The Kid Laroi is a 16 year old rapper from South Sydney who blew up in 2018 with his ‘14 With A Dream‘ EP and it’s biggest single ‘Blessings’. He stood out for his melodic style and resemblance of American rap music. In early 2019, he was signed by Chicago rapper Lil Bibby’s ‘Grade A’ imprint on Columbia Records. Ever since, Laroi’s been living the superstar rapper life and amassing a sizeable following in his new home of America. Also signed to Grade A was the late Juice Wrld, who seemed to take Laroi under his wing like an older brother, mentoring him as a musician, plus all that comes with being a Rapper. I have no doubt that Laroi will be featured on a song from the first inevitable posthumous Juice Wrld album and said song will propel him to real-deal stardom.
Signing to Columbia Records/Sony (i.e. one of the evil big ones) means moving to America, making videos with superstar director Cole Bennett, songs with teen rap superstars like Lil Tecca, gaining an atrocious new wardrobe of designer clothes, a new cast of rapper friends and the coveted ‘Drake Pic’. Shit, if his buzz becomes bigger and not corny, Drake could even cash in on the first big Aussie rapper wave with a Laroi collab. Unlikely, but not totally out-of-character. Would be hilarious. Laroi’s song ‘Diva’ with Lil Tecca racked up over 15 million views in two weeks and he’s been teasing a lot of music to come with heavyweight melodic rappers like Lil Tjay, Juice Wrld and Polo G. So he seems like the first Australian rapper to emerge organically from the local scene and, after signing to a major label, successfully cross over to an American audience.
But the beat on his latest song ‘Addison Rae’ is bland, the lyrics are nonsense and they do not sound much better than they read. The whole thing is totally unremarkable, like a Youtube ‘type beat’ in full song form. I’m not trying to hate, I just think the idea of someone who copycats American rappers as much as him being the ‘pioneer’ of Australian rap for a US audience is pretty lame.
I don’t know who Allison Rae is, so I get straight away that it’s not made for me (she is a TikTok star) but he could be good if he had even slightly interesting lyrics. Or just put the stupid performative heartbreak/rapping-about-bitches stuff aside for a bit. Perhaps imbue the lyrics with even the slightest bit of his own personality. If I heard this song playing a bit muffled in the background, I’d nod along. A real listen is unrewarding. His other recent song ‘Let Her Go‘ is a bit better, but still gives you no sense of who he is or what sets him apart. He sounds like a well-programmed vocal avatar for AI-written Juice Wrld-type songs, but the melodies are pretty catchy.
What he really needs to do is drop the above song which he claims Lil Bibby is holding back from release. That shit sounds sooo good. I can leave it on repeat. He has the voice and melodic creativity to make really emotional music but it won’t be that higher calibre if he doesn’t have something to say. All of his attempts at emotive lyrics are just shallow cliches. It sounds as if he’s never actually had a girlfriend. He should just get someone to help him or write his lyrics for him or go live a life that isn’t exclusively hanging out with rappers for a while. But most of his fans are kids who desperately want to live like The Kid Laroi and probably foam at the mouth over his forced bars about bad bitches & designer clothes, so it’s unlikely he’ll change course anytime soon.
I totally see Laroi’s appeal: he writes catchy music with trendy beats and doesn’t sound Australian at all. But, at a certain point, if he’s not making music with Australians*, promoting Australian artists, dressing, rapping, or talking like an Australian: is he really representing Australia?
As always, it’s not Laroi’s fault. If there were 10 Aussie rappers blowing up in the states and making absurd money from rapping, I’d be cheering him on. I just hope he lives up to his potential and finds his own voice. For him to truly blaze a trail for other Australians to follow, he’s gonna have to show that Australian rappers have something unique to offer, rather than just prove we can do a good impression. Huskii, Slim Set, Dallas Woods and OneFour are some of the best because they embrace their identity and their community in their music.
Iggy’s black accent and whole schtick is wack but it will be interesting to see the difference between the response to Iggy and the response to Laroi, who is basically neglecting the Australian community and doing similar mimicry without being as racist (which had little to do with non-Black people disliking her). Music bit better too.
At the end of the day, when I’m bumping that Instagram snippet, the bullshit lyrics pierce my soul and I sing along like I once did to Blink 182, Sum 41 or something – other artists who capture the shallow complexity of teenage emotions. The more I listen to his music, the more I think ‘Who tf cares that he’s saying nothing?’. He’ll keep the same formula and make very catchy, pretty enjoyable pop rap for adolescents and be very rich. Happy for him. As long as the kids are happy. That said, we can be honest about his flaws. Unchecked rises to-the-top often have swift falls and there’s nothing wrong with him stepping back from his superstar life to work on his musical shortcomings. It would just be nice if he crooned some’n a lil cooler than:
*UPDATE: Apparently he has been working with Australian producers which is very cool. The OneFour collab was cool. I take back a lot of the praise about that Instagram snippet. Some of the music’s decent.