Astronautalis makes the move to Minneapolis

There's a new love in Astronautalis's life, and it's the kind of all-consuming, heart-palpitating summer obsession that is the subject of so many songs. The rapper--known offstage as Andy Bothwell--is in a relationship with the entire city of Minneapolis, and things are starting to get serious.

[jump] "Sweet Jesus, you guys are going to kill me," Bothwell laughs, chasing two glasses of iced tea with a double shot of espresso during our lunchtime interview and listing off all of the parties and shows he's been to since arriving in the city. "Minneapolis's social schedule is bullshit. It's too much fun. I'm totally screwed this summer."

Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Bothwell has spent the last three years tethered to Seattle while touring the U.S. and Europe in support of his gritty, introspective and hyper-literate rap music, all the while eying the Twin Cities music scene and befriending some of our best known touring musicians. He's played the Cities many times throughout his career, dating back to an early-aughts show at the Dinkytowner where he played to "maybe eight people," but it wasn't until this past March when he played a very sold-out show with Sims at the Triple Rock that he decided to make the move to Minneapolis.

"That night was the nail in the coffin," he remembers. "I had been talking about it for a while, but the next day was when I started looking for apartments."

He says that he's been a longtime fan of Twin Cities music, citing Atmosphere and Fog as early influences, though he only recently started piecing together exactly how many of the musicians he respects are rooted in Minnesota.

"It wasn't until I started hearing about the Gayngs project that I was like, 'Whoa, whoa, you're from here, and you're from here? Awesome!'" he says. "I'd known Ryan [Olson] 'cause he'd played in Stef [Alexander, a.k.a. P.O.S.]'s band years and years ago, and I'd always been a fan, but seeing that and seeing what Doomtree was doing--seeing all of that happening and seeing all of your friends and people working together, that sort of community doesn't exist anywhere else in America."

And the city is doing its part to welcome our latest transplant, too. Just a few days after Bothwell arrived, P.O.S. and a handful of other rappers like Mike Mictlan, Spyder Baybie, and fellow Floridian Bleubird threw an informal welcome wagon-style party of sorts in a downtown parking lot, tweeting out the locale only minutes before starting the show and drawing a hungry crowd of excited fans. The MCs took turns rapping out the window of Bleubird's RV, the small sound system forcing the crowd to press in close to listen, and Astronautalis eventually abandoned the microphone all together to step into the crowd and freestyle a capella, riffing on the joy he felt in his new hometown and proclaiming his love to the after-midnight air. It was the kind of night that had everyone drunk on each other, thrilled that no one called the cops and giddy with anticipation over what might come next, and it only helped to reassure Bothwell that he could feel comfortable calling Minneapolis his new home.

"That thing in the parking lot the other night, there was damn well 200 people there," he exclaims, beaming proudly. "What else do you need?  I wanted to be like, 'This is why I came. This is it right here.' Expect a lot more of that this summer."

FREEEBIRD RV Rap Show 2 from Ben Clark on Vimeo.

Appropriately, the next Astronautalis album, This is Our Science, will feature collaborations with several members of Doomtree, including P.O.S., Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak, and Sims, in addition to a collaboration with Tegan Quin (of Tegan & Sara) on the album's first single, "Contrails." The record is due out September 13, around the same time as P.O.S.'s forthcoming new studio album, and once both rappers have their solo albums locked down they plan to finish up their debut EP as a duo under the moniker Four Fists.

In other words, expect to hear a lot more about Astronautalis this year as he immerses himself in the Twin Cities scene. 

For now, though, Bothwell may need a little advice. We asked him what kind of suggestions he could use from our readers to help navigate our culinary and nightlife scenes, and his eyes lit up. "I always need to know the Mexican places to eat," he says, rubbing his hands together. "I want traditional, I want crap burritos, I want new Mexican. Any sort of Mexican food. I also need to know places that have good scotch selections. And I need to know a really good barber shop -- a real barber shop," he says.

Have a suggestion for Astronautalis? Leave a note for him in the comments. And catch him live at his first local show as a Minneapolitan on Saturday, July 9, when he'll perform as part of Dessa's Cadence Hip-Hop Series at the Guthrie's Dowling Studio.