We wouldn’t blame you for reading this article’s title and asking yourself, “WHY is Rookie telling us how to TROLL?” Because at its hateful, bullying, inflammatory worst, trolling bubbles up from the internet’s foulest pits. However! There are some occasions when a certain kind of trolling can be used for the forces of good—like when it’s a protest, activism, or a way to push back against injustice and/or insult. We learned this by watching the Atlanta musician Raury get a couple recent heartfelt, not-so-subtle messages of his own across. He’ll tell you how he did it, and why.
When I [think of the term “troll”], it’s someone who knows how to play on more than just the obvious. To make something more than just what it is. There’s a tasteful way to go about trolling. I feel like I’m a troll artist. It happens in the most subtle ways.
You can get on the internet and say the most vulgar, ignorant bullshit to gain negative attention and piss people off. That’s one way to troll, but you don’t really win. You don’t walk out of that situation with the view of you in good standing. But there’s a way to garner that attention and add that spice to things without looking like a complete asshole.
There’s definitely a distasteful way to troll. Like those people who make these ghost accounts where the name is @xtp9__555 or whatever. They’re saying the most offensive things about people as far as race or gender goes. People who go and say things they would never say in front of anybody they know. Inhumanely ignorant. The lowest level of troll-ery is just being a savage; making jokes out of things like rape or black people being killed by police or things like that. Stuff that is real. Stuff that offends a group of people and also affects the world. I don’t think you should troll things that are truly serious.
[My last troll] would definitely have been [on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in September]. My band and I knew we were going to be on the same night as Donald Trump, so we sat there and thought about how we could get our message across. How can I say what I want to say without seeming like another loudmouth rapper with an opinion? What better way to do it than with a shirt?
You can consider that a troll, but that was my protest also. Just like anybody standing outside with an anti-Donald Trump sign, my shirt was my sign. And it was, of course, a troll because [Trump] was there. When that opportunity came up, I was like, The universe is on my side. How could I not make the most of that opportunity?
In that situation, I could have gone out there and trolled in the worst way possible. I could have just gotten on the stage and said, “Fuck Donald Trump. He’s an asshole. Middle fingers to the Republicans.” That’s trolling, right? But a tasteful way to do that was to just wear the shirt, stand for an oppressed people, and “X” [Trump’s] name out on the back:
To let the world know that I don’t stand for this guy. I don’t support his values or anything he speaks on. I’m not with him being president.
And then the XXL magazine [2015 Freshman Class cover story]:
Some people would claim I’m an industry plant. So I got up there wearing a shirt like, “I don’t care what you think about me.” First off, I’m not. I don’t care. I’ll go ahead and wear the shirt; you can go ahead and say what you want to say. It’s not going to affect how successful I’m going to become. I like to troll on the haters.
My Twitter name [Coconut oil papi] is a troll. For the people who say, “Oh, Raury’s such an incense-lighting hippie, he puts on coconut oil, and blah blah blah,” I take that very insult and troll them by flipping it into something that works for me. Something that is a compliment now. Now the girls love it. Now those same haters want to be Coconut Oil Papi. It’s a subtlety. It’s all about minor details.
The best way to troll is to use the things that people use against you and ridicule you for and make it something that helps you. Make the haters your motivators. You’re giving people something that will stick with them, even beyond what is truly happening. I could’ve just gone up there and done a show for Colbert and it have just been a show. I could’ve just been an XXL Freshman and that’s it. Now people are doing these write-ups [asking], “What is an industry plant?” A lot of people have messages, but it can easily get boring. I understand that, so I just do my best to keep this message spicy and entertaining. ♦
—As told to Stacy-Ann Ellis.