The glow-up of The Kid LAROI, Australia’s rap weapon
From writing debut EPs at 14 to Billboard-charting debuts with rap’s biggest names, The Kid LAROI has had one hell of a rise.
Australia’s hip-hop scene is one of the world’s most bountiful, but if you’re living elsewhere in the world, there’s a chance you’ve only heard a mere glimpse of it. As we’ve talked about in the past, Australia’s rap world is a multi-faceted and dynamic sphere that seems to be one leap ahead the rest, pushing out heavyweights capable of headlining every festival in the country - Bliss N Eso and Hilltop Hoods have both proved this in the past - while other, smaller names begin to blossom into dynamites of their own, covering every niche pocket of the genre’s wide-ranging variety of sounds.
However, despite the depth of Australia’s rap world and the talent within it, only a portion have managed to escape the shackles of Australia’s renowned isolation (both geographically and culturally) - at least in recent times. Whether it’s due to the saturation of international hip-hop scenes - particularly in the US and UK - making it rougher for further international talent to capture wide attention or due to another, larger reason at play, it’s notoriously difficult to break into the US and UK markets as an Australian musician regardless of genre, and hip-hop makes it even more difficult (despite its rise to become the world’s most popular genre).
In saying that, a few rappers are getting there. Allday has found a cult-audience just as rabid as his legion of Australian fans, beginning to develop an international presence with the release of his last record. Chillinit is similar, his blossoming into a charming, niche favourite within the Australian drill-adjacent world finding its feet over in the US too. Bliss N Eso’s Circus in the Sky LP found itself on the Billboard Heatseeker charts - generally speaking, a sign that they’re up next for a US break-out (which in this case, didn’t eventuate) - and Hilltop Hoods have found themselves in a similar situation, while a range of other rappers have found themselves capture the attention of US mega-festivals and tastemakers: Sampa The Great, Tkay Maidza, Manu Crooks and Onefour all among them.
I will forever represent Sydney, Australia.— charlton (@thekidlaroi) May 3, 2020
The Kid LAROI, meanwhile, is blowing them all out of the water. When we first met, the rapper - born in Sydney - was a bright-eyed 14-year-old reading his debut EP 14 With A Dream, a release that’d come to thrust him into international spotlight particularly thanks to its stand-out single, BLESSINGS. Back then, it was clear that there was something special happening with The Kid LAROI; his age - definitely the youngest rapper in Australia to capture national attention, probably ever - not so much a talking point but something to emphasise, as the excitement building around LAROI was more than others often twice his experience.
Nevertheless, he soon caught on. BLESSINGS was caught on by tastemakers at triple j Unearthed, who helped push him into the alt-rap world via radio. On the live stage, he was plucked to support Tkay Maidza and his late friend JuiceWRLD, all amongst jumping up on stage with Manu Crooks and doing festival runs of his own. He’d already have collaborations with Lil Skies and potentially even 6LACK under his belt by then, and would soon start appearing on the Instagram accounts of some of music’s biggest and most influential: Drake, Skrillex and so on.
Skip forward two years, and the “14 with a dream…” ethos that defined The Kid LAROI’s early presence has now become real life. Now, The Kid LAROI is one of Australia’s most successful rappers (ever) internationally, with a constant stream of singles and releases ushering deeper into the spotlight not just at home in Australia, but thousands and thousands of kilometres away too. In 2020 alone, he’s worked with break-out rappers such as Lil Tecca and Lil Tjay - two musicians ushering in the next generation of US rap music; unearthed a TikTok hit with Addison Rae and hopped on two mammoth remixes that have both captured acclaim internationally: one, being with up-and-coming force Bankrol Hayden, and the other featuring Y2K, recent Australia visitor blackbear and Hayden once again.
However, The Kid LAROI’s most obvious sign of success comes through a collaboration with one of his closest friends and collaborators, the late JuiceWRLD. Titled GO, the track has quickly emerged to be The KID LAROI’s star moment; memorialising JuiceWRLD’s signature charm as he continues to share their connection that started with LAROI supporting Juice in Australia, in some of the rapper’s last shows. “It’s been a little over 6 months since you been gone, and it still doesn’t feel right,” LAROI said in an Instagram caption prior to GO’s release. “Our song is about to come out and I just wanna say how much I wish you were here with me to enjoy this shit.”
Obviously, something struck. With the announcement of the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for this week, GO weaselled its way to a #52 position, marking The Kid LAROI’s first appearance on the US Billboard Charts, and the first for an Australian rapper in a far while. It also makes LAROI the youngest Australian musician to chart on the main Billboard Chart since Silverchair’s Daniel Johns went to number one at only 15 years old, albeit 25 years ago now.
It’s clear The Kid LAROI is up next, and with his rise through the ranks to become one of the international rap world’s one-to-watch in the year ahead, hopefully he’ll start capturing some more attention back home, and prove one of Australia’s most dominating names to come.
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