Before I could appreciate the musicality of Illmatic, I admired the teenager that eloquently articulated the madness of his world. Nasty Nas was seemingly evicted from the womb holding a pen and pad with a doobie chain and a perfectly parted fade. I went through most of my teenage years trying to discover where I was going, who I wanted to be, and seeing him uncovering his gift so early impacted me more than watching Kriss Kross or a Lil Bow Wow. The voice of a young man with the words of a sage, his talent and maturity wasn’t a representation of his age.
We expect teenagers to be lost in a cycle of grades, girls and television garbage, immature and innocent, but when you hear music from young men/women whose minds have evolved beyond the stigmas and low expectation, it gives you a rush. Parents will be impressed if your rhymes are more complex than Dr. Seuss, but to impress me, you have to offer more than elementary lines and high school love poems. I have high hopes for Jaden Smith, he has started to show promise, I believe he won’t be the typical teenager rapper in the coming years, but if I had to pick one artist, too young to enjoy the magical, Magic City Mondays but talent and maturity isn’t a representation of his age, that would be Astro.
The album Computer Era was recorded in a bedroom by Astro, an 18-year-old Brooklyn born rap artist. By the time you reach the third song, "Champion," you will have forgotten his age and whatever judgments you placed on where the recording took place. The quality assures this isn’t amateur hour; the crisp mixing is to ears what FKA Twigs is to eyes. His prowess with words and rhymes left me believing the entire project was written under the same sycamore tree that Jay Z was conceived under. It isn’t uncommon to find artists with admiration for the Golden Era, but it’s different with Astro, his '90s influences are overshadowed by his charisma and self-confidence. He tames the style of his forefathers and owns it.
I give him kudos for rapping well, but that isn’t the most impressive aspect of the album. Astro is constructing songs and executing concepts that will put some of his seniors to shame. He showcases excellent storytelling with “My Brothers Keeper,” social awareness with "K.I.N.G (Keeping Ignorant Niggas Glorified)," snapshots the modern era with "Internet Goon" and pure honesty on "Ghetta Story," almost every song has a mission to prove his growing artistry and talent. There isn’t a moment that feels “repetitive,” “childish” or “immature,” but there’s still some shock value in the fact that a young man is making music of this caliber. There aren’t any club records, there isn’t any partying, not a single song to stick in the microwave for quick consumption. Despite what his X Factor beginnings might suggest, Astro is a serious artist, and wants his craft taken serious. His high-school peers are probably cocooned in their youth, lost in the allure of wild and free living, while he is focused on his career, a sacrifice that will reward him once the curse of age affects them all.
More than just Computer Era, what intrigued me to truly give Astro a listen is that he aspires to be the Jay Z of Blue Ivy’s generation. How can you ignore an artist that proclaims such a title? Then Sway called him “the future and the present” after Astro killed his "5 Fingers Of Death" freestyle. Ignoring him at that point would be criminal. I didn’t know about him being a contestant on X-Factor, I didn’t hear his previous album Deadbeats & Lazy Lyrics, but I can say Computer Era is good enough to make me want to dig up the archives. This is the kind of project that makes you feel good about where the youth could be headed, that they aren’t just wasting their lives on social media, devouring junk food and junk music.
Astro isn’t lost, he isn’t trying to discover himself, he has found his gift and will give kids the feeling that Nas gave me, while making the kind of music even adults can enjoy. While I wait for Jaden to tap into his potential, I’ll be keeping up with Astro, the most intriguing youngster coming up.
[By Yoh, aka Elroy Yohson, aka @Yoh31]