Published Oct 27, 2015Raury was literally flying high. Last fall the burgeoning 18-year-old hip-hop/soul star boarded back-to-back flights bound for numerous festivals, thanks to the surprise success of his debut full-length mixtape, Indigo Child. Such prospects might seem endlessly thrilling, but instead they left Raury feeling a little melancholy, prompting him to pen the most moving tune on his new LP.
"I wrote it on a whim, on a plane on my way to Amsterdam," Raury tells Exclaim! of "Mama," a standout track from his new album All We Need (out now on LVRN/Columbia). He says those lonely flights inspired the song because he "started thinking about how my mom's back in Georgia, and I'm in a hotel in a new city more than I'm at home. I have to get used to that separation. I played that song for my mom on Mother's Day, and she cried."
"Mama" features Raury's distinct soul-folk/hip-hop blend, but its tone is also reminiscent of other urban artists' odes to their mothers, like Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama" and Kanye West's "Hey Mama." Comparisons to Shakur's '90s hit are especially apt, not so much on a sonic level, but because such Generation X acts hugely informed Raury's All We Need sessions.
"That's just how it is with counter-culture — young people rebel, until what the establishment overthrew comes back around again," Raury says of cultural revolution's cyclical nature. "So the best artists who are my age, instead of rapping about how much money we got, and how many girls we fucked this week, we want the thoughtful music of the '90s, the ethos of Rage Against the Machine, the songs that say 'fuck the system.'"
Raury deems himself not only wise enough to invoke those elder artists for All We Need, but also fortunate enough to have some of them featured on his new LP. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello provides one of his characteristically searing solos on closing track "Friends," while Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA — whom Raury hails as one of his very favourites — spits an introspective verse on midway track "CPU."
Their influence has clearly rubbed off. In late September Raury made his television debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. His fellow guest was Donald Trump. After the host interviewed the presidential candidate — who has made numerous controversial remarks about deporting illegal Mexican immigrants — Raury took to the stage to sing his tribally tinged protest anthem, "Devil's Whisper," sporting a Mexico football jersey, emblazoned with Trump's name, which was crossed out with a large red "X." The performance gave him tremendous stage fright because he "didn't know how people would take" his anti-Trump stance. But that risk was necessary for Raury, who says such gigs are "about more than being an artist. At those times you need to push a social conscious."
On All We Need, he delivers that progressive message, in part, with righteously indignant songs like "Devil's Whisper." But Raury doesn't spend the entire album raging against the likes of Trump. The LP also pays tribute to the elders who have guided him, like with "Mama," before offering similar support to his fellow disenfranchised youth with tenderly strummed songs like "Peace Prevail," whose rap inflected neo-soul sounds less like Morello and more like Erykah Badu or André 3000.
Raury says those wide ranging new tunes are "For kids who are like me when I was 14 — who feel lost, who make a home in negativity because that's what we're used to." He adds that the fury and wide-eyed hope in his latest songs are meant to "motivate those kids to be daring and bold, and to find love and positivity and something to believe in."