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Fashawn: Hope Amid The Realism

Every weekday from March 8 to March 19, Song of the Day will showcase a track by an artist playing the South by Southwest music festival. For NPR Music's full coverage of SXSW — complete with full-length concerts, studio sessions, blogs, Twitter feeds, video and more — click here. And don't miss our continuous six-and-a-half-hour playlist, The Austin 100, which features much more of the best music the festival has to offer.

A rapper on the verge of a major breakthrough, Fashawn just released a debut album, Boy Meets World, which documents life experiences stretching all the way back to grade-school bullies and high-school crushes. He's got a remarkable flair for storytelling, too, as evidenced by "The Ecology," which paints a bleakly vivid portrait of California's ghettos.

There's no glorification of the life of drug dealers and stray bullets Fashawn documents in "The Ecology." The somber string samples, by producer Exile, offer a perfect counterpoint to Fashawn's direct but evocative rhymes; the beat has a vinyl-ripped warmth, which brings to mind the work of producers like Madlib. More to the point, for all its grim realism, "The Ecology" doesn't admit defeat. Fashawn sees potential for change — and hears the need for a call to action — wherever he looks. A brash, God-fearing lyricist, he spends the song and the album pondering ways the world can do better.

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Anthony Fantano
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