Pop’s new phenomenon talks collaborating with Justin Bieber, the inspiration behind his latest mixtape “F*CK LOVE 3,” and why music is like therapy for him.
It’s hard to believe The Kid Laroi is just 17-years-old. The youngest artist to reach Number One on the Billboard 200 this decade, he boasts over 29 million monthly listeners on Spotify, hit collaborations with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Lil Durk and Polo G, and – now – even a hit single with Justin Bieber. So how did this Australian teenager become pop’s newest kid on the block?
Born Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard, Laroi released his first EP back in 2018, “14 with a Dream,” when he was just 14-years-old and navigating adolescence in the outback of Australia’s New South Wales. But it was later that year, when Juice WRLD invited Laroi on tour after seeing him on Triple J’s “Unearthed High” talent competition, that the stars began to align.
Moving to LA after being signed to Columbia Records, he lived with Juice WRLD for several months, watching and learning from the rapper whom he deemed a “big brother,” friend, and mentor.
Following his tragic death at the end of 2019, Laroi channeled his pain into the emotionally charged debut mixtape, “F*CK LOVE.” His collaborative hit with Juice WRLD, “Go”, which honoured him, landed him at number 3 on the Australian charts and number 8 in the US. Laroi hasn’t slowed down since. In the past year he’s hit the Top 10 in more than 12 countries and signed an illustrious record deal with Sony Publishing – all with the helping hand of TikTok.
Laroi’s viral hit, “Addison Rae,” was reposted by the song’s namesake – gathering over 10 million views on the app, and his clip of “Without You” has been used in more than three million videos – with Miley Cyrus remixing it and the pair performing on SNL. But let’s be clear, Laroi’s not writing songs for Tik Tok. “If it catches on there, that’s great, but if it doesn’t … I’m not pressed at the same time because it’s not about that for me,” he shares. “It’s more about making good music and getting stuff off my chest. I don’t worry if something doesn’t go big or if people don’t like it because there’s always someone out there who does like it, that’s who the music is for. I make it for myself and my fans and the people who need to hear it.” In an industry that’s becoming increasingly contrived, Laroi stands out.
It’s served him well so far, but he isn’t getting complacent. Laroi’s early for the photoshoot and interview, shoots extra looks in a mohair sweater despite the glaring LA sun above, and even clambers up onto the roof at one point to help get the perfect shot.
We sat down to chat about how he came to work with Bieber, his mixed feelings on the LA scene, and running on Alfred Coffee’s chocolate chip cookies.
“F*CK LOVE 3″ is the latest, and last mixtape in a trilogy of “F*CK LOVE” mixtapes. How does it build on from the previous “F*CK LOVE” mixtapes?
I have grown so much as a person in the last year, with each mixtape the sound and my perspective has changed and matured and this is no exception.
How did your track with Justin Bieber, “Stay,” come about?
It was when I first started dating my girlfriend and I was going through some internal stuff. I was over at my friend Blake’s [Slatkin] house. We were all just hanging out and Charlie was fucking around on the keyboard, not even really thinking, just playing. He played “Stay,” like the ‘du nu nu nu’ thing and I was like, “Yo, yo, yo, what’s that? That’s fire.” He was like, “Oh, I’m just fucking around!” I was like, “No, that’s perfect. Yo Blake, pull up Pro Tools let’s record this shit!” So he did and I just got on the mic and started doing the melody and shit. That’s literally just how it came about. We didn’t even go in trying to make a song or anything, it just kind of happened and it was really weird. Then we just sat with it, with that idea in our notes for months, and then eventually I was listening to it one day and I was like, “Woah, this is really good. Justin would sound crazy on this.” This was around the time when Justin had just DM’d me and asked me to get on a song, and I was thinking, “Damn, okay, what can I send him?” I just thought of “Stay” and I was like, “Oh yeah, “Stay”, he would sound crazy on that.”
Are the lyrics about your current relationship then, since it was when you’d just started dating your girlfriend?
What was it like working with Justin on the track?
I mean he’s the best. He’s super, super easy to work with and he’s obviously amazing and talented. I remember I came in with the [song] file to the studio and he just went into the booth and freestyled the whole shit, it was crazy.
Do you see him as a big brother figure?
Yeah, 100%. I mean first of all he’s a friend, which is crazy! He’s a really good friend and just a really down to earth dude. But then secondly, when it comes to the music stuff, if I ever have any questions I literally just call him and he always gives me incredible advice. I can’t really think of anyone better to ask than someone like him. He’s been through everything when it comes to this stuff…so he has a lot of knowledge and he always tries to give me the best possible answer for shit. I guess that’s how we originally got close, I would just call him and ask him questions about shit!
Has he given you any advice that’s really stuck with you?
Yeah, a couple of times. But one [that stands out] was when I was on the way to a photoshoot and he called me and he goes, “What do you have planned for the day?” I go “Oh man, I’m going to this photoshoot. I’m really tired though, like whatever…” because I was feeling like I don’t really want to do this shit. But he’s like, “Hey man, just be happy that you’re doing this.” I said, “Why?” And he goes, “Dude, you’re from Australia, like you’re living your dream right now! This is what you wanna do, don’t take this shit for granted. This is crazy, the fact that you get to do this for your life and for your work!” Something along the lines of that and it just made me think of shit really differently, like now if I have to wake up early and go to something I’m like, “Oh shit! I’m happy that this is what I’m doing and I’m not in school.” I don’t even know what grade I’m supposed to be in, like doing math work or some bullshit, but it really changed the way I look at stuff like that.
You hang out with a lot of other music artists in LA. Do you feel like the LA scene is creatively stimulating and giving you the confidence to be your self or do you find it superficial?
I think it’s both. I think it’s definitely allowed me to be myself more, and be more creative. On the flip side, I kind of like staying inside a little bit more now. I don’t really like doing the bullshit as much anymore, just because it’s tiring and I don’t know…you go outside and you see the same fucking people everywhere. That’s the part that gets tiring for me about LA, is going out all the time, and it just gets dark (laughs). But if you moderate that and you just find people that you like out here, and places you like going and shit you like doing, like I do, it’s incredible.
Do you ever get homesick for Australia?
Of course. I love Australia, I miss it and I miss my friends out there. Man, it’s been so fucking long.
You tweeted a while ago: “One of my biggest goals in this whole music shit from the beginning has always been to show the rest of the world what Australia has to offer, and how much raw and unseen talent we have. It’s not an overnight process but I can feel it slowly happening.” Are there any young artists in Australia right now that you think are really talented?
Yeah. I mean Onefour is huge in Australia already, but there’s this kid, Sahxl, who’s really fire. He’s super low key, but I think he’s really good. There’s a couple of young kids that are super unknown that not a lot of people know, but they’re fucking incredible.
Which artists would you say have influenced your music the most?
Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, all types of shit. The Fugees, my mum used to play the Fugees a lot. Tupac was a big one. I think it was either “Dear Mama” or “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” one of those videos I watched and that was one of the first things that made me want to do crazy music videos and shit. It really inspired me to want to be an artist because I was like, “Oh shit, this shit is really cool.” Then the Kanye 808s and Heartbreak album was the album that made me really want to do music in general, like I just remember hearing that shit and being like, “Woah, this is crazy!” When you’re a kid and you listen to music, you don’t really worry about what everyone else’s opinion is, you just like what you like. No one as a kid is really talking about this shit like, “Oh yo, this shit’s ass.” So I just liked what I liked, but Kanye overall, that’s like my reason for making music. That guy’s my greatest of all time.
Would you want to work with him?
In an interview you did a few years ago with the No Jumper Podcast, you said: “I’ve always loved music, and as I got older I found it’s a way to tell stories.” Is storytelling still important to you in your music?
For me it’s less about the story, it’s more just expressing my emotions and getting shit out because I don’t really talk about my feelings in real life. I don’t even talk to my friends about my feelings and shit really, for whatever reason, and I don’t go to a therapist or anything so music’s the only way that I feel comfortable talking about that stuff. I don’t know, I’ve been like that since I was young because I can always play it off like, “Oh it’s just music.” That’s my excuse all the time like, “Oh, don’t worry about me, it’s only music.” So yeah that’s what it is for me really, it’s just like therapy, like being able to talk about my feelings and talk about what’s going on without having to really talk about it.
I think a lot of people if they’d already reached your heights by your age would be like, “I can chill now.” But you’re not slowing down, you keep stepping it up. How do you stop yourself from burning out?
I just fucking sleep, and I eat chocolate chip cookies.
Which ones are your favourite?
Well, my girlfriend has a chef, and they make incredible cookies I always eat. There’s this coffee shop called Alfred’s that makes incredible cookies, I’m probably gonna go grab a cookie right after this.
I love their cookies!
Alfred’s chocolate chip cookies are a very big part in helping me stay sane.
Finally what’s next for the Kid Laroi? Can we expect an album soon?
I’m working on it now! Hope to have it before I tour again…
Yasi Guilani and Janelle Arreola.