Astronautalis (aka Charles Andrew Bothwell) is a Minneapolis based rapper known for his genre-bending production and freestyle performances. While on tour in support of his 5th studio album Cut The Body Loose, he stopped by Baeble to record an unique, unplugged session of sorts. In our newest NEXT Session, Astronautalis might dial the instrumentation down (he's known to front a full band), but he knocks the intensity to 11, slicing and dicing through three explosive cuts from his new album.
In between songs, the amicable hip hop head gives our own Kirsten Spruch the run-down on how he got his start as a local "suburban, middle class, white idiot" (his term) in the Jacksonville FL battle rap scene. It's where he learned how to perform, it's where he learned to think on his feet, it's where he found himself in sticky situations...all of which press on the stories that permeate Cut The Body Loose. It's a great spin...one we're pretty sure you'll be sprinting to after giving our newest NEXT Session a spin.
Even after six months Nola still a wreck The ninth ward still had water to your chest Under I-10... rapper. Before I ever wrote songs or anything, all I ever was freestyle and battle for the first four to six years or so. I didn't really write anything down. For a longest time I was about being clever and being precise and just being, you know, kind of on point. to you, or...? - No, not at all and I was as bad as every white kid that ever tried to rap and I didn't tell anybody for the first two years and I would freestyle while I walked my dog. And I had a job at a pizza parlor washing dishes and so, you just stare at a tile wall for hours and I would just stare at the wall and just freestyle and I'd sit on the bus and I would freestyle. I didn't have a lot of friends and so, I had a lot of time to freestyle to myself. I think the core of it was is that I was an idiot, a suburban middle-class idiot, who had no idea about rap culture and learning about it through...as osmosis. And so, I would listen to dudes like Lord Finesse and Big L and all these like New York City legends and I heard that they were good freestyle rappers. And I, being a suburban middle-class white idiot, thought that their albums were freestyle and that's what freestyle was supposed to sound like. So, I set this impossibly high bar that my freestyles needed to sound like Lord Finesse's writtens. And so, for the first two years, I was just punishing myself if I didn't sound like perfect Big L lyrics when I was freestyling. And it wasn't until maybe a year and a half into that that I realized, "Oh, no those aren't freestyles. " And so, part of teenage loneliness, a lot of boredom, and then having an impossibly high standard kind of ended me up where I am today. Hello ladies and gentlemen, my name is Astronautalis. I'm a rapper from Minneapolis, Minnesota. All the cool kids in the North wishin' they were Southern. So they wear boots and drink whiskey just like Waylon. All the cool kids in the Heart of Dixie try to shake they accent Before they move to Brooklyn. All the thugs dress like punks with studded leather belts, denim vests, and they start skateboarding, na na na. All the punks dress like thugs with New Era fitted caps, snapbacks, white ones, and some clean Air Jordans. Kurt Cobain can smash all the guitars he like 'cause he was rich as fuck just like John Lennon. These days no one ever drowns in quicksand or dies from the plague. Yep, The Golden Age is boring. I swore I heard Andre 3K say one day, aye rap was a young man's game. Never thought I'd be pushing fucking 33. See? Still making a living off the things that I'm saying but hey, rap is dead. Punk is dead. All seen that t-shirt. Drug kick in and it thumps like this. Dancing 'til our feet hurt. Some old man is swearing "Vote for me. Ain't gon' be worse." Hate to burst your bubble baby, but it's gon' be worse Me first? Leave first. Katrina breaks them damn dykes What would you do for some freedom and a Klondike? I'll screw to you when our bosses all just decide life Be better for them if they laid you off and just said goodnight Gun pulled on me by a cop one time Four guns pulled on me in Atlanta last night What struck me as funny is that both damn times conversation started with the exact same line I said put up your hands. Aye. He said put up your hands. Imma put up my hands. And then they said I'm from the state of that 20G rim sitting up under $500 lemon. Pushing this whip Best be bringing your friends because you'll be pushing this whip 'til it breaks down again. I'm from the nation of that War on Drugs 40 billion a year, can't ball like us. Bringing the coca and we bringing the guns. Just kill a few soldiers, push the coke price up. It's all lucrative business, lipstick-on-a-pig shit. Yeah, coupe is horrendous, but the rims are stupendous. Go ahead and just tell me you know how you can end it. Ball 'til you fall with a fake ass pendent while you waiting in line to cop an iPhone 5 so you can post some pictures of places you ain't been in your life. Go on, bump this on your Beats By Dre at work staring at the sky. My homie said, "Fuck a business loan," stole copper piping. Rap is dead. Punk is dead. All seen that t-shirt. Drugs kick in, thump like this. Dancing 'til our feet hurt. Some old man swearing "Vote for me. Ain't gon' be worse." Hate to burst your bubble, baby. It gets much worse. Fuck them. Fuck this. Off to live my own life. What would you do for some freedom and a Klondike? I'm fucking through. So from now on I am on my all news is bad news, everything is all right. Yo, aye. C'mon put up your hands. Put up your hands. C'mon put up your hands. Put up your hands. C'mon put up your hands. They said put up your hands. I said - One down. Sometimes it's great to be stupid because ultimately, you do things that if I was well informed, I would've been too cool to do a lot of the things I ended up doing. When I was growing up in Jacksonville, literally, I had to go to alleys and train yards and abandoned buildings to battle dudes. And I am the most suburban, middle-class, least thugging dude out there, but I would just go to these places because I wanted to rap and completely unaware that this might be dangerous. And it wasn't until later when a dude tried to pull a gun on me and guys would try to beat me up that I realized, "Oh, I might be in a bad place," but it never dawned on me because I was stupid. And so, it was good that I was stupid because I wouldn't have gone to those places if I was smart. If I was smart, I would've been like, "This is a terrible idea to go into that dark building and battle all of those old men," but instead I did it anyway because I was an idiot and I just liked rap music. And so, I'm glad I was dumb. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't that stupid. - You have a pretty crazy life. - I think it's crazy of my own making so, that's a different thing. I've thrown myself into crazy as opposed to...I came up in the most Norman Rockwell, idyllic, American life and then, threw myself into crazy and Eastern European countries and sleeping out of vans or whatever. So, it's crazy, I think, but crazy of my own making. - You mentioned being a suburban, middle-class white boy. - Yeah, yeah - So, you've lived in lots of places: Florida, Seattle, you live in Minneapolis now... - Texas as well. I was born in Virginia and I grew up in Maryland until I was 12 so, that's the run right there. - Okay. I feel like most artists today that you hear about are from Los Angeles or New York. Like very big concentrated areas. How do you think it has affected you moving around to smaller... Like Florida, you said there wasn't a huge rap scene there. - Yeah, well I left Florida because there wasn't a scene and I moved to Texas to go to school and Dallas was a really good place for me to start off, but at the end of the day, it was also a wobbly music scene there. I moved back to Florida because I couldn't afford to live anywhere for the first few years so, I moved into my parent's house because touring, you live off of Ramen and you sleep in a car. And then, eventually I moved to Seattle for a girl, which was a terrible idea at the time, but eventually became a good idea in the end. And I moved to Minneapolis. When I was leaving Seattle, I was looking at all these different places. I was looking at Austin, Texas and I was looking at Berlin and Prague and New Orleans and Minneapolis and I chose Minneapolis. And honestly, in my opinion, it's the best place in America to be a musician. It's probably the best music scene in America because the support of the city, the support of the community, the support of the press there, the support of clubs, and then also, on top of it, I don't have to work 10 jobs to have a 150 square foot bedroom in an apartment. I have a nice little place, I make a living off of rap music, and so ultimately, I go other places. I don't make my living just in Los Angeles or New York. I make my living in Prague and Moscow and all over the place. So it doesn't really matter where I live as long as they got an international airport. And so, I think that's a thing that's often overlooked by musicians. There's still this sort of mythology that you have to go to New York or LA to make it and at the end of the day, most musicians I know didn't make it New York or LA, they made it on SoundCloud, you know? And so, it doesn't really matter where you are. It matters what you do. And so, I ended up there and I don't see myself ever leaving. Though it's nice to be in New York every once in a while. This song's called "In The Tall Grass" Baby tell me anything that you please. Just take it all with a grain of salt. Know exactly why ya calling me. I don't even need to hear you talk. Daddy told me always watch my feet when walking where the weeds grow too tall. I can tell that you're lying to me by the fork at the end of your tongue. The end of your tongue. The end of your tongue. Yeah, I been up all night waiting for you to come home. Come up with a good reason. I been up all night knowing you gone and doing wrong. I know you're lying 'cause you're speaking. Go on keep on praying to your God above. He knows the devil when he sees him. Gon' keep putting bills in that ole swear jar. It won't buy you no freedom. Won't buy you no freedom. Careful brother the grass grows awful high here. Ain't no telling what's dwelling or hides near. former felon don't always appear in Nike Airs or the right eye that might cry only tattoo tears. Nah, real killers don't kick down doors. Dangerous ones are ones you invite in your own home. So while you busy bolting and chaining, turn around clown in a night gown the serpent is waiting. She got you in a death hold that won't let go. You're quick to thank her. A stiletto ain't just a shoe but a knife that it is dangerous. Brother I bet you. You just slow. And you think you can change her, but a snake is still a snake even if it shed its skin daily. I know you listening lady. Yeah, you been keeping tabs on me lately. Crawled out your rock the moment I made it with apologetic talk, Obama, promising changes. I been up all night waiting for you to come home. Come up with a good reason. I been up all night knowing you gone and done wrong. I know you're lying 'cause you're speaking. Go on keep on praying to your God above. He knows the devil when he sees him. Gone and keep putting bills in that ole swear jar. It won't buy you no freedom. It won't buy you no freedom. It won't buy you no freedom. It won't buy you no freedom. It won't buy you no freedom. - Your latest album, "Cut the Body Loose," do you want to talk to us about the recording process of that and how you wrote it? - Sure. I wrote it over a lot of years. Sometimes my process of writing is really slow. And I wrote it mostly on the road. And I wrote a lot of it about things that I knew from my childhood and my life in the American South, mixed with things I had seen in my travels. The term "cut the body" was pretty crucial to the whole thing. It's a phrase taken from the ritual of a New Orleans jazz funeral. The funeral's done, the body's taken out in the casket by the pallbearers, and the funeral procession is met by the band. The band plays these tremendously sad funeral dirges and once they reach the gates of the graveyard, this is the moment when you cut the body loose. And the casket and the pallbearers and the body all go to the graveyard and the funeral party and the band then goes on down the street. The music changes and it's a party down the street and there's this moment, I think it's a really beautiful moment in a ritual grief, to decide, "Okay, now we're done. Now we're done crying. Now we're done being sad. And now we all fucking party with a bunch of strangers in the middle of the streets in New Orleans. " And that was such a really beautiful thing to learn about and to understand and especially given the era that we live in and the world that we're exposed to repeatedly. It's very easy to be crushed under the sadness of the world around us. And so, the takeaway that I'd had from the last few years of traveling, seeing the things I had seen all over the world, was that the thing that I had seen in common with people that were happy and people that were finding joy, even in really adverse situations, is that they had just made a determination to be happy. And they made a determination to make their lives happy. And that really connected with me and seemed like a natural through line to that ritual of "cutting the body," it was in a New Orleans jazz funeral, allegorical representation of the whole thing. And so, at the end of the day, I suppose that's the long and short of the entire record. - Wow - There you go. We were all running away from God. Away from God. We were all running away. Away. Even after six months Nola still a wreck. The ninth ward still had water to your chest. Under I-10, piled dead cars. Ever seen an ambulance with high water marks? They don't dance no more, all we do is flinch. Brace for that old taste, the taste of strong fist With blood on lips, and flooded bricks. Taste that whiskey kiss. Born sweaty and free. Fuck a club, mu'fucker. Take that shit to the streets, G. We were born running away. Away from God. We were born running away. Away. We were born running away. Away from God. We were born running away. 10 euros, that's cheap for sure. He said it all in broken words. These people ain't got nothing. They'd rather drink what they have than buy your merch. Čadca isn't pretty, but Tatranský works. Thick liquor dark brown, made of secret herbs. Slovakia'll get busy, they don't need the word. Anything is a club, but the speakers work Aye. Turn it up till it shakes the rafters. No kings, no gods, no masters. Beat build while the euro collapsing. Little kids are tagging "all cops are bastards. " Anti-fa's passing and they holding daggers. They don't need the magic just to make this happen. Make out, make due, make the best of what you got volume up till it shakes the rafters Shake the rafters Let's shake the rafters Let's shake the rafters We make our own disasters! We were born running away. Away from God. We were born running away. Away. We were born running away from God. Away from God. We were born running away. Away. The moral of the story is be nice, be on time, work harder than everybody else, never pay attention to cops and you can do whatever the fuck you want. Amen. We ain't no gangsters. We ain't no thugs. We all just flesh and blood and we don't need you to mess it up. We independent son. We dig our own graves Salt our own lands. Make our own plagues just for fun. And you can test us. Come. We'll be waiting by the front gate with a beam up in our cup. And I'm dumbfounded in my home town. Cops come: all us run. Landlord wants us out. We pack our bags and shut the whole thing up. I was like, "Aight, what you do when police come through to shake you down?" Laughed out loud and said, "We lock them motherfuckers out!" That's a true story - So, thank you so much for coming by and playing a session for us. The amazing songs, they were, they sounded so great. That was so bad. - Thanks for having me here. Nailed it. We're good. - How do you talk? - Let's go. Hello ladies and gentlemen, this is Astronautalis. I'm from Minneapolis, Minnesota, by way of Jacksonville, Florida and you're watching Baeble music. Boom.
Charles Andrew Bothwell (born December 13, 1981), better known by his stage name Astronautalis, is an American alternative hip hop artist currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.