High hopes for Raury’s “All We Need”

by Scott Wilson

These are times when dramatic shifts in technologies and economies are causing popular uprisings throughout our universal culture. The youth are becoming more politically and socially minded in ways society hasn’t seen in decades. Raury, and his debut album All We Need, represents the youth, the future, and now.

Conversations about “aboutness” can become tedious without much effort, so to keep it short, All We Need is about coming of age and accepting responsibility, as well as pointing out the shared responsibilities we, as a society, need to acknowledge.

It’s an album that summarizes a history of aggression, mistakes, and wasted potential. It describes the current state of a nation, specifically that of the African-American millennial, and it outlines the general steps that need to be taken in order to course-correct the history that’s being made right now. All We Need is–mostly–a political album. Its ethos is social consciousness. Again, mostly.

Raury is not Rage Against the Machine, and his style is closer to Jack Johnson than KRS-One – sorry, dated references. Guessing that Raury’s influences are based off what his parents might have listened to when he was 10.

This album is decidedly mellow. It’s like he took all the angst and trepidation of being young and politically conscious, and expressed it as if it were Opposite Day at the recording studio. One’s head nods, but doesn’t bang. This is fitting, because while half of the album is socially responsible rap for kids to look up to, blah blah blah, the rest of it is romantic music, in the generalized sense. He has a song about going different ways with a friend, a song about how he loves his mom, a song about a special girl, etc.

Here’s a cynical read of the album that might smell a little like a conspiracy theory, but what if Raury isn’t the next Nas? What if all the talk of reclaiming dignity and being positive role models is part of a tactic used by the Music Industrial Complex to create the image of an acceptable rap star that can be easily marketed on several levels? “He’s political but he’s a lover with deep feelings, too,” and so on.

This is still just a theory, not a claim, but it does seem fishy that a 19-year-old has advanced sound recording techniques, backup singers, a nation-wide tour booked, and a full-length album of 14 masterfully crafted and relatively clean tracks that are all perfect radio-play length.

Thinly veiled insinuations aside, it’s hard to trust a musician who claims to be dispelling the evils of big corporations, but is signed with Sony.

This is a difficult album to listen through from start to finish. It has great songs, this is a fact, but trying to get from track one to track 14 feels more like work than pleasure. Maybe it’s the dreary, high-quality slowness; the over-infusion of a bleeding soul into every song; or the lack of a sharp edge. Maybe I’m wrong. Comparing the whole album to the singles, All We Need seems like it would be an incredible album, but regresses back to the mean.