By Opheli Garcia Lawler
Bashing youthful, optimistic, creative types is something everyone loves to do these days. The Baby Boomer’s bash us because they don’t understand us, the Gen X’s are trying to shame us because they still feel the sting of losing their own wild dreams. Young creatives are trying to tear down other young creatives because we were taught there wasn’t enough space for all us, but Raury is an artist who will stand out and above all of that noise.
At his listening event for his new album All We Need, Raury and his team created a relaxed, accessible and conceptual space for the preview. Giving each guest a pair of Beats headphones, they told everyone who entered it was going to be a silent listening event. Before we were allowed to go in, they explained that the gallery was comprised of art from Atlanta based artist Sage Guillory, who did the cover work for the single “Devil’s Whisper” and from Raury’s team photographer, Jimmy Van Nguyen.
Raury stood in front of us, as we huddled in the lobby of a gallery many of us never would have gone to otherwise, and he explained his work on the album. He wants it to inspire us, that music has helped him to find himself, and that he knows so many kids our age are lost too. Music is the way he finds himself. He tells us to enjoy and that he will be back, but really needs to go change his clothes and eat some food. Raury seems so genuine that it doesn’t feel like we are standing in the room with someone who was on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert this past week, or someone who was on tour with Ms. Lauryn Hill this past summer. It was like we were standing in a room with a friend who just finished a project, and they were excited for us to listen to it.
Raury leaves and we all file into the gallery. The photos from the past three years of Raury’s life are put on the walls as we go in. All of the photos are candid, showing a life of adventure, and encapsulating the spirit of Raury’s music. The main space is filled with stunning pieces of Sage’s work, all of which are depictions of songs from All We Need. Now that everyone is inside, they offer us wine and water, which may or may not have been an ode to his songs, “God’s Whisper” and “Devil’s Whisper.”
The music begins. Twenty young adults mill around, taking in the art, taking photos, bobbing their heads nearly imperceptibly. Jimmy walks around taking photos of everyone, but no one seems particularly concerned with anyone else. As the album continues on, filled with percussion, strong vocals and lyrics filled with imagery, it grows hotter in the gallery, and everyone starts taking their own places sitting down on the on the floor, backs against the wall.
Everyone was consuming the album on their own terms, and it was their own experience, but looking around the room, a sense of community developed. When one of the album’s tracks came on that carried some heavier beats, everyone’s heads bobbed a little more, one kid in the corner started dancing, based on everybody’s bodies a silent but strong agreement resonated: This album was good. The last few tracks of the song left everyone bobbing and flowing happily. It was like taking a trip through someone’s self discovery, one that ended with positive notes and the desire to meet someone new, do something new, learn something new.
After the album ended, Raury met and took photographs with everyone. It wasn’t just a standard meet and greet, just like the listening event didn’t like any other listening event. Raury could talk with anyone, and he did. He talked with everyone, happy, appearing to be genuinely interested and endlessly patient with all of his fans. For someone often criticized to be an industry plant, Raury was unbelievably real.
When it was our turn, we took our photos, goofing off and making silly poses and actually laughing. We mentioned we loved him and his performance at Bonnaroo. We said that it was one of the highlights of our experience there, and one of the best performances, as well. He seemed surprised that we said this. He reflected that it had been a bad day for him, and the sound had sucked. We agreed that the sound had been pretty bad, but that his performance had defied technical difficulties, which it had. Raury seems to be in the habit of defying obstacles that would stop or inhibit others from succeeding.
Walking around after the event was over, everyone we talked to was emitting positive energy, sharing their favorite parts of the album, and exclaiming about how real and nice Raury seemed. We all walked out into the Lower East Side eager for the arrival of his album, which is not released until October 16th, and content with such a stimulating and fulfilling experience.
In a lot of ways, Raury just seems like a nice 19 dude from Atlanta, someone who would ask you how you are doing after only meeting you once. But Raury is not just some nice dude from Atlanta. He is an artist, creative, optimistic, and creating music for a generation that is often vilified for possessing those same qualities. Raury is making music, and producing content that makes nineteen year olds feel like it’s okay to be young and care about things, and he’s doing it so well that even critics will fall silent.
Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org