5 Things You Probably Didn’t (But Should) Know About Indigenous Rapper The Kid LAROI

Instagram / @thekidlaroi

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In the past year, Australia’s own The Kid LAROI has released collaborations with Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, hit top 10 charts in over a dozen countries, broke an Australian chart record, won Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year at Sydney’s APRA Awards, signed a worldwide deal with Sony Publishing and pretty much become a household name. All before his 18th birthday.

But there is so much more to know about The Kid LAROI, like how he got started, what he’s doing now and how much his Indigenous ancestry has played a role in his identity as an artist.

His Name

The Kid LAROI’s real name is Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard. His mum’s great-great grandfather was a part of the Stolen Generation of children of mixed Aboriginal descent. Through this ancestry, he is a Kamilaroi (or Gamilaraay) man, which is what inspired his artistic name “Laroi.”

Family History

Born into a middle class family in inner-west Sydney, The Kid LAROI’s childhood completely changed when his parents split. LAROI has said in interview that he and his mother would sometimes live hand-to-mouth, and that his mother sold drugs to get by.

In 2015, his uncle was murdered, which saw LAROI and his mother forced to move into project housing in Redfern, where they received constant noise complaints (from LAROI making music in his room) so then had to drift between friends’ houses.

Rise to Fame

Throughout this volatile time in LAROI’s life, he developed a passion for rap and hip hop; first recording verses on his mum’s iPhone, which he’d then upload to Soundcloud and Facebook. He grew an impressive social media following both locally and overseas, which led to the hip hop podcast No Jumper, filming a documentary of LAROI, which showed him in the streets of Redfern, writing and playing music.

This documentary caught the eye of rapper and Grade A Productions executive Lil Bibby, who signed him in a joint deal with Columbia Records. This was where he met his soon-to-be mentor Juice WRLD.

His Mentor and the Aftermath

Juice WRLD, who was also signed by Grade A Productions to Columbia Records, had a similar vibe and style to The Kid LAROI. As a result, LAROI was asked to open for Juice WRLD on tour in Australia in November 2019. This sparked a mentorship between the two young men; with LAROI living with Juice WRLD for several months in Los Angeles, where he would watch Juice create music in his studio and learn about everything that came with a music artist’s lifestyle.

Sadly, just a few weeks later in December of 2019, Juice WRLD died from a drug overdose. “That was my big brother. I learned a whole lot from him,” LAROI told HotNewHipHop last year.

Prior to his death, Juice WRLD had recorded a verse for GO, the lead single on LARIO’s debut album, in the hopes to give him a leg up in the industry charts.

It did exactly that. The song found its place on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, topping artists like Justin Bieber; who LAROI also alter collaborated with. The song currently has 238 million streams on Spotify. It marked the beginning of LAROI’s international career.

The rest of his debut album, titled F*ck Love, didn’t shy away from the pain LAROI felt losing a mentor. On a track called Tell Me Why, he sings about the impact of Juice WRLD’s death on his mental health: “I can’t count all the tears I cried, so many sleepless nights/ Watched all of my idols die, right in front of my eyes.”

This debut album is a true testament to his emotional maturity and self-awareness as an artist, with the ability to encapsulate his emotions so poetically and tap into the world around him for inspiration.

Connection to Australia

Despite his international fame, LAROI seems determined not to leave his roots behind. In interviews and public appearances, as well as on social media, he makes a point of representing and talking about Indigenous culture.

“Knowing your background and where your family comes from is very important,” he told Billboard earlier this year. “It’s super important to carry that and be proud about your heritage.”

LAROI’s success is also creating space for emerging Australian rappers. Currently, a growing hip hop scene is emerging in West Sydney, with artists like OneFour and Hooligan Hefs finding international success. He makes a point of collaborating with Australian artists and producers, featuring many local names on his albums and tracks.

“When I was living in Australia, there was only a small group of people that was making music and rapping. Now I get sent a new kid every day in Australia who’s making music and it’s crazy,” he said in a Vice interview with OneFour.

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