NME Radar: Breakout

The Kid LAROI: Aussie rap’s teenage superstar closes in on global success

Embracing heartbreak and leaning lessons from his friends – including Lil Tecca and Juice WRLD – has set the 16-year-old up for massive things

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

In little under two years, The Kid LAROI – aka 16-year-old Charlton Howard – has gone from success in Triple J’s coveted Unearthed talent competition to a global name resonating with teens across the globe.

In the last few months alone, the First Nations teenager has been trailblazing through the charts in his native Australia, the US, as well as success here on these shores with  ‘F*CK LOVE’ an emotive, angsty debut mixtape that shows that old scars still sting a bit.

He’s brought along some friends, too. He’s has roped in Lil Tecca, Corbin and Lil Tjay on his work so far, as well as striking up a friendship with late Chicago rapper Juice WRLD, who LAROI supported on the former’s 2018 tour of Australia.

Now set up in his new home of LA, LAROI tells NME about the move from Sydney, his latest mixtape and the comparisons to his best friend and mentor, the late Juice WRLD.

Your debut mixtape is called ‘F*ck Love’… is everything alright?

“I’m 16 – I’m young as fuck. And I think most teens start going through their girl problems and get their first crush. My experience went a bit south so that’s how I was feeling at the time when I was making songs at the time, so I made a project about it. I do believe in love. I don’t believe you find it at 16 but I think I believe in it. Before I was popping and I was just living in Australia I had a girlfriend that cheated on me with like four other dudes. I was only 14 but it fucking burned and from that point on I was like ‘fuck love, it doesn’t exist’.”

Being an Aussie now-based in the US, are you finding it lonely at all?

“I got my friend Hann out here living with me, so it’s cool. But I miss all my friends back home like Kenny and the rest. I came out here to work so I gotta take it how it is. And I love working, that’s my life. I’m a lonely person anyway. I don’t like being around a load of people so I can work on myself and think.

It’s hard enough being American and trying to make it in an American world, but being Australian, you’re from a whole different country and have a whole different way of doing things. Still to this day I think that I have to do this for my country.”

Who should people be watching from the Australian scene right now?

“I love ONEFOUR. Everybody knows ONEFOUR’s my favourite – those are my brothers. There’s a lot of other kids; definitely R&B kids who are more unknown I keep up with. I say this in every interview, but I want to be like the Drake of Australia so I try my best to follow any dope little artists and stay in contact and help them as much as I can.”

Your friendship with Juice WRLD has featured heavily in coverage of you so far. How does that make you feel?

“I love Juice – shout out to my brother, RIP, one of the greatest of all time. He was obviously a close friend of mine and a mentor. I’m honoured to be called that and be in the same bracket as that, but respectively Juice is his own artist and I am too. They need to leave his legacy alone and let him be because he is one of the greatest of all time and I’m nowhere there yet. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me being called Juice’s protege but I guess it’s a blessing and a curse. I do have my own career but he is one of the people who made me who I am today.”

“Juice WRLD is one of the people who made me who I am today.”

What did you grow up listening to?

“To be honest, I didn’t grow up listening to rock – but I do now. I was listening to a lot of rap like Tupac, Kanye, Lil Wayne and all the shit my mum was playing; Erykah Badu, The Fugees, all of that. Maybe the melodies come from somewhere there, but recently I got into the rock stuff. It was like a year ago, and funnily enough Juice asked me ‘Did you listen to rock music growing up?’, and I said ‘no’. He was like, ‘Oh! Because you got a lot of rock-inspired melodies’ and I hear a lot of other people saying that too so I checked it out and I can see it. You know what’s always been crazy, there’s always been one band that I’ve loved growing up and that was Nirvana. That was the only one growing up that I was like like ‘I fuck with this’.”

Are you an industry plant?

“OK! The interview’s over! Just playing… but that statement is dumb. I see why Americans may say that but people in Australia and the underground scene know about how long I’ve been trying to do this. There may be a different definition for an ‘industry plant’ but to me, an industry plant is someone created by a label and is told to do this type of music and be this person with this image – a manufactured person. But everything is me and is authentic. Let me point out, this obviously couldn’t happen without Bibby and George [his management, Grade A Productions] and the people who helped me, but in that case everybody’s a fucking industry plant.

I’mma be real with you, a year ago when I saw that I was being called an industry plant, I was really hurt. But now it’s funny to me. At the end of the day I have one of the best fanbases ever so none of that can phase me because the support outweighs the bad.”

What does the future look like for you?

“I think I’ll be doing music until I die, regardless of whether I’m popular or not. If I ever feel like people aren’t receiving my music well anymore, I’ll probably go to the backroads and become an executive or just sign artists. But I don’t want to be an artist who overstayed his time.”

The mixtape is having a huge moment – and you’ve got some big names on your work – have you has a ‘shit! I’m famous moment’ yet?

“I haven’t had that moment yet, and I don’t know what that would be. I don’t think a Grammy, although that’s one of my dreams and a big achievement. But maybe when I can’t leave the house without thousands of people running after I think I’ll be like ‘Holy shit, I’m big!’ I guess I’ll never know until that happens.”

The Kid LAROI’s debut mixtape ‘F*CK LOVE’ is out now


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