You’ll often hear accomplished artists say that music is a young man’s game -- and when they say that, they probably have someone like Raury in mind. The Atlanta rapper/singer/songwriter turned 18 back in June, and he can already show off a body of work and unique style that’s drawing comparisons to a young Andre 3000.
His debut, Indigo Child, was released in August, and perked up plenty of ears with off-the-wall singles like “God’s Whisper” and “Cigarette Song.” Raury is currently signed to Columbia Records, and this year he’s been rubbing shoulders and working with a few notorious musicians -- not to mention that he’s just a pretty interesting kid in general. Here are a few things I learned about Raury during our recent interview, in no particular order.
1. He always has an escape plan (literally)
I like to look around and know everything that’s around me in case I have to escape or something. You’ve gotta know your surroundings.
2. He quit playing sports and started recording music in his friend’s basement
I was 14 when I decided this is all I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but my first literal recordings took place when I was about 15. Everything was like really low key, so nobody knew it existed, but I quit playing sports and everything. It was in my good ol’ guy Kip’s little basement. I learned how to produce and everything from him, in a studio set up. I was writing for a while and putting together projects but I was still shy and didn’t want anybody to hear anything or even know that I played the guitar at first.
3. His early songs were sad and aggressive like you’d expect from a teenager
A lot of those songs were really sad songs about love or some real aggressive violent raps, 'cause I did grow up listening to 2Pac and stuff like that. And some of them are just raps telling a story -- just speaking about how much I hate school. I just like to express myself at the end of the day.
4. He’s a pretty shy and introverted guy
I was shy but at the same time I knew what I had to do to get where I was going to go, so I forced myself out of my shell. When I went to camp over the summer, I would talk to people more, hang around people more and get used to being social. That helped me out a lot like since I’m so introverted and self-conscious about a lot of stuff.
…But being an introverted Gemini will help him cope with fame
I have a really strong mind so it’s not like I’m going to go insane. I understand and I’m aware, at this point, that I belong to my fans in a way and I love my fans. I’m also a Gemini, so while I do have an introverted streak, at the same time I can be awesome and in everyone’s face so it doesn’t really bother me like that – I don’t think I’ll go crazy on you guys.
5. He loves all the music Atlanta has to offer -- even if it doesn’t sound similar to his
I’m more into the newer, underground stuff that’s coming out right now. I definitely love Young Thug, Future and those guys, but I also love Makonnen, Key! and Two-9 -- those are my real favorites whenever I wanna listen to some trap sh-- or club stuff. When it’s just straight up hip-hop, of course you’ve got the great stuff from guys like Kendrick. I started outta hip-hop, I started as a rapper…
6. His anti-tour (impromptu performances outside of other shows) will never die
It was real cool to get out there and do those shows in order to preserve the memory of me when I was starting from the bottom. And also, it’s a great targeted marketing thing because I knew how different my music was, and how left it was.
I felt the artists I did go on anti-tour with – Future, Childish Gambino, Phantogram, The Neighbourhood – they all have fan bases that have respectable ears, in my opinion, and they would be able to understand my type of sound and maybe gravitate towards me, too. So, respectfully, because [those artists] make great music and have awesome fans, I wanted to show up and see if their fans would like my stuff. It’s going to be amazing to look back on it in a number of years from now.
7. Breaking the rules was part of the fun
Of course we couldn’t get approval or anything, [with] all of it being against the rules. We got shut down at Future in the first fifteen seconds, but it was all bound to happen and it was real fun. I would go up there with like three fans in the crowd and come down with like 300 -- it was real awesome.
8. He recorded and had great conversations with SBTRKT
The people that I collaborate with, I like to feel like we’re friends and I know them to certain degree, so when I was out in New York, SBTRKT and I sat down and we talked for a while. It was a really good experience getting to talk with somebody that has experience in the industry way more than I do — that was one of the first real conversations I had in-depth with another artist. We sat in the studio for 12 hours on end and we have a number of songs together, actually. It’s an honor to be on his project and I actually have two songs on there.
9. He thinks Kanye was just as chill
[Kanye and SBTRKT] were equally humble people. Kanye was very cool, man. We had breakfast, we talked for a nice little minute and then we played each other each others’ tracks. I played him stuff from the album before the release, and he went nuts and played me his stuff. I was like, “Oh my god”… I always feel like I have to keep up with people like that. He’s got some really good stuff coming, that’s all I can say, but yeah he’s real cool.
10. His team is young and he likes it that way
Love Renaissance is the management team I’ve been with for about three years, prior to any label meetings. They’re the collective that developed me and grew with me. We’re all pretty young: Justin and Sean, the two guys that co-manage me are 22 and 25. The guy who wrote “God’s Whisper” and scripted the screenplay for “Cigarette Song,” he’s also 22, so it’s a real young team. It’s cool ‘cause I’m all about youth and bringing up this new era and this new generation of creatives.
11. He’s very protective of his work
On Indigo Child, out of the nine or ten songs, only three are produced by other people. When it comes to my projects, I like to be self-contained because I want a consistent sound. I already make stuff that’s “here-there-bam-bam,” so I want the fans to be able to listen to it and feel me in the song. The more the creation stays in your hands, the more genuine it will be and the more original it will sound.
12. His mom was actually yelling at him in those Indigo Child skits (but she’s not mad at him right now)
Those skits are very real. She didn’t find out [about them] until like a couple of days before the project was dropping because I wasn’t going to tell her. I didn’t know how she was going to react. The crazy thing is, a lot of people like ask me about that: “How’s the relationship between you and are mom? Is everything okay?” And everything is fine. Like, literally two hours after that conversation everything was fine -- we went to Applebees later that day.
People argue and things like that happen. I just really wanted to put a piece of what goes down in my life into the project, because when I look at my album and any other album that I release in the future, it will literally be a peephole into my life. The last thing my mother yelled at me for is probably being away from home so much.
13. Two weeks in the woods seriously changed his life
I was a part of this program made by Coca-Cola called the C5 Youth Foundation. We went on a lot of crazy adventures through that program and even did a 50-mile hike through Wyoming. We were camping and backpacking there for two weeks and it was amazing and life changing. You hear coyotes some nights by camp and you bring your chemical components to drop in the river water that you’re going to be drinking. You had to poop in a hole, use biodegradable tissue and stuff like that. We didn’t shower for two weeks but we weren’t that dirty.
When we left [the woods], the moment we got in the car we turned on the radio and everybody was happy to feel some AC. We’re sitting there and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on and people in the car started bawling, just crying because we were so happy to be going home, and we were just so proud of each other -- we had made it.
14. His time in the woods also explains why he wears the signature Raury hat
That experience is responsible, somewhat, for why I write and produce the way I do and it ties into the story of why I wear the hat. Those situations out in the woods challenged my soul and challenged me as a person. And throughout that process I wore a sunhat and it always reminds me what I went through was out there and keeps me grounded in a way. My favorite accessory is “the Raury Hat.”
15. He’s learned the importance of proper hydration
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is drink a bottle of water. At this point, I've been through vocal training and [my coach] has me drinking like 3.5 liters a day. I drink so much water everyday and it has a great affect on how good I feel. It’s why I can cope with being how busy I am.
16. He played a pretty dirty prank on a friend once
I was like nine and my friend shot me with a BB gun when I told him not to. So I invited him to my house and he knocked on my door -- there’s a window above my door -- and I had a dog that would sh-- n my backyard, so I had a big bag of sh-- and I just dumped it on him.
17. He’s all about positive vibes and adventures
I hate talking about things that no good can come out of. I really try to avoid putting stuff like that in the universe because I strongly believe that the universe is listening and it comes back to you in some way. I love talking about outdoorsy stuff, like off-roading, or camping, or bon fires. I love talking about the universe; I love talking about sex sometimes.
18. There’s one artist he’s still dying to meet
FKA Twigs… I love her.
19. He already has a new project lined up
You can definitely expect it next year.