At seventeen, Raury dropped the highly buzzed Indigo Child and followed its release with a series of guerilla-style performances at your favourite rapper’s show, dubbed the “Anti-Tour”. Picture that: Childish Gambino and Tyler the Creator leave the stage and get replaced by a kid on a soapbox crooning to a departing crowd, demanding their attention.
The heads have turned and the eyes have narrowed in on Raury, a singer-rapper-dreamer-advocate type who now stands on a slightly larger stage with his debut album, All We Need. You will find a slight caveat when you give it a listen: sometimes, you wish Raury took a bolder, guns-blazing approach to his genre-bending artistry; yet, the earnest simplicity so present in this whole record, the one that prevents him from those leaps, drives everything enjoyable about it.
Earnest does not equal naivety; it’s more of a strand of Raury’s authenticity. It’s the same earnestness found in artists like André 3000 and Pharrell circa-N.E.R.D., which is probably why the comparisons, extending to the blended sonic styles, are so frequent. On All We Need, that boundlessness reflects in the folky-based “All We Need”, Kingdom Come”, “Peace Prevail” and “Love is Not a Four Letter Word”, where Raury bounces between impassioned vocals to frustrated spoken word and roll off the tongue rhymes. Even when embracing generational trap, and 808s notes on “Trap Tears” and “CPU” (featuring RZA), acoustic guitar melodies are seamlessly wound into the DNA to bring this amalgamated dynamism that few artists can really pull off without sounding disjointed.
Yet for his chameleon shifting ways, All We Need does not indicate shattering changes or departures from Raury’s methodology; it rather reinforces his potential. That is truest on songs like “Devil’s Whisper”, which retains the vigorous, tribal elements that drove breakout hit “God’s Whisper”, and “Friends”, an ethereal ballad celebrating unity and peace punctuated by drums and a guitar solo from Tom Morello, a former member of Rage Against the Machine. Neither elevates anything done on Indigo Child, but neither fall beneath it, either. This is true of All We Need as a whole.
Raury showcases a self-awareness on the Big K.R.I.T.-collaboration Forbidden Knowledge”, where he raps: “I think we got a lot from them, they gave us phones/Internet and now all we know what is forbidden knowledge/Forbidden knowledge is too great for a man”; later, he comments on corporations and the black community, pondering their complexly political circumstances. It’s one of the more poignant moments on the album, and listeners will never deny such honesty in lyricism; but they will crave more of it. As Raury continues to mature and seek out sonic risks, we will ideally see more of such deep authenticity.