The Kid LAROI Is Coming Home
"I don't really care about anything else...That's my home country, and if they don't f*ck with me, then I don't know, I guess I kind of failed at my job."
In many ways, it feels like he never left. The Waterloo emcee, Juice WRLD protege, and international hitmaker has come a long way since making it to the finals of Triple J’s Unearthed High with ‘Disconnect (Demo)’, but he’s never lost sight of home.
“That’s the thing that I keep my eyes on the most,” says LAROI of his hometown charts, where his hit single ‘Stay’ currently reigns for a ninth consecutive week. “I don’t really care about anything else but that, because that’s where I’m from. That’s my home country, and if they don’t fuck with me, then I don’t know, I guess I kind of failed at my job.”
If that’s the metric, LAROI could coast through any performance review. His first ARIA coup, ‘Without You’, hit number one after 22 weeks on the chart; his second, the Justin Bieber-featuring ‘Stay’, debuted at pole position last month. He’s the first local act to claim the spot since January 2020, and with nine weeks to his name, the only Australian to top the ARIA singles chart this year. Stateside, he’s the first solo Australian to top the Billboard 200 since Sia in 2014, and the first Indigenous Australian to ever take out that top spot. Internationally, LAROI is so ubiquitous, it might be easier to name countries in which he hasn’t charted.
Achievements and accolades have been stacking up so fast, it’s easy to lose track — but as he tells me, there’s nothing like a sea of fans singing back at you to put it all into perspective. “Reading was insane,” he says just days on. “It was like over 100,000 people there, so yeah, it was definitely the craziest show I’ve ever done in my life.”
In any other case, that would be a show to summit, the kind of slot you’d chip away at on small stages and in intimate venues. LAROI has cut his teeth as support for acts like THEY., Tkay Maizda, OneFour and Manu Crook$, but in the 14 months since the release of his debut mixtape F*CK LOVE, touring has been but a distant dream. It’s just another qualifier to a remarkable come up: The Kid LAROI has become one of the world’s biggest artists without ever having stepped on stage.
“I’ve never done this before, so I’ve definitely been trying to adjust to it,” he admits. “I did four shows in like seven days, and I was super rundown. I think it’s a super good warm-up for the tour.” His is a high-energy affair, both on stage and in the pit.
“I love doing the live shit man,” he says. “One of my favourite parts about doing this whole thing is going and getting to see all the people sing the lyrics, and see how much the songs mean to people, and seeing how it connects with people. It’s amazing.”
The Whole Experience
In an age of streams and sales, there’s still no substitute for presence, as LAROI happily attests. “People really enjoyed ‘F*ck You, Goodbye’,” he says, sounding surprised. “They were screaming that shit in the UK, which is crazy! I mean, that’s a great song, I just didn’t think it would go off as much as it did.”
It’s his first real taste of an international fandom long limited to tweets, stories and comment sections, and as he raves on having “enjoyed every fucking second” of meeting fans abroad, his heart stays set on another long-overdue tour. “I’ve been trying to come back to Australia for a long time,” he says, plaintive. “It’s just all this COVID stuff and all the lockdown stuff, it’s been really hard.”
“It’s just all this COVID stuff and all the lockdown stuff, it’s been really hard.”
Now based in Los Angeles, LAROI keeps a distant eye on the nation that raised him, championing local talent (such as OneFour, with whom he cut ‘My City’) and amplifying local charities. “I just feel excited, really,” he says, undaunted by the long-overdue return. “I’m just happy I get to see all the beautiful fans, I think it’s been a long time coming… Now it’s finally happening, I’m fucking ready, dude!”
As for what to expect, LAROI promises more than just performance, aspiring to the live experiences of consummate entertainers. “I take a lot of inspiration from Kanye, from Nirvana,” he explains, throwing back to live shows of legend. “I think Travis Scott has an incredible show, and I look at all those different people, even Justin — Justin is one of the greatest performers of this generation, in my opinion — and Bruno Mars, I watch the way they do stuff and I get really inspired by that.”
“I always look at the greatest artists,” he continues, enthused. “I want to be doing that same thing and be on that level, and I think when you do something like a live show, or like really just anything you do in life… you should always aim to be doing it the best you can do it, and not even just the best you can do it, but the best that it’s ever been done.”
It’s a philosophy in keeping with his F*CK LOVE trilogy, each expansion making ambitious strides in sound and style. He’s looking to bring that trademark flair to his stagecraft, too. “I sit down and design everything with whoever’s doing my stuff,” he says excitedly. “I want to give people an experience as opposed to just going on stage and singing or rapping. I just want to give someone a real experience that they want to come back to year after year.”
This Is Only The Beginning
Make no mistake, LAROI is planning on year after year. Though he only just turned 18 last month, two years into a superstar stretch, The Kid is already scheming on his 2022 debut. “I’m just happy to be done with the whole F*CK LOVE thing,” he admits, his Australian shows as much a homecoming as a graduation. He’s tightlipped on that project, but more than forthcoming about the missing: “keep inspiring people… that’s really the goal anyway, in life: be inspired and inspire others.”
As his star continues to rise, The Kid LAROI hopes he can do both, especially for Australia’s treasure trove of hip-hop talent. He talks about his desire to provide “some guidance really, just some real advice from someone who’s really been through it,” hopefully helping send the scene to greater international recognition. “There’s a lot of people telling a lot of these kids advice that they haven’t really even experienced or been through, and [they] may be — again, through no fault of their own — slightly misleading some of these kids without even knowing.”
In a classically hip-hop way, all things come back to community for LAROI, whether it’s his fans, his peers, or the city he so staunchly claims.
“Having stuff like that is very important for kids in the community to be able to lean on and rely on.”
“Weave is in Redfern, and they were a big help to me and a lot of other kids in the community,” he says, especially eager to elaborate on his recent fundraising for Weave Youth & Community Services. “I think having stuff like that is very important for kids in the community to be able to lean on and rely on.”
“I went through a tough time with that,” he admits, touching on the mission of Gold Coast cause My Friends’ Place. “I didn’t have a house and my family was without a home, and I just really liked everything that that charity stood for, and everything that it does helping homeless youth.”
He’s at his most invigorated talking on hardship and helping hands, that real concern less a maturation and more a virtue further enabled by his success. “I think that stuff is very important, especially for someone like me who’s been through something like that,” he reflects, “and is now in the position to be able to give back and just let people know that you can get through this.”
Even as he couldn’t get back, The Kid LAROI was giving back. Now, on a whirlwind tour with a record in tow, he’s poised to do more of both.
The Kid LAROI will be touring Australia through May and June in 2022. For all dates and ticket information, head over here.
Conor Herbert is a freelance music writer who has written for Pilerats, DJBooth and more. Catch him on Twitter.