Throughout this hyped debut, vocalist-MC Raury expresses the need to find balance in life. So it’s fitting that his optimistic blend of rap, patchouli folk, and pop works as a counterpoint to the cynical, money-obsessed mentality of mainstream hip-hop. The 19-year-old is a millennial out of time; songs with gentle acoustic guitars, bright harmonies, and melodic choruses might have been embraced at Summer of Love campfires or ’70s soft-rock fests. The Atlanta MC’s flow is unmistakably influenced by Andre 3000, but his peace-and-love worldview evokes Arrested Development; unfortunately, his gauziest tracks (“Crystal Express”) would fit comfortably on a mixtape with Starland Vocal Band. Raury hits the right notes when he skirts Coke commercial sentiments (“Friends”) and nouveau-hippy tropes to dig deeper. “Forbidden Knowledge,” with a dominating turn from Big K.R.I.T., is an acute, relevant plea for self awareness. “Devil’s Whisper,” the flip of his previous “God’s Whisper,” smartly laments our greed and fame consumed culture. Raury’s spirit and intent are laudable, but his broad lyrics and potpourri musical approach need refining.
ESSENTIAL “Forbidden Knowledge”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.