Raury shows great ambition, but he hasn't perfected the execution just yet.
“Love is all we need.”
This lyric off the opening track “All We Need” could summarize the message Raury is trying to convey with his music. Like Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, and John Lennon before him, Raury wants to see the world become a better place.
Raury has been Atlanta’s hip hop wildcard for the past couple years. The nineteen-year-old has risen out of Atlanta’s cloud of dirty sprite to bring a blend of pop, folk, soul, and hip hop to the masses. His music is more Fleet Foxes than Young Thug, and with his debut LP All We Need, he is delivering his plea for peace, love, and understanding in a more convincing way than ever before.
Last year’s mixtape Indigo Child worked to introduce this unique artist’s music to the world. Through thirteen songs, the Atlanta native went completely against the grain of what is popular. It wasn’t jammed with trap beats, drug-dealing anecdotes and strip club anthems; instead Raury made a conscious effort to induce a sense of conscious behavior into the Atlanta rap scene. Evidently there are others who yearn for a sense of positivity in their music, because it landed him a deal with XXXXX, who have released this project to much anticipation. Whether it is Andre 3000 cosigning him or a massive crowd of youth at his Raurfest (Raury threw an all day music festival in Atlanta back in June), he’s gaining fans all over with positivity.
You can find that urge for change all over the record. It’s in virtually in every song. Check out the lyrics from “Revolution”:
“Talkin' 'bout a revolution
Talkin' 'bout a new reunion
Who is bold enough to do it?
Do you feel the power of music?”
Or these lines from “Peace Prevail”:
“May peace prevail, on this earth
May peace prevail, on Atlanta
May peace prevail, on your soul”
Just when you think it’s a little too corny for its own good, Raury will drop a real jewel on you, like he did on ”Forbidden Knowledge”:
“Just a 90s baby, a millennial kid
Indigos are on the rise to make perennial shift
Hope this music stands long as Redwood Sequoias
Pyramids and stones, like stones from Stonehenge”
The features on All We Need are kept to a minimum, but they really count when you do hear them. Adia provides sultry background vocals on the album opener, and Tom Morello, who’s best known for playing guitar in the rap-rock band Rage Against the Machine, shreds the guitar on the final track, “Friends.” As far as bars go, RZA delivers an emotional verse on “CPU,” which matches up pretty closely with his James Blake collaboration from a couple years back, pining for an old lover with melancholy lyrics
“My heart's been punctured, I'm dysfunctional
Love was unconditional, now it's prenuptial”
Big K.R.I.T. assists our subject on “Forbidden Knowledge,” which stands as one of the album’s best tracks. Not only is it an authentically great mix of folk-pop and neo-soul-influenced hip hop, but K.R.I.T. shows us why the ‘K’ in his name stands for King:
“I think their agenda's meant to kill us all
How good is education long as you can ball?
Standin' on the couch inside the club and hit the mall
Barely feed a bum, but you buy it all”
“Peace Prevail” is another example of Raury’s ability to melt genres into his own original style while bypassing the stigmas that would normally come with something labeled ‘folk-rap’. The sun-soaked guitar bits are met with harmonic vocals and drawn-out, jazzy outro, but in between are valuable verses that make Raury seem like the logical successor of Andre 3000’s weirdo-but-conscious rap style. As we mentioned earlier, Andre has cosigned Raury before, so really we just need a proper collaboration before we can go ahead and fully make the assumption that he’s a second coming of Three Stacks, of sorts anyways.
“Trap Tears” might hit the closets to home for Raury and any other Atlanta natives out there. Atlanta has had the term ‘trap’ very closely associated with it for fifteen years now, and a lot of the songs that have come out of that association glorify the layer of a drug dealer. You don’t have to try hard to come across a song that makes it sound cool to slang bricks, and it’s usually linked directly to wealth and sexual success. However, the truth of the matter is that hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially black Americans, end up incarcerated due to drugs, whether using or selling. “Trap Tears” repeats the phrase, “It ain’t nothin’ but them tears in the trap.” It echoes slightly like Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap,” but with a much more conscious message.
There are also moments of strong-suited R&B that infiltrated the record. Raury’s work on “Woodcrest Manor II” and “Her” are some of the more interesting R&B offerings of the year. The ATLien takes a backseat to the music, allowing the tracks to flourish into artistic experiments that speak to Raury’s artistry. It’s clear that he’s ‘channeling orange’ to some extent, so to speak.
The downside, if you can call it that, of Raury’s ambitious style is that it occasionally gets a little too corny for its own good. The yearning for a more positive earth can come across as naïve, and in the absence of specifics, Raury can come across like a politician does when they say, “I can make the change.” Okay…how? When? Radiating positivity is always a great thing to do, no doubt, but at only nineteen years old, it can come across as a little guileless.
If you’re looking for something that aligns with the new Atlanta sound, you won’t find it here. If you want strip club bangers or bars-on-bars, you won’t really get those either. If you’re open-minded with a positive attitude, then Raury’s All We Need should resonate with you. He combines the influence of Andre 3000, Gil Scott-Heron, and Frank Ocean with decent poetry and a unique sound. This young star’s debut LP is a very valid effort, and while there is room for growth, he’s well on his way.