15, he'd released his first mixtape. After he was taken in by his uncle, the young MC caught the ear of Planet Asia. Fashawn dropped out of high school to join the veteran rapper on the road and further his career. A prolific writer, Fashawn released a handful of mixtapes through 2008. The hard work began to pay off with recognition from hip-hop publications including XXL, which gave a high rating to his first proper album, the Exile-produced Boy Meets World (2009), and selected him for their "Freshman for '10" feature. For several years, Fashawn continued to issue mixtapes, including the Green Lantern-presented Ode to Illmatic (2010), and shared the mike on tracks with the likes of J. Cole, Skyzoo, and Wiz Khalifa. Additionally, he and Murs put together the full-length collaboration This Generation (2012). The Ecology (2015), his second proper album, was issued through Nas' Mass Appeal label with the bulk of the production once again handled by Exile. Another release for Mass Appeal, the Manna EP (2017), featured some of his most fiery rhymes.
© Marisa Brown & Andy Kellman /TiVo
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