Going Back to Cali

Biggie is smiling. Cheesing from fat cheek to cheek at knowing that he’s one of the reasons that young rapper turned Hollywood movie star, Brian “Astro” Bradley, picked up a pad and began to write rhymes. “I would judge the music that I listened to off the album cover,” recalls Astro, 17, who says he started rapping at 3. “I would see the Ready to Die album cover and see the black baby and I just got into it.”

It was all a dream back then for Astro, who at 13 was brave enough to make a silly single titled, “Stop Looking at My Momz.” It became a YouTube sensation with over 500,000 views. And after performing his song as a finalist on X Factor USA, today the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn MC is floating in clouds, jet-setting from NY to LA to work with stars like Liam Neeson, Octavia Spencer, and Steven Spielberg − all in one year. He's becoming a tiny phenomenon thanks to appearing in his first film, Earth to Echo.

Dropping fresh for the July 4th holiday, Earth to Echo brings back memories for old school heads that remember ‘80s flicks like Short Circuit and ET. A millennial take on the alien movie, Earth to Echo is filmed from a kid’s perspective, with most scenes shot from an IPhone camera point-of-view. Astro’s character, Tuck, leads his friends Alex (Teo Halm) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) to spend one last unforgettable night, before moving out of town, investigating the source of technical breakdowns. What they find is a dying alien, on the run from undercover agents, trying to get back home.

Yes, it does sound like a Steven Spielberg movie. But Earth to Echo, directed by Dave Green, is not for the grown folks. It’s for our children, with an entertaining, new millennium take on friendship and youth defiance from the perspective of babies who feel abandoned and unheard. And for Astro, who got the role after sending in a videotaped audition made in his living room, this movie and acting career is just a step toward expanding on what he really wants to do. “I’m a rapper first,” says Astro, who listens to Jay Z and Wu Tang to improve his rhymes. “Acting is just something that I’m trying out.”

He obviously made the team. Since shooting Earth to Echo two years ago, Astro has snagged a role as Liam Neeson’s sidekick in Walk Among the Tombstones, dropping in the fall. This summer, he shoots the Spielberg pilot Red Band Society with Octavia Spencer. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Rejon also snagged Astro to appear in Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, which begins shooting this year. “I’m older now. I’m working more now,” says Astro who still lives in Bed-Stuy. “Things have changed, but not that much. I’m not broke. But I’m not rich. I’m good. I’m eatin.’”

Earth to Echo Hits Theaters July 2.

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