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.

The Kid Laroi

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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.