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Over 40 years ago, history was made when two American men landed on the moon for the very first time. Fast forward to 2011 and a Brooklyn kid, coincidentally, by the name of Brian "Astro" Bradley, made his own out-of-this-world history: the nimble MC became the first rapper to crack the top 10 of a mainstream music competition, Simon Cowell's "X Factor." Powered by his enthusiastic followers, dubbed "The Astronauts," Astro captivated viewers at home with his mix of bravado, charisma and skill.
"I thought it'd be the typical reality TV thing, where they change you," says Astro. "I wasn't excited, I didn't want to do it. But my mom kept pushing me, she said give it a chance, see how it works out. Prior to us going out to audition, she heard LA Reid on the radio, like a week before, saying, if you're an MC, come through and audition, we don't have enough MCs, we need some 16's. So I went there and made it through and we just went from there."
Did he ever. And it turns out he didn't have to change a thing, as he earned fans far and wide, from Diddy to to New York Yankees star C.C. Sabathia to media personality Star Jones. The 15-year-old lyricist made his mark on the show when he unleashed his original breakout viral hit, "Stop Looking At My Mom," (over 500,000 views on YouTube) which, unbeknownst to Cowell, included an introduction that could make Ashton Kutchter proud.
During Astro's televised audition for "X Factor," where he performed for the judges, including Epic Records Chairman & CEO LA Reid, Paula Abdul, former Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger and Cowell, the rapper engaged in small talk before he began. But no one was all the way clued into his set; Astro, who built his career on the grassroots level in Brooklyn, often punked his audiences by playfully targeting a man in the stands who was "looking at my mom." Cowell caught Astro's wrath and by the time the stuffy music mogul picked up on the joke, the crowd was championing the upstart and singing along to the catchy tune.
"I was nervous, cause it was live TV, but my stepfather calmed me down and we did it and got Simon," recalls Astro, who eventually finished seventh and became a fan-favorite for his unconventional approach to the competition "So we couldn't wait 'til it aired, we knew it was funny."
Despite his youth, Astro has notched with a number of accolades already in his career, notably being tapped by The Source as an esteemed "Unsigned Hype" pick in the lauded hip-hop magazine's December 2010 issue. He's made television appearances on BET's "106 & Park," MTV and the "Wendy Williams Show." And his underground roots include a number of popular mixtapes, including the "Yes, I Write My Own Rhymes" series, which began when he was just 10-years-old.
Now, Astro is hard at work on his major label debut. In January 2012, Astro inked a deal with his "X Factor" mentor LA Reid to join Epic Records. Currently, he's in the studio with Pharrell Williams (Jay-Z, Britney Spears), Boi-1da (Drake, Eminem) and Hit-Boy (Kanye West), among others, working on material to provide the soundtrack to the summer.
"I still want it to have that hip-hop feel of a mixtape, but it's gonna have more of a concept and radio material," Astro says of his project. "I want to make it a storyline, like Ice Cube's Death Certificate, where it had a "Life" side and a "Death" side, and it actually meant something. I want it to be something people enjoy."
With interests in music, photography and film, Astro is poised to be a multi-media star and a presence in pop-culture for years to come. He recently shot his first TV role, for CBS's hit "Person of Interest," which stars Taraji P. Henson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). But his focus remains music and his plans are in place.
Prepare for liftoff.