Iowa City Rappers ADE And Jim Swim Whip Up "Michelin Astronomy"
Earlier this month, Iowa City musicians ADE and Jim Swim released their new EP, Michelin Astronomy. The four-track release features impressive DIY production, rap-along lyrics and effortless flow, all in less than ten minutes.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered many performance venues and recording studios, Iowa artists are still creating and releasing new music. When I sat down to talk to two Iowa City musicians about their new EP, the production value of the release begged the question: "Where did you guys record this?"
“You’re looking at it!” local musician Tyler James, better known by his stage name Jim Swim, said motioning to the at-home studio behind him on the Zoom call.
“And I have my own in my own apartment,” Bayo Ajose, who goes by ADE, chimed in. “We work [on songwriting] together, we record our stuff, and then we’ll bring it to the other person. It’s very collaborative.”
ADE and Jim Swim, both prolific rappers, vocalists and multi-instrumentalists in their own respects, released Michelin Astronomy on October 6 after creating the record together in a matter of weeks.
“There’s something about just letting go and doing what first pops in your head,” ADE said. “Sometimes what pops in your head is better than anything else.”
When asked what exactly “Michelin Astronomy” is, Swim said, “There’s always the metaphor of ‘cooking up’ when you’re producing or writing. A lot of times, we’re working from syllables. When we’re writing, it’s kind of a scat, and we’ll know that’s the melody and those are the sounds. [...] And then we’re like, ‘Now, how do we make actual words around what we’re saying?’"
"We knew our verses on that song [the title track] had a lot of cooking metaphors, and we messed around with that. So, I was like, ‘What’s the star called? The star when the restaurant’s really good?’ Michelin, and then the star, astronomy. It was like, ‘What’s the map of the excellence that we’re trying to cook up?’” Swim said.
The creative collaborators had much to say in praise of one another. Swim said ADE’s verse on the first track, “Don’t Take Advice,” was his favorite part of the EP. ADE called Swim a poet.
There’s always the metaphor of ‘cooking up’ when you’re producing or writing. A lot of times, we’re working from syllables. When we’re writing, it’s kind of a scat.
“He’s the guy I go to whenever I’m like, ‘Hey, I kind of know what I want to say, I say it like this but there’s a more tangible way to say it. What are the words that need to be put together in order for me to convey exactly what I want to convey?’” ADE said.
Michelin Astronomy has never been performed live due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in May, Swim played a No Touching Session, a live-streamed crowdless concert at Gabe’s in Iowa City produced by Threshold Apprehension Sound, but he has not played any socially distanced shows.
“I’m careful about [exposure to the virus]. But I really, really miss it a lot,” Swim said.
ADE said that he has played a couple of acoustic, socially distanced sets at Elray’s Live and Dive, a new music venue in the building that once held the Blue Moose Tap House in Iowa City.
“I don’t really do a whole lot of that, given the pandemic,” ADE said. “I 100 percent miss performing. It’s low-key nerve-wracking, but once you get into it and people vibe with it, it’s easy peasy at that point. I also forget the lyrics all the time, but no one has ever held that against me.”
“The teacher in me wants to say: this is a totally DIY project amongst friends and amongst Iowa artists,” Swim said. “It’s never been easier to afford gear and to learn [how to create music] via YouTube. Expertise with mediocre gear can get you to a professional sound level. Go for it. Learning mixing and mastering or having a friend who really learns mixing and mastering is so clutch. I want to stress that the DIY and Iowan aspect of [the EP] is a point of pride for me.”
Michelin Astronomy is available now on all platforms.