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It’s not everyday you meet a 17-year-old with the confidence to set his sights on rap royalty and the audacity to actually attempt it. Factor in that he’s from Australia, and The Kid LAROI’s rapid ascent seems even more unlikely. But, after just one major label debut and millions of streams across platforms, the rapper born Charlton is proving that for an incoming generation filled with promising talent, yesterday’s borders aren’t today’s barriers, and anyone can make it in America as a rapper.
Born and raised in Sydney (aside from a short stint in the countryside) to a mother of Aboriginal descent and a French father, LAROI was raised by his mother and his uncle in a gritty environment. When they weren’t at The Fact Tree, a local youth center where they played video games and pool, LAROI and his friends were on the streets. “We used to play with crackheads a lot, we used to just fuck around,” he admits, describing his childhood unromantically. Meanwhile, the grown-ups did what they had to, outside the confines of the law, to provide for LAROI.
LAROI grew up consuming one of America’s most adored exports, listening to hip-hop and R&B icons like Tupac, Erykah Badu, The Fugees, Lil Wayne and Kanye West. He’s wanted to make music since he can remember, hoping to claim a spot within this specifically American legacy. LAROI started out writing raps as a kid, filling notebooks with rhymes and finessing his skill as a lyricist. But it wasn’t until he started uploading freestyle videos online that he began to find an audience for his stories and record his work. “A guy reached out to me on Facebook saying I could use his studio for free—he gave me a bunch of studio time, I made a whole bunch of songs and just posted them up on Soundcloud,” he remembers. Following the tragic murder of his uncle in 2015, LAROI and his mother struggled. They moved into project housing and below the poverty line. LAROI honed in on his music.
Not unusual for a 17-year-old boy, LAROI’s lyrics can be unrefined and audacious. The 2019 song “Let Her Go” (the Cole Bennett-directed video boasts over 20 milion views), best demonstrates LAROI’s penchant for raw, at times crude, love stories. But his ear for infectious beats and melodic, gracefully auto-tuned hooks gained him the attention of the industry and acclaim from rap’s most exciting voices. After competing in a Triple J Radio competition in 2016, he earned respect from Chicago rapper-turned-industry exec, Lil Bibby, whose support led him to performances on stages alongside the late JuiceWRLD, whom he considered a close friend and mentor, THEY and more. In 2018, he recorded his debut EP 14 With A Dream executive produced by frequent collaborator Miracle, and watched standout “Blessings” take off. A well-timed freestyle over Drake’s Tay Keith-produced “Nonstop” added fuel to LAROI’s trailblazing fire.
“It’s really what I’ve always imagined... I always knew it was bigger than that,” LAROI says about his crossover success and finding an audience outside of Australia. With the newfound success from his most recent EP “F*CK LOVE (SAVAGE)” (which also debuted #3 on the Billboard 200), this is just the beginning for LAROI. One day, he plans to make music with Drake and Kanye, expecting no less than to take the crown his francophone moniker implies. “Everything I make is the shit. I love everything I make. I take music super seriously, and I look at it as art,” says the teenage rap phenomenon. With an undeniable belief in his potential and the fast-paced track record to prove it, LAROI, unexpected as his story is, is making it increasingly easy for the rest of the world to believe in him too.