This piece is part of Rolling Stone’s second annual Grammy Preview special issue, released ahead of the start of first-round voting. We spoke to some of the year’s biggest artists about the albums and singles that could earn them a nomination — or even a statue come January — and delved into the challenges facing the Recording Academy, providing a 360-degree view of what to watch for in the lead-up to the 2022 awards.
Artist: The Kid Laroi
Eligible for: F*ck Love (Savage), “Without You,” “Stay”
The Kid Laroi has netted two Number One songs, collaborated with Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, and appeared on Saturday Night Live, but the 18-year-old Aussie rapper-singer says he has an even loftier goal in mind: “World dominion. It’s world domination, but domination, there’s a limit to it. Dominion, there’s no limit.”
At age six, the musician, born Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard, started writing songs and uploading his music to social media. Hundreds of thousands of streams later, he met his future mentor, Juice WRLD. In 2020, he dropped his debut album, F*ck Love, and has since racked up more than a billion listens on Spotify.
On the cusp of dominion, Laroi spoke with Rolling Stone about his origins, his idol Kanye West, and why popular music is just a “fucking mash of all different shit.”
Where did your love for music come from?
My mom used to play a lot of hip-hop around the house. She also used to play Erykah Badu and Fugees, Tupac, Kanye. As I started to get older and go through certain things, I started relating to a lot of the lyrics. Then I just was like, “Damn, I could probably do this shit myself.”
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
It was terrible. It wasn’t really about nothing. It was just me talking about Pimp My Ride and shit like that because that was my favorite show back then.… But I was six years old or some shit, so whatever. For a six-year-old, it was pretty fucking good.
How do you define success — and when did you first feel like you were succeeding?
I’ll go through a thing where I’ll feel, “OK, this is huge.” Then months later or a year later, I’ll be like, “Damn, that really wasn’t anything. This is huge.” But I guess the first-ever feeling of that was probably [when] I used to be in this duo with this dude. We uploaded a video to Facebook, and it got 10,000 views, or something. That was pretty encouraging.
And now you’ve collaborated with Justin Bieber and appeared on SNL with Miley Cyrus.
SNL was pretty fucking crazy. I remember taking a picture with me, Miley, and Elon [Musk] and looking at [it] before I posted it, like, “Yo, what the fuck is going on in this picture?” It was the most random group of people ever.
Were you the kind of kid who would imagine yourself on SNL?
Yeah, of course. I feel like everything that I’m doing, I imagined when I was a kid. I feel I have some weird superpower where I can just think shit and then it happens.
What’s something that you’ve imagined that’s not happened yet?
Meeting Kanye. He’s a fucking creative genius. What I love about Kanye is that he always creates an experience that’s deeper than just music, that’s deeper than just fashion, that’s deeper than just a live show. … I don’t think he’s afraid to fail. That’s what I love.
You don’t seem to care about genre much when it comes to your music. What does genre even mean to you?
I don’t give a fuck about what something sounds like. I don’t really go to the studio and be like, “OK, I’m going to make this type of sound today.” I just make whatever feels natural. Music’s not one thing anymore. What we now know as popular music is a fucking mash of all different shit. It’s rock influence, hip-hop influence, fucking jazz influence, all different type of influences in this one thing. I feel music’s becoming more and more genreless.
You’ve already had a pretty big year, and it’s not over yet. What’s been the apex so far?
“Stay” going Number One was pretty cool. Actually, the biggest one for me personally was doing my own show on the roof of the Palladium in Hollywood. That was pretty fire.