I have listened to You and Yer Good Ideas three times now, and I am still having a hard time figuring out what the hell it is. Yes, on one level it is a rap / hip-hop record. On the other, it is a southern folk album. Still, on another hand (if you are a three-handed freak), it is a crossover composition that can’t be easily pigeonholed, much like Moby. Despite its aversion to labels, Astronautalis’ first album is a little experimental gem.
So many singers now, whether hip-hop or not, seem to eschew actual singing. Words are spoken in a conversational monotone style, backed by music of all styles. Take the emergence of the latest British bands such as Bloc Party and Maximo Park, the aforementioned electronic wunderkind Moby, and various other artists who don’t seem to let singing get in the way of, well, singing. Astronautalis, a white rapper from Florida, sounds like Matthew McConaughey doing spoken word a la William Shatner. (And yes, I realize McConaughey’s from Texas).
Growing up, I never really heard too many people talk about rap being a `fad.’ Most of my friends listened to the likes of Run D.M.C., N.W.A., Ice-T, and a host of other rap acts, and we all believed that the genre would last. Not only did it last, but it has spawned some of the most original music in years. Sure, there’s still some old school braggadocio going on, and the basis is still an MC and a DJ, but who would have connected dots between LL Cool J and Sage Francis? Or Beastie Boys and Aesop Rock? The same is true for Astronautalis. Mixing folk, country, rock, shoegazing and a slew of other influences, this Floridian has made one of the most original hip-hop (if you can call it that) records out there.
Just listen to the laid back rhyme stylings of “Somethin’ for the Kids,” namedropping Fat Joe and Tupac Shakur (who he eats donuts and philosophizes with), and coming up with a folky sing-song chorus that people can sing along with. Check out this thoughtful piece of rhyming from the track. Astro starts out telling a tale of how he and Fat Joe are eating grapes in the back of the van:
I give him the grapes, a puff and a pass
Spitting another seed out of the back….
“We should return here in ten years time”
I ask him why,
“So we can drink the wine from the orchard that is grown
From the seeds we alone cast aside.”
Astronautalis is actually Andy Bothwell, but the former name will probably take him to greater heights in the music business. In You and Yer Good Ideas, the southern grown hip-hop talent has both pleasantly surprised and confused me. I never thought that rap could be like this and after all the years of straying from the genre, he has made me feel glad to be back.
Jim White- No Such Place
Sage Francis- A Healthy Distrust