Atlanta singer-songwriter and rapper Raury has always had this drive to be authentic and expansive, but it doesn’t always reflect positively, leaving some bumps along the way. It’s perplexing; when I first discovered Raury, he had these unique complexions of folk, hip-hop, rock, and soul with inconsistent vibrancy. From solid mixtapes with Indigo Child and Welcome To The Woods and a mediocre debut in All We Need, the open avenues for Raury have him waning and further stunting proper creative growth. It didn’t leave an impactful memory, save for a few; however, like the previously mentioned mixtapes, Raury continues to deliver a tape that sees him taking a new direction and rapping more on Strawberry Moon. He shifts from the folk-driven sounds of the past and elevates his delivery to a different plane of great psychedelia.
Strawberry Moon’s linear progression makes the sounds acquiesce on waves of avant-garde production. Raury doesn’t scale back and instead builds upon atmospheric textures that flow through the veins in his craft. His music grabs you, then gravitates toward depth-filled moods which reflect his inner-subconscious, which perpetuates how it bounces off us. It’s been resonant on more minimalist tracks like “Cigarette Song” and “Friends,” contrasting the energetic “Amor” and “Devil’s Whisper” from Indigo Child and All We Need. Raury doesn’t tip-toe either side of the aisle, finding a sense of equilibrium and letting his vocals guide us through the darkly vibrant production. It hits you instantly with “Heatwave;” it delivers raw instrumentations that grind through some synths before Raury jabs with this crazy verse and slightly grungey guitar riffs. He’s rapping again and doing it frequently.
Hearing Raury back in a hip-hop element has been sorely missed, and the growth he has shown is consistent, even when some moments aren’t that great and kinetic. It isn’t often that we hear him dig into this bag of tricks. He complements the production keenly, never deterring you from what he wants you to listen. It’s more effervescent when Raury brings a clean balance of verse-chorus-verse, particularly with the rapping and not the singing. Though he’s rapping a lot on Strawberry Moon, the balance with the singing on choruses offers weight and dimensions to his artistry, even when it isn’t that captivating. There’s a difference; he can carry the song through the finish line without a moment where the vocals become detached from the sound. It’s one of the few reasons there have been some loose comparisons to Andre 3000 of Outkast, the other due to his eclectic flows and ambitious creative directions. Unfortunately, that ambition gets too much at the tail end. The last few tracks give us Raury trying to expand range, which turns into some off-putting styles that either work or don’t. Whether it’s the foggy nature of “Her Smile” to the overly modulated and produced “Phases.”
Strawberry Moon starts running at full force, giving us these varying flows that constantly keep us glued to our headphones. Raury raps and rap-sings with swagger that his words become realized. The bravado in the rhythm has Raury boasting with a slight edge with his bars. At the beginning of the second verse of “2020 Vision,” “Shit I been conquering demon/Shit I been battling me man/Angelic beings I’m seeing/I just woke up dreaming,” which continues this mental reflection on the industry and life in the first verse. He raps, “I never answer my phone/And since a nigga been on/I’m living in paranoia/I’m living in paranoia/And locking all of my doors, yeah/And shutting every window/And playing Super Nintendo,” displaying a potential divide between identity and selling out. It shows that if he takes off restraints and gets reminded of his craft, he can deliver tracks as impactfully fantastic as “Devil’s Whisper.” “Channel Zero” and “Cloak” are evident of that. There is also a proper balance between the way he sings, wherein he offers more emotional depth like “Feel Good,” but it isn’t as consistent as the rapping.
Though it isn’t some profound piece of work, but Raury is growing and shifting. He’s offering a lot of unique strokes of the paintbrush to the construct and complexions of the sound that you get a sense he is one to something. And he may be, as this new direction reflects his strengths on many fronts. It caught me by surprise, despite not wowing me completely; however, if you are a fan, definitely give this a spin.