Ah sub-genres, the Hugh Jackman of music. Somehow omnipresent yet totally irrelevant to the art. ‘Swamp Rap’ is what Texan-born, Minneapolis-based rapper Astronautalis has been labelled with. Whichever silver haired exec decided on this one just handed Andy Samberg a golden ticket for an SNL character.
On a more serious and artist-focussed note, Astronautalis has, at 36, found his feet as a rapper with his fifth release, ‘Cut The Body Loose’. Despite incessant denials from the rapper, the album feels tight through in its poise and a message clear and concise, which in itself scared the former battle rapper.
“I think I’m more direct and I feel like I had a lot to say, probably too much to say, in my early records. I felt like I was more comfortable about being direct about what I said now. The other albums operated in allegory or code, or told someone else’s story and now I just want to make myself uncomfortable,” he says.
‘Running Away From God’ is the stand out track thanks to its sureness, despite Astronautalis speaking of his discomfort in being so direct. A religious assumption about this track would be the obvious one to make of a man raised in a god-fearing state who then moved South to Florida, known for biblical loyalty… and swamps. Previously an angry atheist and now a calmer agnostic, the song instead looks at the concept of power within society. Astronautalis is direct in a rabbit hole kind of way thanks to his deep thinking and humble nature, his lyrical prowess perhaps takes more consideration for decoding than he may think.
“I always consider myself a rapper, so it doesn’t matter to me if I am writing more of a ballad you can put a beat under it and speed it up and it’s a rap song. But I think ‘Cut The Body Loose’ is the first rap album that I’ve made. It was definitely a concerted effort to fall in love with rapping again and the craft of rapping.”
For such a self-assured album, which is perhaps a listener’s perception as opposed to reality, Astronautalis is a man constantly searching. From rap battles, to Greek mythological references and now an album which could see him found. However, it is more likely the case that the sculpture has been chiselled down to its true beauty and he can go forward with the confidence we hear, but he is yet to fully embrace.
“You know I’m not a trained musician, I came up as a battle rapper. That’s not an artform, that’s more of a craft or sport. Now this is my fifth record and looking back my first two records were just me ripping other people off. The third record was when I finally worked out my own voice and my own sound and I feel like I spent the third, fourth and fifth record really honing that sound. ‘Cut The Body Loose’ felt to me and still feels to me like the real polished jam.”
When & Where: Pool House Party, Coburg – March 17 & Laundry Bar, Melbourne – March 18
Tickets via www.astronautalis.com
Written by James Mac