I stumbled upon singer/rapper/rock star Raury while on a Hot 97 YouTube interview binge, and I must say the 2 hours of unproductivity was well worth the listen!
Raury is an ATLien who’s music is slightly reminiscent of Andre 3000 meets Joey Bada$$ meets BJ the Chicago Kid; however, do not get me wrong: his sound is completely unique. If you’re looking for a sound that’s fresh and funky with a message that screams self-awareness, inner and outer peace and breaking boundaries – Raury is it. As Rosenberg from Hot97 puts it, Raury is a “folky rap” artist who isn’t afraid to go against the popular trend of trap that is flourishing in the Atlanta hip hop scene.
Fast forward two weeks and Raury is performing at an intimate venue in my hometown of Chicago, where I was finally able to gauge the personality that embodies the music. He introduces himself and each song as if nobody in the crowd had ever heard of him. And although I was a newcomer, there were some loyal fans who screamed every word.
Before performing a song from his newly released album All We Need, Raury told the story of his childhood best friend and the different paths they decided to pursue. Both grew up in the Stone Mountain area of Atlanta, both attended the same schools, hung out with the same people and crashed the same parties – but in the end his best friend’s life was taken by gun violence. Even though both friends grew up in the same circumstances and with the same opportunities, Raury described himself as the outcast who wasn’t afraid to be different and to love the things that he loved without crowd approval; while his friend, on the other hand, strived to be a crowd pleaser which eventually cost him his life.
This struck a bitter note for me. There couldn’t have been a better time or a better place to tell that story than Chicago in October of 2015, when the city has already surpassed last year’s record of 2,000 total fatal shootings. It was easy to understand Raury’s message when his history is so applicable to thousands of young black men and women all over the city.
The song he performed in honor of his best friend’s memory, Peace Prevail, could’ve been the only song he performed all night to make me a fan. The song features two verses: one which epitomizes his experience growing up as too white for the black kids and two black for the whites, while also criticizing the kids just like his friends that wanted to be in so bad, they ended up dead or in jail. He finished the song with a special adaptation for Chicago fans singing
May peace prevail on this Earth
May peace prevail on Chicago
May peace prevail on your soul
May peace prevail, prevail, prevail
On a more upbeat note, Raury returned to the stage for an encore performance of his song Trap Tears. With bass bumping and every person in the room jumping to the chorus, there’s still a not-so-hidden message to this revelation on being trapped, rather than the actual act of trapping that we hear oh too often in today’s rap. By the end of the song, Raury poses a self-reflective question: “Nothing new can happen to the trap, we think it’s harmless and cool too. But who are you? Yes look around, you might just be trapped.”
Raury is mesmerizing. Not only because of his skills at guitar, or his ability to hold a note or rap fast, but because after all the swaying and dancing and indigo music, there’s a message to be heard that is far ahead of its time. A message encouraging fans and strangers alike to be themselves and to like what they like because they like it, not because they were told to.
Enough of my commentary, take a listen!