Most people are suckers for a good, achy anthem. Born Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard, The Kid LAROI, at 16, is well on his way to perfecting the shattered heartbreak song. Originally from Sydney, Australia, but now based in Los Angeles, The Kid LAROI is so much more than Juice WRLD’s “protege.” He’s the next step in the legacy of raging emo rap. The singer and rapper oozes relatability and has a shocking knack for earworms.
“Growing up, I would listen to a lot of music, and I saw that was the way other people vented their problems,” LAROI tells me just days ahead of his 17th birthday in August. “I thought I would try it, and it worked for me. There’s people who’ve done it [cooler], but for me, it clicked, and I like doing it.”
Influenced by American hip-hop and R&B classics like The Fugees, Tupac, and Erykah Badu, which his mom played around the house, LAROI began his foray into music by way of spitting over YouTube beats as a younger child. Fast forward to 2019, LAROI signed to Columbia Records and Lil Bibby’s Grade A, on which Juice WRLD already made a massive splash.
The Kid LAROI went on to open for Juice WRLD on his first Australian tour, which spawned a beautiful relationship resulting in hit songs like “GO” and Juice WRLD’s “Hate The Other Side” off his posthumous Legends Never Die album. As reported by Genius, Juice and LAROI had a wonderfully deep friendship, one that transcended music and ultimately made the music the pair made together timeless. “We just became super cool,” LAROI said to Genius.
“I was always in the studio with him, watching how he would work,” LAROI says. “I took a lot of [his process] in, and not even just on this project! In life, in general.”
On July 24, after a string of irresistible singles and Cole Bennett-directed music videos, The Kid LAROI released his debut project, F*CK LOVE. Clocking in at 31 minutes of angst and melody, LAROI showcases his ability to craft airtight psalms for a broken generation. Outside of the hit singles, “MAYBE” and “SELFISH” stand out as passionate examples of LAROI’s potential. It’s all in the way LAROI stretches his vocal to hit the heart. His singing isn’t perfect, and that’s the appeal. He sounds wounded and enthused at once, with a bleeding heart and good intentions keeping him grounded.
“It feels great!” LAROI exclaims of releasing his debut. “I was scared people weren’t gonna like it because it’s different [from] the music I’d been putting out. But the response has been really, really good, so I’m happy overall.” I ask LAROI if there was any fear in terms of transitioning from a singles artist to a full-length artist, to which he remarks: “Yeah, a little bit. At the same time, it’s me. I guess people are gonna have not to like it or get used to it; this is where I’m at.”
The Kid LAROI’s good humor stands out to me during our talk, as well as across his other interviews. You’d never guess LAROI ends every sentence with a hearty laugh based on lyrics like “Drown my sorrows in this bottle / Won’t like wakin’ up tomorrow” from proper project opener, “MAYBE.” And yet, for all of LAROI’s heartbreak and his “accident-prone” approach to women, he’s full of spunk and jeer.
“My lyrical content is…” LAROI tails off. “That’s the shit I wanna say, but I can’t say. [Music] is my way to vent. [I put] all my shit in the lyrics because it’s hard for me to talk about it normally.” Coming up under Juice WRLD and the entire emo rap movement, it’s another feather in the cap of a genre which has allowed for young men to feel secure in their emotions. LAROI may have trouble expressing his feelings outside of the booth. Still, his sincerity comes across endlessly on his favorite track, “SELFISH”:
“I’m tellin’ her that I love her, but my feelings will fade (Oh woah, woah) / Because I’ll find another and I’ll tell her the same / Knowin’ that I don’t mean a thing I say (Say).”
We return to Juice WRLD’s life advice, how the late artist showed The Kid LAROI it’s imperative to be yourself. I offer the notion LAROI is not embarrassed about his feelings, to which he emphatically agrees. “A lot of the time, it’s just stuff I’ve been dying to get out,” LAROI explains of his writing. “Sometimes, I’ll black out and say something I didn’t even know that’s how I was feeling.”
At 16, The Kid LAROI is living “in a movie that’s directed by me.” He doesn’t see himself as famous, and he doesn’t fully appreciate his success. “People consider me famous, but I don’t feel famous,” he assures me. “I still feel like a regular kid. I don’t know if that’s ‘cause of quarantine, but I still feel super normal.”
“I see the numbers, and I’m like, ‘Holy shit!’ but it never processes. I never take into consideration 15 million people listen to me every month. It never processes, and I’m also a person that’s never satisfied. I always feel like I’m on the come-up 24/7, even though people might look at me and think I’ve made it. I never look at myself like that. I always think, ‘I have to do better.’” –The Kid LAROI
Ever the perfectionist, which will serve him well in maintaining his ego and helping him perfect his craft, The Kid LAROI knew he was getting somewhere with his work when people began changing their tune around him. “When I go to an event, people who before had no idea who I was and didn’t even care are like, ‘Yo, bro, let’s hang out!’” he recounts. “Watching people’s attitudes change towards you is super weird, but they’re not the people I wanna be around, anyway.”
Even with the pangs of fame knocking, The Kid LAROI keeps his sights on his platform and benefitting his fans. “I just wanna help people like me,” he concludes. “I wanna be the person I didn’t have to listen to or talk to. I just wanna help change people’s minds and perceptions of life and whatnot. I want to let people into my world. I started [making music] because I wanted to help myself out. Then I kept going because I was trying to help my family situation. Now, I just wanna help the people listening to my music and make sure they’re straight because they’re the reason I’m here.”