Brampton, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Astrokidjay recorded his breakthrough hit “Ibiza” in a closet. At the time, he had lofty ambitions of reaching 50,000 views with the video – a last-minute, DIY shoot in an Airbnb. Those visuals have over a million views to date, and a lot more has changed since then.
The 2019 single (recorded with Stenno) put Astro on a white-hot trajectory, earning attention from producers like Murda Beatz and Evrgrn, as well as Astro’s manager, Karma Jonez. “He’s the one who pulled me aside and told me to sit back and work on my craft. He felt like I had potential, and that I could do more,” says Astro. “I learned, and I practiced a lot. I read the dictionary, I read a lot of books to help my grammar and my lyrics. I sat back for a little bit [and] stopped dropping music, just to work on my craft. To get better flows, better melodies, and better lyrics.”
That diligence led to a big year for Astro in 2021. He dropped an independent album called Wizard Boy, earned a feature with Polaris Music Prize-winner Haviah Mighty on her single “Coulda Been U,” and landed a record deal with Interscope in November. “I’m more of a developed artist now,” he says. “I know better, I grew up a bit more. I’m signed to a major record label [and] I have way crazier music than [on] Wizard Boy. I just feel like my things are getting better and better.”
The youngest of six kids born to Tanzanian parents, Astro’s music aspirations started relatively late in life. As a child, he preferred soccer over songwriting, and didn’t take an interest in rapping until his late teens. Thanks to varying musical tastes across his large family, though, the 20-year-old does remember being exposed to a mix of genres at home; artists who would later influence his own work. His inherited an appetite for R&B from his siblings, and credits the genre with his distinct, melodic delivery.
“I sat back for a little bit, stopped dropping music, just to work on my craft”
“I listen to a lot of throwback R&B, like 2000s R&B – Keyshia Cole, Alicia Keys,” he says. “I [still] listen to a lot of R&B before my sessions, because it helps me with melodies. A lot of people my age don’t listen to throwback R&B. [But] there are different types of melodies in it that we don’t hear in today’s music. It definitely helps me.”
Now gearing up for his tentative April 2022 release, Guns and Roses, Astro – who turns 21 years old in May – is taking a different approach to his writing than his earlier music. He’s traded trap-leaning freestyles and small basement studios for heavier doses of R&B, big studios, and a production team. Seeing an opportunity for professional growth, manager Jonez paired Astro with singer-songwriter Andreena [Mill], who, in addition to her solo work, has collaborated with artists like Melanie Fiona, DMX, and Drake. She serves as co-writer for much of Astro’s upcoming music.
“She’s, like, the best in the world! I learn a lot from her,” says Astro about Andreena. “She helps me with my vocal training, helps me hit certain notes. [She] helps with my writing process sometimes. It’s great working with her and being around her. She’s definitely one of the mentors who help me with my sound today.”
Working with new collaborators like Andreena, OVO-signee Roy Woods, and Jamaican artist Popcaan (perhaps most widely known for his feature on Drake’s “One Dance”) means Guns and Roses will be Astro’s most versatile project yet. While he’s close-lipped about the full list of featured artists, he promises that his new album is sure to widen his audience, and leave a mark.
“I’m on a whole new wave. There’s everything on there for all audiences: children, grandmas, aunties, mothers, everybody,” says Astro. “A lot of people are going to be able to relate to it. It’s going to leave an impact on the city when it drops. I know that for sure.”