19 year-old Raury wants to change the world. We know: how many times have we heard that before, right? But, so far, this Georgia-born idealist has attracted a respectable group of disciples through his guerrilla approach to live appearances and a knack for spreading his own gospel for millennials. All We Need, the debut album from this self-proclaimed “saviour”, is a laudable clash of styles. And while we can hardly guarantee it will set you on the path to enlightenment (we find starting with your five-a-day helps), it does demonstrate the alarming self-belief of its maverick maker.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong sense of social responsibility about many of the tracks that populate Raury’s album. Though the overall effect is not as all-consuming as, say, D’Angelo or Kendrick Lamar’s recent efforts, the reasoning of this singer and self-taught guitarist takes on a heightened power when backed by such surreal compositions – from sideways electronic hip hop to acoustic folk.
Forbidden Knowledge is especially affecting, teleporting you to a spacious, astral plain through its eerie, background pulses of synthetic sighs that contrast with low-pitched bass rhythms. It is also one of the earliest songs to demonstrate that Raury’s spiritual connection to André 3000 runs deeper than his uncanny facial likeness. He also shares the OutKast rapper’s taste for the unorthodox.
That’s apparent in Raury’s musical influences, who include Phil Collins, Freddie Mercury and Kid Cudi. Through his confessional love songs, which bear the trappings of a 70s romantic, we can think of a few more. In the aching longing of CPU, you find Frank Ocean soliloquies married to big, Barry White-style piano chords. In the responsible-sounding Mama, there’s a bit of Bill Withers to the young blood. While the supremely floaty Peace Prevail is where Raury’s flow most resembles Earl Sweatshirt, backed by guitar strums with the slow-paced splendour found in songs by The Carpenters.
These tracks only represent a sample of the musical styles Raury has assembled on his outlandish debut, which joins an increasing number of albums that defy categorisation. He’s taken familiar musical motifs and subverted them just enough to create a blend that feels bold. Compared to the album’s other tracks, Devil’s Whisper, Raury’s praised single, all samba beats and county acoustics, can even seem pedestrian. That’s because you will have also felt the warm aura of vaudeville jazz (Woodcrest Manor), joyous Burt Bacharach-like melodies (Crystal Express), a serving of orchestral courtship (Her), and what it sounds like when Nicki Minaj’s Beez in the Trap is turned on its head (Trap Tears).
Upending conventions is something this idealistic prophet is becoming very adept at. While his studio story doesn’t match the spontaneous, all-out spectacle of his live persona, his ambition is commendable. Raury has a long road ahead of him if he truly seeks to change the world. All We Need is only a small step on his path to a solution, but it’s one that stands him in good stead.
All We Need by Raury can be ordered here.