The Outcast Meets OutKast: Raury Interviewed

Raury is a special kind of talent. Although age is proving less and less of a factor in the era of beyond-their-years acts like Lorde, Earl Sweatshirt and King Krule, it’s worth noting Raury only just celebrated his 18th birthday on 10th June with Raurfest, his first official show.

He now finds himself with a debut album, ‘Indigo Child’, making its rounds on the web, and will be opening for OutKast at their Atlanta homecoming show on September 27th, alongside one of his other all-time favourites, KiD CuDi.

During our conversation Raury asks almost as many questions as he answers; he ensures that he knows my name at the beginning of the interview and catches me off guard several times, asking what I’ve been listening to lately and what I thought of the online game that fans must complete to unlock his album.

At one point he asks me whether I think artists can be too personal with their fans; I deflect it with another question, but on reflection I think that the answer lies in the careful balance of online and real-life interaction. And this could prove the key to the Atlanta native’s ultimate success.

Raury defines ‘Indigo Child’ as a reference to his generation — those who have grown up with the Internet, but he believes that while online interaction is important, it’s vital for this to translate into the real world.

“You can’t come from the Internet and really expect to have a genuine respect and love from your fans if you don’t have enough respect to goddamn show them that you’re real. That’s what it’s about, that’s what I believe in.

“It’s just about showing them that you’re real, so you really have to do the physical things, rather than just promoting over the Internet. Because then it’s just going to be on a bunch of kids that like you for the moment for some reason other than the fact that you are real. But I think that it would be healthy for your fanbase just to see more things from day to day.”

Recently, while flyering for ‘Indigo Child’ around Atlanta’s Little Five Points district, Raury tweeted a simple invitation to his followers: “Meet me in little 5 points tonight at 2:30am.”

“We had a crazy turn out of like about 40 people and I just got to hang out with them, talked about all kinds of things and played manhunt,” Raury reflects. “Just spending time with people that were fans. Some came from hours away and it was kind of crazy. That’s when I realised, like, I actually do have fans that want me to talk to them and want to speak to me about things. I just remain as open as possible with them and I talk to them.”

Previous to this, he and his LVRN (Love Renaissance) team came up with a concept called Anti-Touring. The idea saw him popping up outside of other artists’ shows on top of a van and attempting to perform for the crowd, while early adopters of his own music would be in the audience taking footage on their phones to be edited as a document for the web. A YouTube video shows his first attempt outside of a Tyler, The Creator show, and he is shut down by the police before he even finishes the first line of his breakthrough track, ‘God’s Whisper’.

While he might not have the ears of the mainstream right now, in a recent interview with Sway Calloway on Shade 45, he explains that he intends to take that spotlight in the future and asks that when it happens we never doubt his realness. He’s fast rising, considering that ‘God’s Whisper’ only hit the web back in March, although he’s keen to place the credit for this accelerated ascent at the feet of his team’s careful strategic planning. He informs me that Anti-Touring would have went as far as it needed to, despite any tension with the authorities, but is thankful that he only reached three attempts before garnering enough notoriety to warrant his first headline show.

“I’d been shut down, some people heard of me, some people seeing me, the song is out, people have seen the video, and it’s time for me to have my first show in Atlanta, my first show ever with nobody else in the thing. It’s just me doing a 40-minute set, we packed out a 400-person venue. It built up with all of the anticipation of doing all that, and somebody who was with the Dungeon Family was at the show. They witnessed Raurfest and saw how hard I could perform and how great the show was. So they hit us up, and next thing I know they want me to open up for OutKast in front of 10,000 people, before I’ve even performed in front of 5,000. I was like, ‘Ahh shit, I love this, it feels good.’ I can’t wait for that man. Are you gonna come see the show?”

I won’t be making it over to Atlanta, but Raury quickly switches to recalling how he watched the pioneering ATLien duo’s comeback show at Coachella.

“I was at the side of the stage. I was in the middle of a conversation with James Blake backstage, I can’t really remember too much of what we were talking about, and then OutKast started playing. I was like, ‘Shit, I gotta get over there.’ I had to see them, their first time in 10 years, the very first show back.”

Whenever Raury name-drops in our conversation, he does so modestly, and it feels like excitement and admiration over boastfulness. “They wouldn’t let me on stage because I didn’t have my artist bracelet, but you know me, I snuck up there somehow. I got up there, and I was watching the show, it was amazing man.

“Even though some people were complaining about and saying bad things about the show, at the end of the day I was still completely amazed. I’d never seen them live before so I loved the show. People are saying they’re way better than that, so I can’t wait to be on the stage with them and see what they’re doing. Other than that, the show was pretty wild, because for the first time I was up there on the stage: Busta Rhymes was to the right of me, T.I. was in front of me, Pharrell was next to T.I., Prince was to the left of me surrounded by bodyguards, it was crazy.”

As he paints the picture of an almost-naive kid just excited about being immersed in the music, with a world changing outlook and an inspiring optimism, I can’t help feel that in a decade or two someone will find themselves in this position again — chatting to an excited newcomer with huge plans, sneaking onto a stage to see some ground-breaking performance from Raury.

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Originally published at www.clashmusic.com.