(AllHipHop Features) Brian “Stro” Bradly hasn’t even reached his 21st birthday, yet he’s already spent most of this decade building an impressive resumé in television (Red Band Society), film (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), and music (“Champion”).
America was introduced to the rapper-actor as a teenage contestant on the first season of The X Factor. Six years later, Stro is no longer The Astronomical Kid seen on the music competition show. He’s now a young man with a fresh creative voice that’s defying the stereotypes of Millennial rappers.
In many ways, Stro is built in the mold of master emcees from Brooklyn. He’s a poet capable of arranging words over beats which feel like the traditional Hip Hop of his hometown while also tapping into the energy of modern rap culture. The 20-year-old lyricist demonstrates his gift at cross-generational representation on his new LP titled Grade A Frequencies.
Following other projects like B.O.A (Birth Of Astro), The Chosen One, and Computer Era, Grade A Frequencies has Stro operating on another level as a music artist. We spoke about his latest body of work in part one of our conversation for AllHipHop.com. The discussion also featured Stro talking about New York City radio, potentially signing another major label deal, and more.
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AllHipHop: You rapped “I don’t make music. I make frequencies.” Can you elaborate on the meaning behind that and how it relates to the album title?
Stro: I’ve been rapping for like 12 years. So that’s like my whole life. For the longest time in my career, when I got behind the mic, the focus was to be the best rapper. Recently, I just started discovering a lot of dope music.
It may not even be Hip Hop. It could be a group called King that put out an amazing album called We Are King. Matt Martians from The Internet put out an album called The Drum Chord Theory which is amazing. Then I just found out about a rock group called Unknown Mortal Orchestra that put out an amazing album called Multi-Love.
All of this music hit me in a deeper way than it just being music. I started thinking back to my childhood and experiences I’ve had with music. They way music affects your brain and affects the listener is deeper than just audio.
I study and analyze music in a deeper way than the average person. So I understand music is really a frequency, a vibration that makes you feel a certain way. So me saying, “I don’t make music. I make frequencies,” is my way of telling people I’m in a different place when it comes to creating.
AllHipHop: I found it interesting you only have nine tracks on the album. Lately, in Hip Hop, it seems like people tend to pack a whole bunch of tracks on the album, but you kept it minimal.
Stro: This for me is more like an LP. People call it an album, but it’s really an LP to me. I didn’t really record it like an album. I guess if you have an original body of work that you’re selling then it’s considered an album, but I recorded it more as an LP.
It’s like a reintroduction or a sign of what’s to come from me. This is definitely a different body of work from my earlier stuff. The lyrics are there, but it’s more about the frequency and the vibe. So I tried to keep it short.
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AllHipHop: I saw you tweeted that you’re putting out a separate LP this year.
Stro: Yeah, I just wanted to let people know. I’m definitely trying to put out more music. I put out one project every two years. That’s because I judge based on substance. I can understand a person like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole putting out a body of work and not saying nothing for two years.
But I’m not Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, so I can’t be on that wave of staying away for long. So I gotta keep feeding people music. The second LP – I don’t want to talk about it too much – but it’s definitely coming this year.
AllHipHop: On the “Cool Kids,” you talk about how some people say they never see you in the hood. Is that something that weighs on you as your career continues to grow?
Stro: My life is very weird. I’m not famous to the point where I can’t take the train. But every once in a while people notice me on the train. So when I said that, I’m not trying to make it seem like I was a famous ass dude.
But I went back to my old high school, Boys and Girls. There was a lot of love there. But there were a lot of people shocked like, “He went here?” I’m from the hood, but I don’t think that matters when we have a conversation. You’re not going to assume I’m from the hood.
I definitely got certain people that feel away when I don’t want to be on the block or in the hood. They’re not understanding that’s not the type of wave I’m on now. Being a person with a little bit of buzz, they take that the wrong way as me selling out. I spent the majority of my life in the hood. That’s not a place I want to be anymore.
AllHipHop: On “Brownsville Freestyle” you rapped about staying independent. But on [Taylor Bennett’s] “New York Nights,” you were talking about maybe doing a deal with Def Jam. Are you considering signing with a major label again?
Stro: It would have to be a fair deal. I’m not anti-major label. I’m anti-getting jerked. If somebody comes up to me with something that’s comfortable, I would definitely sign. I think I just said Def Jam in that song because it rhymed. I don’t want to be creatively jailed. I don’t want to have too many restrictions. It has to be the right type of relationship.
AllHipHop: A few years ago you had a debate with [Hot 97’s] Ebro about New York City radio. Joey Bada$$ did an interview with Hot 97 recently and brought up some of the exact same points you were making years ago. In your opinion, do you see any difference at all now?
Stro: Ebro’s a character man. [laughs] Joey said the same sh-t I said. [laughs] He might have added two more points. But when I went up there and debated, it was just one of those things you want to know. I wasn’t like, “Yo, play my record or I’m not going to make it.”
I actually don’t listen to New York radio, so it’s not something I care about enough to go up there and debate it again. It’s the same thing with certain websites. If a website’s not putting my stuff up, I’m going to wonder why they’re not including me in the conversations or posting about my music. But if I don’t check it, I’m not that hurt.
I mess with AllHipHop. So when y’all post my records I appreciate that. But if y’all didn’t post my records, I’d feel a way because I’m a genuine fan of AllHipHop. I check it all the time.
It’s the same situation with radio. If I listened to Hot 97 or whatever station all the time, I would feel a way. But I’m at a point now where I keep the aux cord on deck, keep the iPod, and keep my headphones on my head. So I’m not really in tune with what’s playing on New York radio. And I don’t care enough about it to vent about it anymore.
When I saw the Joey thing, I thought it was dope he went up there and pulled their card, like a million artists that have gone up there. It’s always New York artists going up there complaining, and Ebro hitting them with a hot take and trying to make a joke out of it. But I think it’s definitely something people should be concerned about as far as the future of New York music is concerned. But I’m over it.
AllHipHop: How do you discover new music that you find yourself enjoying?
Stro: Honestly, that’s another thing with the frequencies. It finds me. I just hear stuff. Being that I listen to all different types of music, it literally finds me. Sometimes it’s as simple as clicking “shuffle” on Tidal. I use Tidal a lot.
They got this thing on Tidal called “track radio” where they give a list of songs that are in the same realm as the song you were just playing. I discover music like that. Or by asking people around me.
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AllHipHop: You understand internet culture in 2017. People are always looking for stuff to make conclusions about some “hidden message” you’re trying to say. So I wanted to ask you about the “Bryson Filler” interlude. Some people may take it as you’re dissing or mocking Bryson Tiller. What was your intent with that track?
Stro: It’s a joke. I needed something to cut into the LP just to change the tone. When you listen to the LP, it starts off on a more turn up vibe. Then as it gets toward the end, the vibe gets more mellow. So it’s just a joke.
When I grew up listening to Hip Hop, a lot of my favorite albums like Chicken-n-Beer by Ludacris… He’s got a skit on there where it’s an old man that’s a fake 50 Cent. It’s a play off of Get Rich or Die Tryin’. It was just a joke. It ain’t a diss.
I f-ck with Bryson Tiller. I’m pretty sure people are going to hear it and go, “It’s a diss.” Why would I diss Bryson Tiller? I don’t know him. I have no reason to diss him.
AllHipHop: That’s just the culture we live in now. You can say two words and it becomes a diss on Twitter.
Stro: I hope when people listen to it they understand it’s a joke. That’s something I want to bring back to Hip Hop -those skits and that comedic aspect. I’m a rapper, but I’m also very funny in person. That’s something I do. I be in the room singing like Bryson Tiller. It’s just a joke.