Atlanta’s hip-hop scene has produced plenty of artists who’ve meddled with the genre’s DNA, though none have done it quite like Raury Tullis, who records and performs as Raury. Hailing from suburban Stone Mountain, the 19-year-old’s bold and buoyant songs blend a broad mix of pop sounds—earthy soul, wide-screen folk, and a tinge of golden psych-rock.
Raury doesn’t break the walls that separate genres; he leisurely passes through them as if they don’t exist, which elevates his most powerful material. (There’s a reason he was tagged to contribute to Surf, the genre-smashing album by Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment.) But Raury knows his vision can confound those listeners who’ve grown accustomed to genre boundaries. On “Peace Prevail” he raps about how these definitions and his place within them might develop or devolve in the future: “Wonder how I’ll look when I’m 90 / Wonder if rap will be a white thing / Wonder what you’re gonna call my things / Will it be hits? Will it be wack?”
“Peace Prevail” appears on All We Need, which Columbia released in October. Depending on who you ask this is either Raury’s first or second full-length. Last year he dropped Indigo Child, a 13-track release peppered with iPhone recordings of arguments between the musician and his mother; according to a 2014 New York Times profile Raury stealthily recorded these heated disputes but got his mother’s approval to include them on Indigo Child. Raury initially put out Indigo Child for free—you can still grab it at no cost from a website he launched for the full-length version, you just need to play a flash game first to retrieve the download—and later rereleased it as an EP, sans the snippets of those real-life quarrels. Often those arguments would delve into Raury’s decisions to pursue music and his mother’s concerns for his future.
I imagine those arguments happened before Raury inked his deal with Columbia. And Raury certainly appears appreciative of his mother, if not those tough interactions, and he makes it known with “Mama,” a tender, swooning tribute that’s on All We Need: “Mama, your boy’s a man now / I guess I grew up too fast / Mama, you can smile now / Just wanted to make you glad.” Raury’s catalog is small, but he makes his music sound as big as the world around him, and on his releases he does his best to point out all the complications and contradictions of life. All We Need feels a little scattered because of that tactic, but when Raury hits his stride, as he does on the stylistically grand “Trap Tears,” it makes me hope more hip-hop tracks will be borne out of similar ideals.
Raury hits 1st Ward tomorrow night to support All We Need. Before that he’s dropping by Jugrnaut for a meet and greet, which you can RSVP to here.
Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.