Talking to Raury, listening to his music, or watching his first video, which Noisey is premiering today, you pretty much immediately get the impression that teenagers these days are getting cooler. Unless you're a teenager yourself, in which case you probably just recognize that this kid is cool even by teen standards. The 17-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist/rapper from Atlanta's east suburbs already has professional poise, prodigious songwriting skills and seemingly impeccable taste. Citing influences from Kid Cudi and Andre 3000 to Phil Collins and Adele, Raury offers a blend of alternative rock infused with hip-hop savvy that suggests he could follow in the world-conquering footsteps of fellow smart-beyond-their-years songwriting sensation Lorde.
It's also a sound (and a look: Raury's cowboy hippy chic, with his signature wide-brimmed floppy hat, is already on point) that the hip-hop and R&B-oriented Atlanta is mostly lacking. So far, his output is minimal: just two swooping, atmospheric guitar songs on Soundcloud called “Bloom” and “God's Whisper.” But the latter has quickly attracted considerable online attention in the two weeks since its release. The video, filmed in Raury's neighborhood and at a bonfire in downtown Atlanta, looks to further establish Raury's alternative vision for his city. As far as alternative visions go, it's pretty enticing, and it only seems set to expand with an upcoming full-length project, Indigo Child. Raury is definitely still very much a teenager – he talks about talent shows and summer camp when we meet up for a short interview in Atlanta – but he's really on top of his shit. See for yourself by watching the “God's Whisper” video above and reading our interview below:
Noisey: Tell me about the idea of the Indigo Child.
Raury: My generation, my age group, they grow up within the Internet Age, so they're exposed to all these different types of things. Like, your parents can't protect you from it. We learn about people of different races, sexualities, religions, nationalities, and we learn to accept that people are different because we see it at such an impressionable age. There's nothing that we're not used to. And not only socially, but musically. I feel like things are changing and making a big shift because of the Internet and because of our access to it and because we're not trapped in a box growing up. Nowadays, growing up, I'm not trapped in my room listening to only Goodie Mob, Andre 3000, T.I., people like that because that's all that surrounds me. Artists are growing past Atlanta trap shit, Texas trill shit, California hyphy shit. People are breaking those barriers.
This is going to make me sound old, but what websites are you on discovering music?
When I was like nine or ten, it was YouTube. I watched a lot of anime shows, and they would make videos where they would combine crazy fighting action with music. So if you go and watch Naruto fighting Sasuke to Linkin Park, that shit's going to be there. If you go watch Frieza fight Goku to some System of a Down, it's exciting. That's how I would come across a lot of that stuff. Even like Sixpence None The Richer, songs like “Hey There Delilah,” Death Cab for Cutie. They would combine these shows with these songs, and that's how I picked up on it all.
You were in a band? Tell me about that.
Yeah. My sophomore year, I just wanted to do something. I hand-drew a ton of fliers saying like “I'm looking for a drummer, I'm looking for a bass player.” My phone number was all over the school, taped up against walls. Some teachers were pissed off, like “what's this kid doing?” And then when I finally get the band together, they didn't want to let us practice inside of the school. And this one guy, Mr. Moore, the janitor, he was real cool, he would leave a door unlocked, he'd let me know, and we would be sneaking in and jamming in the school.
Tell me about where you grew up.
The East Side, over there by Stone Mountain. I was the youngest out of two. Single mother household. My dad and mom got divorced when I was one, so I didn't really see him that much. All I listened to was 2Pac, and all the other kids, all they listened to was 2Pac, so we'd try to forge little gangs, and we'd go to the skating rink up the street and get to fighting people.
Being over there, at the end of the day, it's just the suburbs. It was still pretty boring. So early I learned how to catch the MARTA [Atlanta's transit system] downtown and really go and see what the city was about. I felt like a city man going down there and walking around the place not knowing where I was. I got lost so many times. I was only like 11 and 12. I'm just all for the adventure-type shit. I'm a really adventurous person. I like to go camping and all of that.
How do you see yourself fitting into the Atlanta scene as a whole?
I'm not really here to fit into these other types of music. I'm here to break open my own lane. Because I see what's going on – the predominantly club or hip-hop type sounds – but I know a whole circle, 30 or 50 kids, that would rather go and hit a bonfire than hit the club. That would rather go to the High Art Museum all day and go look at cool shit than get drunk and wasted. And then we can go to the club the next day. The kids nowadays are so open to everything else. Even at my high school, everybody knows who Bon Iver or King Krule or people like that are. These kids, they're bored with the same stuff.
I always wanted to be that kind of artist where you can listen to it and think “thank god this person exists. Thank god you can listen to this kind of music now.” The kind of thing that you can just identify with it.
Watch the premiere for Raury's "God Whisper" video below:
And Raury has also included a personal note for his fans, below:
For more interviews by the inimitable Kyle Kramer: