Astray is one of the highest-selling hip-hop artists from his hometown, and his career includes work with the likes of Eminem, Paradime, and more Michigan rap royalty. But now, the multitalented rapper/producer/songwriter is ready to use his talents to tell his story: a narrative of humble beginnings, drug addiction, and grassroots success.
Growing up in Saginaw, MI with parents who adopted him two months after his birth, Astray grew an affinity to rap after studying cousins’ cassette tapes of Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Run-DMC. After recording his first song in sixth grade, he continued to create until he joined an area indie label, getting lost in the company’s shuffle of more than 20 acts. He teamed with childhood friend Nic Spaulding to start Self Made Records, a new company with him as the flagship artist.
With the one-two punch of his clever, multisyllabic rhymes and Spaulding’s industry know-how, Astray built a reputation as one of the city’s strongest rap acts. After building a foundation with two solo records, his third disc, “Who’s Coming With Me,” earned national attention by landing in the Billboard’s Top 200 and Heatseekers charts.
After turning down a deal with TVT Records, he returned to his grassroots formula: word of mouth, impromptu performances, and hand to hand sales. He sold approximately 60,000 copies of his albums during his run with Self Made.
“I started looking at hand to hand sales as a job. I got kicked out of every Michigan mall you can think of,” he says. “I still believe it’s a good way of selling music, despite the Internet and all.”
After the success of “Who’s Coming With Me,” Astray began to accumulate studio equipment and ventured into production while sharpening his choruses. After showcasing his talents on his mixtape “Entourage,” he became an in-demand producer around and chorus writer the region, arming area artists with a mixture of club bangers and album cuts.
Detroit indie rap heavyweight King Gordy enlisted him to produce the bulk of his underground classics “King of Horrorcore” and “Van Dyke and Harper Music,” helping Astray land an internship at Eminem’s studio 54 Sound. While there, he continued to build relationships while serving as an extra ear for Eminem and his group D12.
His fun in the Motor City was short-lived, though. Astray immediately moved home once his adopted father was diagnosed with liver failure and cancer, a result of his battles with alcoholism and substance abuse. His support of Astray’s career contrasted that of his biological mother, who refused a relationship with him based on his dedication to music.
While mourning his father’s death, Astray slipped into depression and developed an addiction to prescription pills. For nearly two years, he stayed up for days at a time while suffering from hallucinations and extreme panic attacks. A year after surviving an overdose, he began to gradually decrease his usage until becoming clean.
“I overcame it and I’m proud to say I’ll never mess with it again,” Astray said. “I know a lot of people that get off of it because they have to, but I did because I actually wanted to.”
With his addiction behind him, Astray enrolled in Full Sail University and got back in the lab to continue fine-tuning his musical knowledge. After seeing his versatility and work ethic, frequent Kid Rock collaborator Paradime and Chief recruited him for their label, Beats At Will Records.
Since then, Astray has capitalized by making waves on the label’s “BAW Vol. 1” mixtape, and serving as a reliable one-stop shop of production and hooks for the label’s fledgling roster and indie acts like Hatch and D12’s Swifty McVay. He has also worked closely with Paradime, producing and engineering his records while touring alongside him.
With an even bigger set of ears listening and sound systems waiting, he wants to tell them the truth: survival of a turbulent family life and substance abuse, and an entrance into a strong music career.
“I was always worried about being the dopest emcee lyrically, but I never really told my story,” Astray said. “I want to give people something that will stick with them, not just entertainment. I’ve got a lot to tell.”