Minnesota’s hottest new rapper is breaking through the mainstream incorporating rap, folk, techno, and indie rock. His name is Astronautalis and he has a lot of people talking, including people from Rolling Stone, Billboard, and various local publications.
I had the opportunity to sit down with him on his life, newest album “This is Our Science,” and his recent success of the Billboard, Amazon, and iTunes charts. It’s very exciting, with near-constant touring, hanging and recording stuff with the Doomtree clan, and enjoying the Minnesota scene. This may come across as hectic going around the world so often, but when asked, he said “I’m out on the road all the time anyways, so it doesn’t even matter where home base is because home is out in a van… everything is distant, and that’s the beauty of my job. I don’t have to be anywhere."
It’s the cornerstone of his budding success, the constant touring, seeing an almost unexpected—yet well deserving—commercial performance with 2011’s “This is Our Science.” “We were expecting to sell maybe 40 copies opening week, so we figured to make these little bracelets for the first 50 people who bought the album. So, when my manager calls me on the day of release saying to me ‘Andy [Astronautalis], we sold 70 copies in the first hour,' it was totally unexpected. Those bracelets we made can’t be found for sale anywhere in the western hemisphere.”
The album’s success marked the most commercially successful the musician has reached, hitting #43 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart, as well as a number #9 spot on iTunes hip-hop chart. This was done entirely from word of mouth. With no advertisement from label Fake Four Inc.
For those who don't know, Fake Four Inc is located in Connecticut; he lives in Minnesota. Much of his business, as well as his bandmates, are spread across the country. He is not limited to any part of the world, noting why he chose Minneapolis: "I would come to Minneapolis in my free time to work on music with people here, and every time I would come to work with Stef [P.O.S] and the rest of the Doomtree clan. I would stay longer to hangout and work on music with other people. That's how I ended up meeting Ryan Olson from Marijuana Deathsquad and eventually Justin Vernon. There is a quality to the music scene here not found anywhere else in America; it has this relentless work ethic coupled with relentless support."
You see, aside from his scope on "This is Our Science," Astronautalis has gained a lot of buzz for his live performances, in which he asks the audience for random words and phrases and literally freestyles a story--in which cohesiveness and hilarity are key--from said keywords and phrases: "The idea came initially from a rapper years ago named Supernatural who was the first exceptional freestyle rapper. He came up with this idea where he would have people take things out of their pockets while he was freestyling and work it in," and noting the influence it had on his own story telling style and shows, "I want the shows to be fucking fun. I want people sweating and dancing. The way I want shows to end, my favorite shows, are when I'm in the crowd dancing around perfect strangers. When the show ends, you're all sweaty and I'll be like 'Man, that was awesome. By the way, my name is Andy.' That to me is the best."
It’s exciting to see his talent pay off. He has a wonderful chance to become the biggest emcee out of Minnesota since the Rhymesayers crew. Many have taken notice, including Rolling Stone, Billboard, and a multitude of local publications.
With future projects such as the upcoming collaboration with P.O.S. on "The Four Fists" as well as future projects with Marijuana Deathsquads, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver--plus a cover of "Back in the USSR" on the 2012 Minnesota Beatles Project--in the works, side projects are the musician’s main focus as of now. It’s a good spot for him to fill. He’s charging his reserves before he makes his next exciting move.