You'd think that in 2014, age wouldn't be much of a factor when "judging" talent. For years, decades in fact, it's been proven that a person's age has nothing to do with their level of talent. From Michael Jackson joining the Jackson 5 at the age of five, to Raven-Symone releasing her first album at the age of 7 in the early '90s right through to today with Willow Smith earning a top 3 single at 10 and Lorde gaining worldwide recognition at the age of 17. As far as hip-hop is concerned, Kriss Kross made the world Jump at the age of 12 and Bow Wow had little girls barking his name at 13.

In comparison, 18-year-old Raury should be something of an OG, a veteran if you will. Musically, his talent and influences run further and wider than his years would suggest. His highly praised Indigo Child EP is a variety of sounds, inspirations and genres and is nothing close to your typical hip-hop collection. In fact, you could probably go as far as calling it genre-less, which is a title I'm struggling with just a bit. Sure, the foundations are characteristically hip-hop but as I learnt, there's much more to his music that just that.

In typical rapper fashion, Raury is running slightly late, staying not too far from the uber trendy East London hotel we meet in. He arrives smartly yet casually dressed, topped off with his signature sun hat. Niceties and introductions aside, the talk quickly turns to music (like the majority of our conversation). He quizzes me on my top five favourite acts of all time, something that still troubles me to this day before I eventually remind him this is about him, not me and switch the question onto him. There's lots of thought and contemplation in his decision, almost like he's trying to pick the correct answers for a test. "Not including Michael Jackson, Beatles, Queen... They're up there! Bob Marley, they don't deserve to be in the list, don't you dare! But in no particular order, like you said, I'd say... Kid Cudi... Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, he's great. André 3000, Sade and... Probably, Frank Ocean." (His original last answer was Jay Electronica because he "respects everything he's been through and his story... I just fuck with Jay Electronica" but switches because we both agree hasn't released enough music to warrant a place on a "favourite artist" list).


Amongst the rest, we have a mutual love and admiration for Sade. "Sade is like, the epitome of what a real woman is." He says before announcing he would marry her in a heartbeat. He has the demeanour of someone much older and has a well trained musical ear; however there are moments where I'm quickly remembered of his age. "I didn't find out who Mase was until about... two months ago! There's a lot of things I don't know. When you put things into perspective, like, [Jay-Z's debut album] Reasonable Doubt came out when I was born, [Outkast's debut album] ATLiens came out when I was born, the Graduation album came out when I was 8 years old, so imagine listening to that stuff from that age, like, what degree of inspiration it is. It's crazy, even just talking about it now!" Suddenly I feel really, really old.

On Comparisons

As with all new artists, critics are quick to draw comparisons on acts who have somewhat paved the way for newer artists to come through. For Raury, some of the earliest comparisons refer to one of his biggest inspirations - André 3000. He likes that people see the similarities but he's very quick to reassure the public that he is his own person and his own artist. "I respect him and look up to him like, more than anything along with Kid Cudi. One thing is I don't want to be put in a box or the expectation that people are going to expect me to make stuff like him or like Cudi. At the end of the day, I see and understand the comparisons but at the same time I know at back of my mind I know I'm nothing like either at the same time and its wild."

Raury enjoys all the comparisons but questions whether they're all warranted or just because they're also rappers. "I'm not a... Well, I am... I can say that I am a rapper based on the fact that I have the ability to rap; I am a part of hip-hop culture and that's cool but for the most part, overall I'd rather look at myself as a rock star and an individual. 20% to 25% of this [Indigo Child] project is lyricism; most of it is vocalism and rock production, not just like, rock but all different kinds of genres because I feel like I'm a genre-less artist. So when I get comparisons to like Chance the Rapper or even Kendrick [Lamar] or let's say... André 3000, it puts a certain taste in my mouth as if they're trying to box me in that world of music and I don't really appreciate that. Why isn't anyone comparing me to the lead singer of System of a Down yet? I'm not saying I'm like him but... why hasn't it been said?"


The Music Industry

Interestingly for someone so new to the music industry, he already has his gripes with certain aspects of the business. While appreciative of the love, praise and admiration he's been receiving from certain media outlets, Raury believes there's still a large amount of individuals who aren't real music fans. "Not to target the people who write and make these reports and put 'rapper, Raury' or try to box me in that way, I just feel like there are a lot of people in those positions that don't listen to enough music and don't know music! I'm sorry! I found out that the people that sit on the board for the Grammys; if it's too weird or too different and they can't classify it as R&B, hip-hop, pop or rock or whatever, they'll put it in a place that'll never see daylight and I think that's the dumbest thing ever! What is art? What is music? If you don't feel you can classify it, it doesn't need to be spoken about? That is disgusting! Like, bruh, you need to lose your job! They need to replace these people, that is stupid and I don't rock with it!"

He quickly dismisses the term "rapper" being a negative aspect; he unquestionably has the love for hip-hop and the culture that comes with it but wants to be seen as an artist for his music and not simply the pre-conceived idea of the type of music that he does. "I'll go out forth and say it; I feel like it's simply because I'm black. Even for Frank Ocean, I hear that some places call him 'rapper, Frank Ocean.' What? It's not even that there's anything wrong with being rapper but it is what it is and it isn't what it isn't and like, people... I just feel like there's a lot of strong close-mindedness in the industry and in the media about who these artists are. I feel like a Native American being called an Indian! But what I'm saying is, I can accept the fact that I rap, I've done freestyles and all kinds of things like that you can call me a rapper or whatever. I'm proud to be a part of the culture; I love the hip-hop culture and I am hip-hop. I am a part of it. But I am an artist and creator, not just a rapper. I don't even like to be called a singer, I don't know! I like to just be called an artist."

Much of Raury's comments seem to echo those of London based singer FKA twigs' recent comments to The Guardian of her hatred towards the term "alternative R&B" when describing her music. Both, similar to the previously mentioned Raven-Symone (who recently spoke on her sexuality and her identification as an "African" American), want to simply be individuals instead of being placed into carefully crafted boxes set by a society that doesn't quite understand them. Raury believes more people should speak up on what they believe in instead of trying to keep the peace. "I feel like a lot of people don't speak towards it, probably because some artists don't care or some artists are afraid of offending the culture they're speaking out against. Like... you don't want it to come across like you don't want to be a part of it or you're ashamed of it. I'm not pushing it away at all, that's what I'm saying! I embrace it, I love my ni**as, like, whatever! But at the same time, I know who I am and I know what I can do and I don't appreciate the mask is that everyone is under the consensus that Raury is a rapper. I find myself in conversations with people who are in completely other worlds. I don't get it!"


Indigo Child

However you describe the Indigo Child project, Raury is undoubtedly proud of what he has created and the impact it's having across the internet. "[The response has] been greater than I expected. Everything I wanted and more. Getting word from my fans on why I make music or why I create music is simply to really change, affect and influence the lives of my fans for the better."

It's those tweets from people who have happened to come across his music and those that use it as inspiration that he loves the most. "I'm very aware that the music you create affects your life; it eventually becomes what you live through and how you live your everyday life. What you feed into your mind, it eventually becomes your value, your morals and your actions' whether you know it or not. Music changed my life, that [Kid Cudi album] Man on the Moon had pushed me to chase my dream and got me here. If it wasn't for that album, I wouldn't be here; I can say that a million times in every interview I do, I don't give a damn! That is why I chased the dream all the way because I heard it when I was 14 and it pushed me. I was in a really dark place when I heard it too. I just want... in the next five to ten years, of course a Grammy and all the great things and achievements and platinum albums, things like that would be amazing. But overall I definitely want at least 10 or 20 million people to say that their lives were a lot better, a lot easier, my album pushed to do more for them and that's what they did and that's what happened. As far as the reception from Indigo Child, that's exactly what's happening on a certain scale; I'm getting tweets from fans like 'Going to school is so much easier because I can listen to this song.' Like, it's making going to school a lot easier, studying a lot easier, whether they've got to write some essay, they put on Indigo Child while they do it. Not even just that, but they simply hear it for enjoyment. Someone tweeted me saying 'Bout to put on Indigo Child and drive through the mountains.' I'm glad I have that kind of music you can drive through the mountains with or skydive to and do what you wouldn't usually do and really push yourself and become a better you throughout the process."

Michael Jackson, like most modern musicians, played an integral part in Raury's early musical memories. As a youngster, he would imitate him and come up with little songs on the spot. "As soon as I was old enough to like, have the mental capacity to think and remember stuff, I was looking up to Michael Jackson. I didn't even know what it was; I didn't know what he was doing but I knew Michael Jackson was amazing when I was like, three. I'd imitate him; I'd try to make little songs and tunes and stuff. But when I decided 'Ok, music is what I want to do for the rest of my life.' I was 14, like, legit, straight up. Thinking about wanting to do music, when I was 8, I'd write little raps." After begging his mother to buy him a guitar, Raury took song writing more seriously. "When I was 10 or 11, I begged my Mom to get me a guitar, start playing when I was 11, spent a whole year playing around with it unturned because I didn't know anything about it but I never put it down. No matter how much frustration I had, as far as teaching myself how to play, I never put the guitar down by the time I was 14 even though I had never really written a song that I completely liked that much or anything, I still believed that was what I really wanted to do."


A Renaissance

Outside of his own music, Raury appears on SBTRKT's latest album Wonder Where We Land. Ahead of his sold out headline show, he appeared on stage with Jerome at London's Brixton Academy. "It was awesome! It wasn't my biggest audience, Outkast was my biggest. 20,000 people! After that show I'm not scared of anything! Going into those SBTRKT shows, I was at the peak of my confidence as far as my live shows goes. There wasn't an ounce of nervousness at all, it felt great the whole time and the crowd was amazing. When I got to come back out there (because I come back out to do 'Higher') so many people love that song and when I get back out there, the crowd did anything I asked them to. To see how many people knew the lyrics was like "Oh my god!" It was really awesome; SBTRKT is cool, he's a cool ass guy and that's why I worked with him."

Raury is what many would argue as the first of many new talents coming from Atlanta. He calls is a "renaissance. It's just an overall renaissance period. It's crazy to see all of it going down and to look at everyone around you and be like "Damn... in three or five we're really gonna be on top! Atlanta is a hot bed, not just the artists and the music that's about to come out but the fashion, the visual art, everything." He's keen to bring through and make awareness of any creative situations in his hometown. "One thing I wanted to do with my career is bring and shed light on this creative, genius, artistic side of Atlanta that doesn't get seen yet. There are a lot of artists out there like me in Atlanta; I'm not the only one. Even the Atlanta scene as a whole, including the Trap artists, our scene is different."

Raury's on something of a mission to change the world through music, similar to his musical idol - Michael Jackson. "It's cool to create music to sit around, get drunk to and turn up, that's great but I feel like music has been lacking something that's like, relevant to life because all that shit isn't relevant to life. It's cool. A lot of stuff is not relevant to life and ultimately poisonous to your mind, if music is influencing how you live your life and what you become. I'm glad my music is positively affecting people."

Raury's Indigo Child EP is out now. Read our review by heading here.