When I was seventeen, I couldn't tell you where I was let alone where I was going. The same cannot be said for East Atlanta artist Raury- a seventeen year old who has no trouble explaining himself or his motives. Since he debuted his new single ‘God's Whisper’ on Billboard two weeks ago and successfully transformed himself from a normal high school student to an up and coming singer/rapper/artist with a solid amount of internet buzz and an highly anticipated EP on the horizon.
Shuf caught up with Raury (and his mother) over the phone this week and talked Atlanta, "Raur-fires," and big plans for the future.
Shuf: Tell me about your new EP
For this EP, I plan to create my own genre of music, my own slang, my own culture. The music is very different. I believe that artists like me, King Krule, Chance The Rapper, and Lorde are pioneers to a new era of music. An era of music where the sound is so blended and genuinely unique that you don't know what to call it. Specifically artists like me or Lorde - you could call it alternative. I feel like the only reason that this is different from everything else is there's a different culture in Atlanta that people have no idea about. We're a younger set of people. We're just overshadowed, blocked out by the club scene and the, well, you know what it is...
Shuf: Atlanta is definitely well known for its music scene currently but not necessarily for any folk influenced music… even though its a Southern state.
Definitely. Throughout that and my career, I want to bring my culture in Atlanta up. The new cool. The new era of dudes who are succeeding; the Andre 3000s, the CeeLo Greens, and the creators of Atlanta. I want to bring that side back in to the light. I believe people forgot all about that and its just drowned in all this auto-tune stuff. Not to knock it because I love Young Thug, I love listening to Future, I love Gucci. I would do a song with Gucci. All this shit is awesome. Atlanta is home to genius and I want to bring that back to the light. I just want that to be at the forefront cause the trap shit, the club shit; it's never gonna die. It's always gonna be there.
Shuf: You seem to talk a lot about world creating, is that something that's important to you?
Yeah, I'm progressive man. That's what I'm about. I'm all about coming and taking everything by storm. I want to be like a hurricane. I want this EP to be a hurricane. That's what I really want to do. I want people to go scrambling, you know? I want people to - based on my project - reproach how they create music. Stop worrying about what genre they're making and just write from the soul.
Shuf: This sounds reminiscent to the kind of rhetoric used in the punk movement of the seventies, do you draw any influence from punk?
I mean, I don't know. I listen to a lot of rock from the nineties. I was never a person to dig deep into music and listen to every freakin’ song by David Bowie and every song by Phil Collins like that but I draw inspiration from it.
Shuf: Do you believe in heroes?
Yeah! I’m my hero, man. You’re on the phone with him. (Laughs).
Shuf: You seem to be the kind of guy who can really represent himself well which is refreshing because lots of artists tend to not want to give away too much and have the art say everything.
A lot of people are mixed up and are trynna be all mysterious like “Oh, yeah, you wanna now who I am? Follow me, follow me,” a type of [The] Weeknd-y approach, but everybody can’t be that, you know? That’s what I realized even throughout my career. We studied it. We saw the past people as far as how they came up – particularly the Weeknd, you know? He didn’t do any interviews. He was mysterious. You didn’t know what his face was. That was just his style but like with me, I’m an outgoing person. I want to be a leader in ways beyond just music because I believe I’m an artist, not just a recording artist. I mean doing interviews is my forte because I like to talk. (Laughs) I like to tell people what’s on my mind. I like to just go off. You may have to cut me off sometimes because I won’t mind it and I’ll go Kanye on you. (Laughs).
Shuf: From talking to you right now and your Billboard interview, I can tell you definitely have some Kanye in you. That’s a good thing, man. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Going back to that thing you mentioned about obscurity vs. clarity in terms of The Weeknd's vs. your approach, something I’ve noticed about your single ‘God’s Whisper’ is that it's a clear song. The lyrics are straight forward, the production is clear, and its apparent to me as a listener what’s happening in it. The song's clarity definitely provides a contrast to modern day indie music, especially of the Pitchfork variety, wherein artists tend to value obscurity over clarity. Do you make a conscious point to be clear?
I think that’s just who I am. I don’t beat around the bush with anything I’m trynna say or who I am. But I also really, really appreciate the human aspect that Bon Iver brings into his music. The comforting aspect of his sound and just how soulful it is. It’s crazy ‘cause the type of person I am and the music that I listen to are polar opposites. I listen to James Blake, Bon Iver, and people like that all day. I can’t listen to hype music all day. Soulful, slowed down tempo… Cool shit like that is what I love to hear. So me being clear and stuff is not on purpose, it just happens.
Shuf: I noticed there were a lot of cigarettes in your promotional images and you mention them in interviews, was that a conscious decision or did it just happen that someone was smoking a cigarette in the background of the picture?
Hell yeah, that’s just who I am. That’s what I plan to do. Everything I plan to do is to be upfront about everything as far as who I am, what I do, being the kind of person I am. What you see is what you get… but you also should know there’s a lot more to me. As an artist, I want people to know who I am and connect with me, definitely, but I also always want to give them something more to look forward to. With that being said, once people feel like they’ve got you figured out, I feel like it’s just done for you. I feel like I’m a person with so much to me that when you hear this album, you will definitely be excited for what’s coming next. I leave a lot of stuff up in the air as far as what I can do. You already know eight out of ten of the songs on the project are produced by me. The lyric content, as far as me rapping; the thing is I feel as if I’m one hell of a rapper so I feel like I’m gonna be one of the best rappers. I feel like I’m amongst that…But it’s not overly saturated, didn’t want to come across as some douchebag like “Oh, look! I sing and I rap.”
Shuf: What is the percentage split on your new EP between rapping and singing?
25% rapping, 75% singing. Twenty, eighty.
Shuf: With all this ambition, is there a project in your mind that’s beyond your means currently? Do you have a Yeezus tour in you?
Yes, bro! I have all this stuff so planned out, man. I have stuff planned for scenarios that might not even happen. God forbid World War III happens but if it does I’m going to do one hell of a fucking benefit concert... There’s this one thing I want to do, because I’m a narcissistic asshole, and I like to spell my name in front of bunch a random shit like when I throw bonfires and I like to call them Raur-Fires. Not bonfires, Raur-Fires.(Laughs). I would like to do this thing later on down the road called like Raur-Fest, right? That’s like where we probably like shut down a bunch of major roads downtown in the city and have like a fucking parade slash concert all around. Also there’s another thing – I don’t know maybe I would call this other event Raur-Fest too but it may be different because I want to have the whole entire Georgia Dome and just like give five seats for everybody to just come. I’ll only do that when I’m freakin’ super big to the point where like people are dying to see me. Just like a blessing to everyone, some great shit like that.
Something more immediate that I plan on doing in terms of short term goals is actually building up that culture that I was talking about earlier. I want to consistently throw bonfires because there are people like that, people in my high school, kids I hang out with, people coming up, going into college and things like that. These people- they’re different. They’re kind of tired of hearing the same shit over and over, rocking Nike sweatsuits to school, and all that other shit. They hunger for something new. The kids who go to my school listen to Bon Iver and King Krule and all that cool shit. They’re up on that. You know what they would rather do than party? They would rather go and hit a bonfire. That’s why I would like to consistently do this thing called the Raur-Fires. We’d do two Fridays out of the month - with whatever type of budget we would have – and we would rent out this spot and build fucking the coolest, dopest bonfires ever. We’d actually have real photographers, people there to photograph and document everything that’s going on and give it to the blog sites, build a Tumblr off of the Raur-Fire, do all different types of things. Just mad cool shit, you know? Actually have cool ass people come out to the Raur-Fire. It wouldn’t be like a top secret thing, we’d keep it posted and things like that to let people know that in Atlanta we do different things. We don’t just club and pop mollys and shit.
Shuf: What’s the biggest worry for you at this point of your life?
The only thing at this point that worries me is my ability to keep all my friends together. Maintain the same relationships with my family members and the people that I love despite the fame… Honestly, my life hasn’t been the same since the ball dropped. Some people are acting differently already like “You gotta come see me! Don’t forget about me!” If they text you and you take two hours to reply, they treat you like you’re acting in that way. It’s not you that’s changed, it’s the other people around me that’s changed. I just hope that I don’t end up loosing people that are really, really important to me later on down the road because of some type of misunderstanding… I’m also aware though of the law of alchemy, you know? For something to be gained, something of value must be given up. I’d hate for it to be somebody I care about.
(To his mother) Hey Mom, I’m in the middle of an interview on the phone right now.
Shuf: Does it feel good to say that to your Mom?
Yeah, it felt pretty cool.
Shuf: What does she think?
I don’t know, you want to ask her?
(Raury passes the phone to his mother)
Shuf: How do you feel about the last month in your son’s life, Ma’am?
Raury’s Mother: Oh, so far it’s kind of… discombobulating. You know, you go through moments like “Hmmm, what’s gonna happen next?” That’s where I’m at now. So I’m wishing the best for everything and I’m like “Okay, is this really going to take place?” You know, I’m proud of him.
Shuf: Thanks again for your time and if you’re ever in New York, hit us up.
Actually, we should be there this Monday. I’m coming there to do some tracks with SBTRKT. He and I have been going back and forth, collaborating.
There’s something invigorating about talking to somebody who has gotten rid of their inhibitions for all the right reasons. ‘God’s Whisper’ was an introduction to the Raury experience. If our phone call is anything to go by, this experience is still being constructed and sky-high pipe dreams are being brought further and further towards realisation. For now, we have an EP to look forward but when a fire starts to burn, it starts to spread.
Words: Nick Boyd