When Andy Mineo logs onto Zoom, he’s mostly recovered from a bout with COVID-19. The fully vaccinated rapper contracted a breakthrough case in New York City and spent the next few days quarantined at home. He sounds pretty good, which is just as well, since he’s got a new album dropping soon. But he’s not 100 percent yet.
“My lungs are still a little funky, which is crazy for me,” he mourns. “I’m like, ‘I use my lungs for a living. I really want these things to be working!’”
They’re getting back to normal, but he’s still feeling anxious about it. “I’ve heard so many crazy stories about long-haulers, people that have perpetual lung issues after the fact,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s a mess.”
He’s heard some horror stories. A football player whose COVID left him with 50 percent of his previous athletic ability. A young man who now can’t play basketball without a breathing machine nearby. You’ve probably heard similar stories. Mineo feels for these people, and their stories trigger panic.
“I start feeling shortness of breath and then I start panicking because I got shortness of breath, which gives me more shortness of breath,” he says. “It’s this self-fulfilling prophecy of, ‘I’m going to the hospital, I’m going to die.” I’m like, ‘This probably isn’t helping me feel comfortable.” So I went and laid down in bed and recovered.”
Real is overused when it comes to talking about artists. For one thing, the word is a little hard to define. Real has been commodified to the point where it’s almost a product in and of itself — you have to own the right things to be real today. For another thing, how do you know what an artist is being real? Real compared to what?
But here’s the thing. Andy Mineo is real. Talking to him, it’s the most obvious thing in the world. This guy doesn’t have a false bone. No pretense. No interest in being anything other than who he is. The hip-hop artist has been releasing albums since 2013, each of them a blistering magnifying glass to his own anxieties, obsessions and passions. Fans feel like they know Mineo because he’s put his whole self out there for them to experience. It’s not always flattering. Sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable. But it’s never fake.
“One of the calling cards in my music has always been vulnerability and honesty,” he says. “I’m always processing what I’m really going through, what’s happening in my life and that’s been a real part of my journey. I’m trying to figure out what faith looks like post the megachurch, white evangelical, mega boom. There’s a different way to follow Jesus.” He’s just trying to figure out what it is.
There’s a lot that’s up in the air about Mineo’s future right now. He’s got a new album in Never Land 2, the long-awaited followup to 2014’s Never Land, the dynamite EP that put him on the map. Never Land contained “You Can’t Stop Me,” his colossal hit that was certified Gold and claimed ESPN’s “Whammy Award” for best walkup song for baseball. Mineo’s been teasing a sequel for years, and now it’s here, in a very different context than the first one landed. For Mineo, the first Never Land was about savoring childhood, just like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys did. But now, Never Land 2 is coming at the idea from a far more grown-up perspective, and the truths Mineo is finding are trickier to explore.
Mineo is asked if he wants to talk about Steven Spielberg’s Hook.
“My favorite movie of all time? Absolutely.”
He says there was a time when he watched the movie “every day” when he was a kid. Robin Williams’ performance as an out-of-touch Peter Pan who’s forgotten his adventures with pirates, mermaids and fairies captured Mineo’s imagination, and Peter’s quest to remember his actual childhood still resonates, though in a very different way.
“It’s funny, as a kid, I always related to the little kid that didn’t have his dad showing up to the baseball games,” Mineo says. “Now, as an adult, I’m watching it and I’m like, ‘I feel like Robin Williams, who’s always attached to his phone,…