“Hey, you, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down!” – Astro, Stro is the Name
To answer that question, it’s the sound of real hiphop. The young, Brooklyn-based MC The Astronomical Kid, aka Astro, released his latest mixtape Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics yesterday (February 18, 2013), and it’s a mixtape that has proven to be a project of note.
Though many people know him from America’s first season of X Factor, and others from before that with his viral video Stop Lookin’ At My Moms, Astro proves, once again, that he is more than a mere gimmick, “reality tv star”, or internet sensation. A couple of weeks before the release of his mixtape, Astro released a video single from the project called He Fell Off, a seeming response to the masses who thought his end on X Factor was the end of his career. In contrast to those sentiments, Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics is a mature, solid project from start to finish, proving the exact opposite; not only has he not “fallen off”, but he is not going anywhere for a long, long while.
Here are my Top Five Reasons Why Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics is a Solid Project:
1. Past, Present, and Future
“Relevancy” is so important for an artist. With the intentions of trying to be relevant, many artists fall into the trap of simply copying the sound and style of what is current and happening. This leads to that cookie-cutter, commercial pop music that makes the differentiation between artists and songs on the radio very difficult. Likewise, you find some artists who struggle to move with the times, and become irrelevant because they are stuck in the past, and others who are always trying to push the limits of what music “will be”, and therefore their music generally goes over the heads of the masses, at least until music catches up to where they were, if it ever does, and then they have already moved on to somewhere else.
In Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics, Astro somehow delivers a style that feels like the past, present, and future of hiphop, whilst also maintaining a lyrical voice that is distinguishably his own. Astro’s technique was no doubt influenced by the hiphop of the 80s and 90s, but it also feels current and in no way stuck in the past. Because the sound and feel of modern commercial rap is so different to Astro’s style, it is easy to see how he is bringing back the vintage methodology and taking hiphop to new places.
2. Paying Homage to Hiphop’s Glory Days
Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics is like an audio version of a Jamel Shabazz photograph, capturing the glory days of both Brooklyn and hiphop. Astro’s relentless flow over boom bap beats is a salute to hiphop at its finest hour, teleporting us to the streets of a pre-gentrified Brooklyn that might be found in Spike Lee’s film Crooklyn. In double homage, Astro shows respect to two of hiphop and BK’s finest, Biggie and Jay-Z, through moments of flow emulation, mentions, and line citations. You can feel Astro’s love for Brooklyn and hiphop in every bar of this project.
3. No Features
The rap industry is currently obsessed with features. These days, you rarely see a rapper release a full-length project without at least two to six features from other artists. Though Astro is currently signed to L.A. Reid’s Epic Records, and probably could have had a handful of “big names” on this tape, there is not one single feature from any other artist in Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics. In Stro is the Name, Astro even says, “I don’t need no co-signs, to hold mines,” and he proves that with solid delivery in his genuinely solo project.
The closest thing to features on Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics can be found in the production, featuring a variety of producers: 9th Wonder, BrandUn DeShay, ThatLoserLaron, and MF Doom, plus three tracks produced by Astro himself. It is great to see a young artist staying true to friends, as ThatLoserLaron is one of his childhood friends. However, it is obvious that the beats made by ThatLoserLaron, and Astro himself for that matter, were in no way obligatory inclusions, because they stand up next to, if not higher than, the beats of well established producers like 9th Wonder and MF Doom.
4. Strong Story Telling
Much of today’s rap lacks the aspect of good story telling. Most commercial rap songs are just dance tracks with meaningless, catchy hooks surrounded by materialistic, misogynistic, vulgar, fluff-filled verses. Contrarily, many of the artists who would fall under the classification of “underground MC’s” (like Joey Bada$$ and the Pro.Era collective) have definite lyrical substance, but often lean towards a more stream of consciousness flow, which is impressive, but commonly lacks good strong storytelling. Kendrick Lamar is an example of an artist who is a good storyteller, but has also managed to make music that is commercially viable, but he is far from the norm in today’s music industry.
In Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics, Astro shows that he is not only a skilled lyricist, but he is also a good storyteller. Standout examples of his storytelling skills are evident in tracks like Corduroy Couch, Cheese, and Dead Beat. This storytelling element is another factor that takes us back to the days of when MC’s not only rocked the mic and the crowd, but they took us on a lyrical journey as they did it.
5. Good Because It’s Good
Many comments on online forums include patronizing statements like, “He’s really good for a kid,” or “He’s still young. He’s going to be great one day.” Though I think it is alright to point out the fact that he is young and talented, I don’t think Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics is “good for such a young rapper”, I think it’s good because it’s good. If anything, since we are comparing musicians by age, we should be pointing out how these “old” rappers’ raps are silly in comparison to the skill level and maturity of this “kid”. I think Astro proved this point when he made Drake’s original Started From the Bottom track seem like child’s play compared to his remix of the track. It’s time we stop recognizing Astro as “great for a kid”, and admit he is just great, period.
If you haven’t downloaded Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics yet, do it. It’s free! You don’t have to believe me, you can judge for yourself.