The Georgia rapper-singer Raury is a peace-loving counterpoint to the drug-dealer extravagance of Southern rap’s mainstream — the “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” to his trap brethren’s “The World Is a Ghetto.” This, along with his hippie-dippie flair for outre fashion and casual disregard for genre constraints, puts him firmly in the lineage of phase-one, envelope-pushing Atlanta weirdos like Andre 3000 and Cee Lo Green (Raury’s staccato, deadpan rap flow is sometimes frustratingly reminiscient of the former’s), and has made him one of the city’s most promising new stars.
It’s somewhat misleading, however, to call his imaginative debut album, All We Need, hip-hop. The set freely bounds from the acoustic blues stomper “Devil’s Whisper” to the sweet soul of “Peace Prevail” to sprightly indie pop on “Crystal Express” like a paper boat tossed about by a storm. The experimentation is fearless — even if it sometimes goes wayward, landing him in over-reaching, overly quirky spots, like the jam-band grout of “Revolution” or the Tom Morello-assisted ’80s pop pastiche “Friends.”
Where Raury’s ear intrigues, though, his pen can occasionally grate. He paints his world with a broad, simplistic brush: God, love and friends are good; snakes, hate and the devil, bad. And Raury often trips himself up over wonky turns of phrase. On the Adam-and-Eve yarn “Forbidden Knowledge,” he prays his music will last longer than “stones like stones from Stonehenge.” Tale of broken trust “Woodcrest Manor II” clunkily chides an ex-friend who’s “salty like those fries you be supersizing” and a drug dealer with “Tommys like Hilfiger.”
It’s worth noting in all of this that Raury is a smooth 19 years old, nestled neatly in the years where young people dream of changing the world before reality grinds hope to rubble. The shooters and dealers Raury chastises in his songs may be morally bankrupt, but there’s no consideration of the counterargument: that those bad guys are the inevitable result of injustices no campfire singalong can fix. All We Need is a dreamer’s soliloquy, wracked with starry-eyed whys when the answers aren’t that hard to find.