Raury stands out because he shouts louder. Aged 19, he’s been making bold statements for years. Give the Georgia-born prodigy a platform on the top of Mount Everest to declare his love for the universe, and he’d still use a megaphone. Any big topic, any divisive issue - he has an opinion.
His biggest moment so far arrived on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, back in September. Performing ‘Devil’s Whisper’, Raury wore a Mexico football shirt with the name ‘TRUMP’ crossed out on the back. It was enough to have Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shaking his fist and spitting at the TV. “He’s talking about building a wall, so much money on building a fucking wall,” Raury states a couple of months on. “There’s a general consensus amongst the youth and the people who live morally - somebody like that is not what’s up. The guy has a very old way of thinking, a stagnant way of thinking.
“You wanna know one story that I’ve never really included when talking about where I grew up, and where I come from?” he starts. “Stone Mountain is really close to Clarkston, Georgia. Clarkston is the most diverse city in Georgia. Damn near top three in the nation. They fly in refugees into Hartsfield-Jackson, and that’s pretty much where everybody goes. I went to high school with this girl who had a story about how she walked cross country and on a boat, all to get to this high school. More often than not, somebody’s from a different country in that high school. It’s there for refugees to get on their feet. Stuff like that is right around the corner from me. I’ve always seen it - people can live together. And as far as homelessness and all that goes, I feel like there’s enough for everybody. A country is judged on how they treat their poor.”
When it comes to big statements, there’s a lot more where that came from. Debut full-length ‘All We Need’ is crammed full of messages designed to sway opinion and change headspaces. And despite on the surface being more simmered down than last year’s erratic ‘Indigo Child’ mixtape, it finds Raury using his voice more than ever. The album “relates to this state that society’s in right now,” he says. Despite the bright eyed optimism of this teen - in person, he has a habit of jumping up and down at random, high-fiving strangers and looking around at the world in wonder - he speaks about the present day with negativity. “It’s becoming a dark society,” he claims, citing the themes around TV shows and movies as examples. “This is what we’re into - Narcos; the darker shit, the pessimistic shit… A lot of us are finding a home in that darkness and negativity, and they’re choosing not to fuck with this. So anti about everything, but not pro for anything.”
Raury’s answer to everyday cynicism? “I want to offer kids something so they can find themselves, like I did,” he states. “But not only that, but to wake them up out of the numbness. I can speak for myself - nothing really genuinely excites me at this point. Something’s missing. There’s a lot of dope shit, but a lot of kids are growing increasingly numb.”
"I want to offer kids something so they can find themselves."
Every speck of optimism coming from the mind of this excitable newcomer stems from his past. Back when he was fourteen, Raury was at the depth of a depression. His Aunt had passed away, and he’d just started a high school while all his current friends went elsewhere. “I felt very alienated. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t like life that much,” he remembers. But from day one of his career, he’s always cited one album that changed his life - Kid Cudi’s ‘Man on the Moon’. “I embraced me being different. It made me comfortable in my own skin and encouraged me to chase my dreams. Ever since then, I decided I was going to make music for that fourteen year old right now, or that nineteen year old now.” Music wasn’t always the only option for a kid who, aged nine, was “hellbent on success”. He googled how to build a career before he’d even become a teenager. “Guitar, working out, making sure I was super fast - I was picking up a bunch of things with the mindset that by the time I’m seventeen, I’m going to be killing it in something. And I was right.”
There’s plenty of idealism in what Raury proclaims, and everyday cynics will snipe and dismiss him as a naive so-and-so. But his big claims are grounded in reality. He invites fans on road trips, hosts exclusive listening parties before networking industry types can get their foot through the door. “As a new artist, going the extra mile and doing stuff like that is really necessary. They need to know you, they need to feel you,” he says. “By 2020, an artist like me doing all these different genres will be normal. An artist that does one thing probably can’t retain the kid of 2030’s attention. Who knows what the kid of 2030 will be! Multi-dimensional artists such as myself and all the young kids coming up - that’s what’s gonna outlast everything.” Donald Trump, old heads and anyone who’d prefer to dismiss new ideas should be quaking in their boots. Raury is one of millions of big-thinking visionaries ready to take over for the next ten, twenty years. Just until the kids of 2030 have their turn.
IF I WAS A RICH BOY
If Raury had all the money in the world (not a complete impossibility, the way he’s going), what would he do with all that dollar?
“I would start a community. It wouldn’t even just be for music. It would be for people that wanna evolve. Every tree and bush planted would grow food. There’d be no hungry or homeless people. Everyone can eat, and we’d have educational systems that teach people how to cope with themselves, and their emotions. Knowing what’s going on in your brain when you’re jealous about somebody - all that kind of stuff. Some people go their whole life not understanding themselves, but they know how to do math. Don’t get me wrong, that’s important, but we miss out on a lot of other things.”
Raury’s debut album ‘All We Need’ is out now via Columbia. Taken from the November 2015 issue of DIY, out now.