Back to his Roots: Up-and-coming hip hop artist still calls Fresno home, makes it to big time

Fresno is home to thousands of artists and musicians, but not many work with some of the world’s biggest names in the hip-hop and rap industry.v

Calling the Central Valley his “foundation,” Fashawn hopes to put Fresno on the map with his unique sound.

Fashawn, born and raised in Fresno, was born Santiago Leyva. By the age of nine, he jotted down lyrics. By the age of 13, he had his own CD. Influenced by hip-hop legend Nas, Leyva says music spoke to him.

Leyva grew up on the west side of Fresno as a kid before dropping out of high school in 2006 to pursue a career that started out with a tour alongside fellow Fresno artist, Planet Asia.

In March 2010, Leyva was named one of XXL magazine’s “10 Freshman for 2010” along with artists Wiz Khalifa and Roc Nation’s first signee, J.Cole.

“Never did I think I would make it this far,” says the 21-year-old. “When XXL called me for the cover, I thought, ‘For real, are you kidding me?’”

This was XXL’s third annual nationwide search for the 10 best up-and-coming hip-hop artists.

Although his name is still somewhat unfamiliar in the United States, he has made moves internationally. He just returned from headlining his own tour in Europe, his second overseas tour this year.

Leyva’s relative obscurity in his native Fresno is quickly coming to an end, however. His headlining tours and his original sound have made for hard-won success.

Leyva’s first album, “Boy Meets World” was released in October 2009, and features collaborations with Planet Asia and was produced by music legend Exile.

Leyva has also worked with big names like Lil’ Wayne, J.Cole and Mistah Fab.

Leyva’s favorite collaboration in his career thus far was with an unlikely star: Los Angeles Lakers champion Ron Artest. The two teamed up for a track on Fashawn’s new mix tape.

Leyva’s mix tape, “Grizzly City 3,” named after the Fresno Grizzlies, hit music stores August 23. He calls it “musical jambalaya” for its unique blend of different genres.

It includes a remix of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and a collaboration with Lil’ Wayne on “The F.”

The up-and-coming-artist’s mix tape, Grizzly City 3, is a follow-up tape of the original Grizzly City, released in 2006.

In addition to his Grizzly City releases, he has also released two mix tapes titled “Higher Learning” and “One Shot One Kill.”

Leyva will be performing at the official release party for the mix tape this Friday at Star Palace in downtown Fresno. Also performing is new artist Curren$y.

The event is suitable for all ages and Leyva takes pride in that. He wants to set a good example for the younger generation.

“I like to call what I do edutainment. I want to educate the audience with my story, and entertain them with my music,” he says.

Leyva added that performing at the fair is one of his dreams.

The next event for Leyva is the Big Fresno Fair. He will be performing on Oct 14.

Leyva likes to think he is an example of what can happen when you put your mind to something. What is his advice to any artist? “Know what you want and do what you love.”

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