A Guide To The Kid LAROI, The 17-Year-Old Indigenous Rapper Taking Over The Charts
If you're sleeping on The Kid LAROI, it's time to wake up.
If you don’t know The Kid LAROI, you’re behind the times.
The First Nations rapper’s first major-label release, the mixtape F*CK LOVE, isn’t just all across triple j’s playlist: it debuted at #8 on the US Billboard Charts and #12 in the UK, a massive achievement for any Australian act, let alone a 17-year-old. But while his rise might seem meteoric, he’s been steadily working towards global domination for a few years. Here’s a recap, in case you’ve been sleeping.
Charlton Howard first made waves back in 2018, when he was a finalist on triple j Unearthed High. While he didn’t take out the top prize, he was signed by major label Columbia soon after on imprint Grade A Records, alongside his mentor Juice WRLD. The Kid LAROI’s name is derived from ‘Kamilaroi’, Howard’s Indigenous peoples.
His first release was in 2018, a five-track self-released EP 14 with a dream, produced by Australia’s Miracle. It isn’t currently on streaming platforms, but is still available on YouTube.
But he gained a lot more attention via his friendship with the late Juice WRLD, who he calls his “big brother”. The Kid LAROI supported him on multiple Australian tours — including what became his last shows in November 2019.
While a few tracks gained attention on TikTok (such as ‘Addison Rae’, literally named after a famous TikTokker), and via music videos by viral-ready director Cole Bennett, it was ‘Go’, his June collab with Juice that saw his first overseas chart success.
Howard’s compared a lot to Juice: listening to The Kid LAROI, you probably wouldn’t pick he’s Australian. He’s much more indebted to the emo-trap of Juice than anything coming out of Australia. His mixtape, released last month, features big-name producers like Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco, among others.
Generally, he tends to go for the emo-rap mumbled lines and scratchy-stretched vocals of, say, Post Malone or Lil Uzi Vert, but on tracks like ‘Go Dumb’ he drops the affect a bit, and proves he’s got vocal chops.
He’s arguably best known for his collaborations with Juice — ‘Go’, as well as the rapper’s posthumous ‘Hate The Other Side’ and F*CK LOVE‘s tribute track ‘Tell Me Why’ — alongside those with other US rappers Lil Tjay and Lil Tekka.
A handful of Australians pop up on F*CK LOVE: producers Khaled Rohaim and Haan have their work across the album, and Brisbane artist JOY. is a producer on album closer ‘Selfish’.
The Kid LAROI doesn’t just have chart and streaming success, though, as reviews of F*CK LOVE are pretty positive (bar, uh, this one which compares him unfavourably to Silverchair?). Overall, most critics praise the mixtape as a promising sign of things to come and a show of emotional and lyrical maturity well beyond Howard’s years.
‘Selfish’ is the latest track to get a music video. You can watch it below.