PREMIERE: Atlanta rapper/producer Astroknot Releases “Astroknot To Ground Control”
Astroknot (Jake Otto McDonald) - Photo by Clayton Hillyard
Keeping up with our premiere week, AstroKnot and VENTS are teaming up for the premiere of his new single “Astroknot To Ground Control,” a dark, trap-inspired cut produced by Astroknot himself that serves as the album’s intro. Dissonant strings & arpeggiating synths dance atop booming sub-bass to provide the track’s backbone, over which Astroknot spits lyrics that touch on everything from dealing drugs to the recent presidential election.
Astroknot is a hip-hop producer/rapper from Atlanta, Georgia who is beginning to make a big splash in Atlanta’s underground hip hop scene. His forthcoming album, Ground Control to Astroknot (Crock Pot Records) features vocals from Atlanta artists such as Curtis Williams, Goldyard, and Pancho the Great. Implementing a variety of musical influences, articulated melodies and intricate vocal structures, Ground Control to Astroknot delivers an effective and unique look into the complex evolution of Atlanta’s rap culture.
Astroknot (Jake Otto McDonald) was born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised on the beach until he was five. His adoptive father landed a new job that would move the family to Marietta, Georgia, where Jake spent his days skateboarding and dancing in Hip Hop dance crews. At the age of 14, Jake picked up his first guitar, sending him on a lifelong love affair with playing music. A multitalented musician, Jake played drums, bass and guitar in multiple different punk and metal bands throughout high school. It wasn’t until 11th grade when Jake wrote his first rap song, with longtime friend Chris Yonker (owner of Mammal Gallery, lead singer of Hello Ocho, bassist of Karaoke, drummer for Omni) while high on ecstasy. Jake traces his love for hiphop back to that moment, and said he’s never looked back since.
After high school, Jake moved to a house in East Atlanta, a block away from Gucci Mane’s famous Texaco at the corner of Bouldercrest and Eastland Rd— “It was an absolute shit hole, but it was our shit hole. Four bedrooms with a basement, three porches and a huge yard for only $800/month. Those were the days, it was always a fucking wreck, we threw outrageous parties and house shows, got robbed all the time, but I didn’t care, I loved it.”
But then, Jake entered into what he calls his “Three-Year Dark Period.” Unable to pay rent, he sold all of the musical equipment he had acquired throughout the years. Without any equipment, Jake quit playing music altogether. This lack of stability led Jake to start selling drugs and propelled him into a lifestyle which consisted of constantly partying, traveling on the road to sell drugs on music tours and festival circuits, rock climbing throughout the way at different spots and camping— “I became addicted to this Boss Gangster lifestyle, I would soon find out that it was all a lie though.”
After losing a large sum of money to foolish investments with shady people, having his life threatened every week for six months by a tattooed skinhead, and struggling to make it out of the hole he had fallen in, Jake had to make a move. McDonald experienced a life changing epiphany at a festival in Miami when he ate some LSD soaked popcorn — “I was thinking to myself, what the fuck am I doing with my life!? If I worked this hard at anything else, I could have whatever I want!” And that’s exactly what he would do. He immediately went back to technical school to work on cars and began making music again. McDonald started producing beats with “Ployd” (Aireon Grimes, Atlanta based producer/DJ) and went on to gain the BMW scholarship from Atlanta Technical College and start working for BMW in 2014.
Around this time, he started a group called Leftovers with Nikolai Lvov (Just Neeks), Spun, and Bronstein. He was finally beginning to find his sound, or his “lane” as he calls it. He started to discover that he had a really incredible voice. “I always thought I had a shitty voice until Yonkers taught me that your voice is an instrument, you need to practice it, it’s not a natural talent like being Michael Phelps”. He continued to work with Leftovers but began to working on his solo career at the end of 2016.
After being fired from BMW at the beginning of 2017 for speeding in a customer’s car, McDonald began pursuing music full time. “I love working on cars, but the corporate world just wasn’t for me. I was the black sheep at Atlanta’s most prestigious BMW dealership. Getting fired was just God’s way of showing me it was time to move on. I was starting to be molded into a person I knew in my heart I wasn’t. Moving up, gaining more certifications and higher pay, becoming a rat in the 9 to 5 life…. no fuckin’ way.” He started working as a bartender and began to save money and prepare to drop his first full length album.
He completed his first full length album Ground Control to Astroknot at the beginning of 2018, collaborating with producers Tyku (Tyler Kumpee) Niles (Niles Roberts) Hiku (Tyler and Niles), MP808 (808 Mafia’s Terrell McNeal), and rappers Curtis Williams, Goldyard (Austin Thomas & In-Doe), Pancho the Great (Corion Dews) and Just Neeks (Nikolai Lvov).
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