“A kid from South Sydney with a dream.”
This message, inconspicuously scribbled onto Charlton Howard’s (better known as The Kid Laroi) website, didn’t strike me as anything special upon first glance. In fact, I thought the phrase was rather wordy and derivative; it was only after writing this article could I fully appreciate the genius behind this sentence. Whoever coined the phrase wanted to showcase Laroi’s most noteworthy features -his age and origin- but only extensive research reveals the significance of said features.
The “kid” part is by no means an understatement: Laroi’s debut album – 14 with a dream – was released back in 2018 and landed him a signing to Lil Bibby’s label Grade A Productions, the same label which signed the late Juice WRLD (RIP). Now 16, Laroi has moved his family out to LA, charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and worked multiple times with industry giants such as Cole Bennett and Juice WRLD. The impressiveness of his success is only bolstered by his South Sydney background; historically, Australian hip-hop artists have struggled to break international cultural barriers but Laroi was garnering American attention well before he had established a solid foothold in the local Australian scene.
That being said, Laroi’s debut album F*ck Love is an eyesore in his otherwise unblemished discography. The project consists of 11 tracks and 4 skits detailing a turbulent relationship between him and an unnamed girl. Despite harboring no strong reservations against the album (my favourite songs being “Wrong” and “Need You Most (So Sick)”), I can’t help but think that Laroi is simply not cut out for this kind of music. The production (which was largely handled by Australian producers) is attractive at first; Laroi’s team aptly pairs his characteristic full-throated crooning with punchy piano riffs and rumbling 808s. Unfortunately there is little to no stylistic changes in the production and it begins to grow stale after back-to-back tracks. However, my main issue with the project is how blatantly half-assed the songwriting is. While love cliches are a staple in the emo-trap genre (and should come as no surprise considering Laroi’s mentorship from Juice WRLD), Laroi’s vaguely phrased lyrics cheapen the message and fail to sell even an ounce of authenticity.
I thought you was all mine, yeah You said that you love me, but it's all lies, yeah Shoulda known from when I looked in your eye If I could erase you from my mind
The verse above (from “Tell Me Why”) is a textbook example of what I would call industry plant lyrics: these are purposefully superficial lyrics pushed by labels in the hopes of reaching the widest audience possible. The final result is usually a diminished version of the artist’s struggle which fails to intimately connect to the listener (i.e. this verse was so generic that I felt almost no sympathy for Laroi’s relationship troubles). This problem persists throughout the project and, when coupled with a suffocatingly narrow range of topics, makes the album almost impossible to listen through from start to finish.
Now, Laroi is 16 years old. I know sure as shit I didn’t possess any sort of deep insights at that age, much less the emotional maturity required to express them. Lack of introspection is only an issue because he’s at the forefront of a genre primarily built on simping; the love cliches are pretty much non-negotiable and he either needs to work on his execution or abandon this style altogether. I recommend the latter. Songs such as “Diva” and “Blessings” have proven Laroi more than capable of being a general trap artist which ultimately reaches a wider audience than his generic emo-trap material. More importantly, trap songs do not require the level of emotional vulnerability that Laroi’s either incapable of or unwilling to reach in his current genre.
At the end of the day, we need to remember what’s at stake for Laroi. His recent success is impressive in itself, but by putting other Aussies on he is forcing the international community to acknowledge his country as having something to offer. Laroi has the power to create a cultural power-shift but his last effort had limited appeal and created distance between him and less specialized hip-hop fans. Considering his undisputed talent, I hope he realizes his own influence before he’s swept out of the public’s goldfish-like attention span.
Listen to “Wrong (feat. Lil Mosey)” here: