The Kid Laroi can’t stop smiling.

The 17-year-old rapper has a lot to be happy about in this moment. He’s en route to his set at Rolling Loud Miami; he’s a few hours removed from the release of his soon-to-be No. 1 album F*ck Love 3: Over You; and he’s got one of the most popular songs in the country, “Stay,” featuring his friend Justin Bieber. That single will soon become his first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

As we ride in a Sprinter van backstage at the festival, Laroi seems excited that it’s time to work on something new. Throughout our conversations, I get the sense that he’s proud of the F*ck Love trilogy and all of its accomplishments, but releasing a studio album outside of those tapes is what’s driving him now. 

“I’m happy to move on from it and move away. I think it’s long overdue,” he says, leaning all the way back in his chair and preserving his energy for the set. “I’m ready to keep it moving and onto the album.”

The first F*ck Love tape—Laroi’s first project besides a 2018 SoundCloud EP—helped introduce him to a mainstream global audience. The project, which is already platinum, boasted a blend of rap, pop, and turn-of-the-century rock, underscoring just how versatile the new star is. It also featured vocals from Laroi’s late friend Juice WRLD. Both were discovered by Chicago’s Lil Bibby, who has said it only took five seconds of hearing Laroi’s song “Blessings” to know he had superstar potential. 

More recently, Bibby connected Laroi with another Chicago star, G-Herbo, who was featured on F*ck Love 3’s “Don’t Leave Me.” “I always appreciate people who made something out of nothing and he’s definitely somebody who did that,” Laroi says about Herbo, who just released his best-selling album ‘25.’ “He’s doing really well for himself so I always admire and appreciate that.”

Laroi has already accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. As impressive as a No. 1 album and a No. 1 song is for someone whose first major project came out last year, the young star measures success differently. As I watch Laroi soak in fan adoration between songs at Rolling Loud, it’s clear this is the rubric he grades himself on. Hearing he’s No.1 might be significant, but fans swarming his SUV as he leaves a show is a far more tangible sign of how impactful his music has become. 

Before he hits the stage at Rolling Loud, we talk about F*ck Love 3, his idol Kanye West, performing live once again, his relationship with Justin Bieber, our mutual love of jet skiing, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

The Kid Laroi
Photo by Adam Kargenian

How has your day been?
I went jet skiing this morning, so that was pretty sick. I love jetskiing. I’ve been jetskiing like three times.

Yeah. I can’t drive, but you don’t need a license to jet ski. So I’ll go out and do that, just to get that kind of adrenaline.
You get a better rush from fucking jet skiing.

Your new project is out. How do you feel? Do you check the reception? 
I’m just letting it rock for now. I try not to look at the comments for the first couple days, just because it’s early. You have to give people time. And then you kind of see how they feel about it. I feel good about it. I’m confident in the music.

You recently said you want to take a step back from looking at the numbers and reveling. Why is that?
I just think you have to give people time to process the music. There are some songs that I hated when they first came out—or maybe I really liked them—but then it changes with time. I just make music and I put it out, and that’s good enough for me. I support my family. That’s how I measure success: the fact that I’m able to take care of my family. I don’t give a fuck what number it is on any chart, as long as I’m still able to support my family and keep everybody happy. 

Reviews are reviews, but I saw one this morning from the Sydney Morning Herald that praised your album. What does that hometown support mean to you?
It’s a feeling that you can’t explain. It’s also a feeling that hasn’t really hit. It’s weird. In perspective, if I sit here and think about it for a long time, then it’ll really be like, “Holy shit.” But yeah, I’m just really grateful. I would love to [go back home], but this COVID shit has been fucking everything up. It’s all love. It’s crazy. From what I see on the internet, it’s crazy.

There’s this clip online where you say, “Don’t get it twisted. I sometimes make music that is a little pop-leaning, but I really rap. I’m a rapper, I really rap.” Does it bother you that sometimes detractors will say your music isn’t what their idea of rap should be?
Honestly, I don’t give a fuck. I just do whatever I think feels right, and I just make whatever comes to me. Same thing with the chart thing, that extra shit is for y’all. Not for me. I make the music, I put it out. Whatever they want to say is whatever…

Was there ever a point where it bothered you?
Of course. Of course. In the beginning, it always bothered me. Even way back at school, kids used to make fun of me while I was trying to make music and shit. It used to bother me so much. But I guess that’s part of the drive, too. Part of the thing that motivates me.

Is there a sense of finality or closure now that the F*ck Love trilogy is finished?
Yeah. I’m happy to move on from it and move away. I think it’s long overdue. I’m ready to keep it moving and onto the album.

When you started the series, did you always know it was going to be a trilogy?
No. I didn’t. It was just something that kept going.

Were there any songs you’ve made recently that didn’t make sense for this project, but you saved for future ones?
There were a couple songs that I purposely didn’t put on F*ck Love 3, because [I’m saving them for] the album, but I’ve had F*ck Love 3 ready for a minute.

For how long?
A couple months. 

“Not Sober” is one of my favorite songs on the album. How’d you link with Polo G?
Me and Polo, we’ve known each other through Lil Bibby. They’re both from Chicago. I met Polo and he’s always been really supportive from the beginning.

The chorus on that song is really personal. Talk me through writing that.
I didn’t write it, I just freestyled it. I was just in the booth and recorded it in like five minutes. 

Who amongst your peers do you think is the best at freestyling?
I mean, Juice was the best, obviously. He was the greatest. I haven’t seen Young Thug [in the studio] but I’ve heard Thug is incredible, too. Every day, for like three months when I was with [Juice], I’d just go to the studio and watch him make anywhere between like three to six songs every day. That was pretty crazy.

When it comes to making personal songs, do you feel the need to go there a lot? So you can let people know what you’re about, as opposed to assumptions they might make?
It’s not even about letting people know. It’s just for my own piece of mind. I don’t really care what people think.

Lots of people have been talking about your collaboration with NBA YoungBoy. How’d you guys end up linking?
Real ones connect, man. Real ones connect. He’s a really nice guy. He gave me lots of really good advice.

I know your mom influenced your tastes by playing music from artists like Erykah Badu  and Kanye West. Can you talk a bit more about the influence she had?
Everything that I heard from the day that I was born was just all my mom—whatever my mom was playing. Kids just pick up whatever is around them, and luckily, my mom had pretty fucking good taste in music.

I know you’re a big 808s & Heartbreak fan—
The biggest.

Would you say that’s your favorite, and his best—
That’s my favorite album [period]. My mom played it when it first came out.

In another world, is there a song on there that you could see yourself hopping on?
No. It’s perfect. [Laughs.] It does not need me.

What’s your favorite song on 808s?
I love “Say You Will.” I love “Welcome To Heartbreak.” I love “Heartless,” obviously. Everything. That project is perfect.

Have you been keeping up with everything that’s going on with Donda?
Of course. I’m so excited.

How does it feel to be releasing your project the same week that one of your idols is releasing his? [Editor’s note: At the time of this interview, Kanye’s album hadn’t been delayed yet].
I think Kanye’s the greatest of all time, and I think that I suck. [Laughs.] Kanye’s the greatest of all time.

You’re about to take the stage at Rolling Loud. Explain to someone who’s never had the rush of performing live at a level like this: How does it feel?
You can’t explain it. No. Nope. [Laughs.]

What did you miss most when you couldn’t do live shows?
Keeling the energy and seeing the music translate in real life. Numbers, I’m grateful, but they don’t really get me as excited as [live shows]. I like seeing people jump to the music. I like seeing people sing the words.

Do you ever use feedback from crowds at shows to make decisions about albums, setlists, etc.?
I have a small group of people who I trust. Apart from that, I kind of do whatever.

You recently released “Stay,” and you and Justin have a very strong relationship. Can you take me back to the very first time you two met?
He DM’d me on Instagram and I came to the studio one night. He had just finished his album and was having a couple people over to listen to it. It was fire. We just vibed out. It was always good energy from the start.

What’s the best advice he’s ever given you?
He just told me you need to be grateful for everything. Even when I feel down and I feel like I don’t want to do something, I need to remember that there’s so many people out there that would love to be in my position, and there’s so many other things I could be doing now that I would hate even more. Pretty much, this is my dream. I’m living out my dream, and this is what I always wanted to do. I have to always remember that, and be grateful for it. Don’t let it get too regular.

When you wake up and think about how you got your dream at the age of 17, how do you find motivation to go extra hard?
I just love making music. That’s the drive. Just purely the love of making music.

***

At this point, we get cut off. It’s time for Laroi to perform for thousands of fans who have packed in front of the Audiomack stage at Rolling Loud Miami. Releasing the pent-up energy that comes when a natural-born performer is kept inside too long, Laroi goes through hit after hit, his vigor matched those who have waited over a year to see F*ck Love come to life onstage. A young fan sitting on someone’s shoulders fights for eye contact with Laroi, singing every word of “Without You” back at the star. By the end of the set, pyrotechnics shoot out from the stage, and the enthusiastic crowd cheers back. It’s an eye-opening experience for Laroi, who says he hadn’t been able to actually see the impact of his music until this moment.

A week after the performance, I catch up with Laroi over the phone as he sits in a hotel room, complete with a makeshift studio. We chat about Rolling Loud, his project going No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and what’s next for the young star.

The last time we talked, we were at Rolling Loud right before your set. How’d it feel to be out there?
It felt incredible. It was great. I loved it. It was my first time doing my own set to that many people. I was really nervous beforehand but when I got out there, it was fun. I didn’t think they were going to know the songs as well as they did, because I’ve been kind of indoors and I haven’t been able to see the real effect and impact of the songs. Seeing them live was pretty cool, seeing the fans know the lyrics. 

Is there a song you’ve noticed the audience gravitate towards strongly?
“Without You” and “Stay” for sure.

Congrats on the No. 1 album. Where were you when you found out?
I think I had just woken up. I had just woken up and [Chairman and CEO of Columbia Records] Ron Perry texted and told me. I was like “sick.” It feels great. It’s a cool thing to put on my resume. But [otherwise] it doesn’t make me feel any type of way. It just makes me want to make more music.

You recently did a free show in L.A. and a lot of people turned up. What’s the wildest fan interaction you’ve had so far?
That was crazy. That was insane. My fans are usually pretty cool. It was pretty fire, when I was coming out and leaving the show in L.A., there were a whole bunch of people chasing the car. I had never had that happen before. That was pretty cool.

A lot of fans are making TikToks with “Stay.” Are you tapped in on TikTok at all? Are you seeing them? 
I scroll sometimes. I’m not really a big TikTok guy, but I’m not against it. I think it’s great and it’s helped my music a lot. I mean, TikTok has more users than fucking Instagram. I think for [songs] to be big on TikTok, it has to be big everywhere in the world.

G Herbo came out at your show. You guys have a couple collaborations now. How’d that relationship start?
Me and Herbo met through Lil Bibby, and we’ve been cool ever since. We’ve been making records, and he’s been a really good influence and help. That’s my boy. I always appreciate people who made something out of nothing, and he’s definitely somebody who did that. He’s doing really well for himself so I always admire and appreciate that.

Do you mainly like making music in the studio? Or do you get inspired wherever you go?
Right now I’m in a hotel room, and I have a whole studio set up, so I’m working out of here. The studio itself doesn’t necessarily inspire me. I like looking at shit. I like looking out the window when I’m recording and seeing trees or houses or water or some shit. That shit inspires me. I just want people to fuck off when I’m recording. It’s easier for me to express myself.

What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
Just fucking making music and making videos and just being happy.

How do you want this trilogy of projects to be remembered?
Just like, “Fuck, that was sick.” [Laughs.] I hope in five to ten years people are talking about my newest project, and not F*ck Love, but I hope they remember it as a nice era.