Rapper Fabrashay A, born Shad Wilson, christened himself with the ideal stage name, considering his rhymes are as intricately detailed as the bejeweled Faberge eggs that inspired the moniker. They’ve also, in more recent months, started to exhibit a similar fragility, with Fab crafting more emotive songs inspired by the 2006 death of a close friend and the passing of a woman he viewed as a mother figure.
“I’ve always been concerned with what people think, because it’s like, ‘You need the consumer, and you need this, and you need this,’” said Fab, seated on a couch in the control room of Phase Two Studios, a recording facility housed in a dilapidated home in the Old North neighborhood. “I’ve always listened to what everyone said and never really done me. Now I’ve just stopped caring.”
The forthcoming A Knight’s Tale EP, in turn, doubles as the sound of the MC cutting loose from his moorings. The musical backdrop drifts in unexpected directions, sampling classic rock tunes by the likes of the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones, as well as tracks from relative newcomers like Arctic Monkeys, and Fab spends nearly as much time singing as he does rapping, often in an Auto-Tuned cadence reminiscent of Kanye West’s sad cyborg turn on 808s & Heartbreak. “What’s the life expectancy of a black man?” he sings on one tear-streaked number dedicated to the memory of slain friend Russell Gossett, Jr., his voice digitized to a near-unrecognizable robot coo.
It’s surprising to hear Fab express such vulnerability on record, considering he still prefers to keep his guard up around most everyone except a small circle of friends and collaborators. The rapper doesn’t like discussing specific details of his upbringing, for example, because he doesn’t want “people watching where [he] came from and where [he] grew up and judging.”
“I try to be a private person,” he continued, “and I try to only expose things in the music that I want to be heard.”
This desire to blend comfortably into the background is further reflected in his choice of wardrobe for our early February interview: a camouflage jacket.
Even so, Fab has clearly started to develop at least some comfort level with opening up on tape, and the songs he’s recorded for A Knight’s Tale and the full-length Jesus Juice, which he hopes to release by year’s end, reflect both a growing sense of maturity and a desire to shake up the status quo. Note, for one, the title of his most recent, Blueprint-assisted single: “A Rebel with a Cause.”
“It’s like, ‘Everybody’s going this way? OK, I’m going to go this way, and I’m going to jump the fence, and I’m going to get three people to jump the fence with me,’” he said. “I want to shift everything. I want to make people think.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston