Larry June raps about turkey bacon, trapping, driving a Prius, Glock 40s, and seven-dollar lemonades. His songs range from hyphy-tinged slaps to soul-drenched anthems that make you think of Marvin Gaye and ’79 Fleetwoods. His influences are wide and diverse, but the two places where he grew up are equally dominant in his music. June spent half of his childhood in rap’s Atlanta holy land, the place where ad-libs were perfected. You can see ATL all over June’s music in songs like “Glock 40” and “I’m Workin”, where his ad-libs take on a life of their own.
The other half of June’s childhood was spent in San Francisco, back when the City had heart. June grew up in the same neighborhood that RBL Posse came out of, a group good enough to conquer the world had tragedy not intervened. These days, the city’s known for million-dollar condos in leaning skyscrapers and self-driving Ubers, so June’s adapted—he’s a proud advocate of staying healthy, a devoted Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s shopper, and a lover of cycling and hiking. June’s music reflects what San Francisco is today while honoring the grit RBL Posse came from.
If you were to judge June by the sound of his music, you’d think he spent his time bouncing through clubs or throwing house parties so wild the building might get condemned the next day, but June is a workhorse. He’s a serious student of music, and has been for quite some time. His seriousness and his patience for the right deal led him to sign with Warner Bros. after six years of DIY releasing.
A few weeks ago, June and I met up at his apartment in Oakland. The elevator wasn’t working; we had to walk up six flights of stairs—not an easy feat for me, a person who does everything he can to stay still. Near the peak of our climb, June turned around and said, “Don’t worry, we’re almost there. You’re doing good.” It was the kindest thing anyone’s ever said to me in a long time. We sat in his apartment, which doubles as his studio, and talked about Bootsy Collins, the beauty of the Bay, and the importance of solitude, all while Forrest Gump played quietly in the background on a TV wider than I am tall. —Justin Carroll-Allan
I wanted to congratulate you on “The Scale” video. It’s majestic, my friend. It’s quite a cinematic experience.
Larry June:I just flew back to the East Coast on a red eye.Thank you. Appreciate that.
Why’d you decide to shoot the video in LA instead of the Bay Area?
Larry June:Our camera man was in LA. And it’s just easier there, honestly. It would’ve been harder in the Bay Area. It was like the most professional video I’ve ever done. The SWAT truck was right there already.
So it made more sense, logistically.
Larry June:Yeah, yeah, fo sho.
How’d you hook up with Ryan Hemsworth? What drew you to his beat?
Larry June:DJ Spicoli shot me the beats. I was familiar with [Hemsworth], and I heard it and was like “Oh sh*t.” I instantly recorded it, and it came out. I knew it was dope because I had writer’s block and couldn’t really think of nothin’. As soon as I heard the beat, I just came up with something instantly, and that sh*t go crazy. On the real, the whole Larry EP—I just wanted to try something different. I didn’t just have all trap music on there. I want songs for the females, too. I didn’t want to just rap about one thing—I mean, it’s fun—but I want to eventually have a bigger audience. I know people want it super turnt, but I gotta try new sounds. Some people may love it, some people may hate it, but either way it’s a good job, Larry. You’re doing good.
Either way it’s a good job, Larry.
Larry June:No Worries.
It’s interesting you bring up doing something different on this new record. You don’t have the typical Bay Area sound. You don’t sound like The Jacka or Messy Marv. You spent part of your childhood in Atlanta and part here—did that effect your style, or was this just the result of listening to a lot of records?
Larry June:You know, the older I get, the more I appreciate living in Atlanta. Not only for the music, but the culture in general. A lot of manners up there. You see the old ladies say, “Hey, sir,” “Hey, ma’am.” It was just more militant. When I came to California, I was out in Hunter’s Point, know what I’m sayin’? A lot of crime out here. But it was beautiful. I mean, we’d be in the back of the projects, but we lookin’ at the Ocean, the bridge, and it’s beautiful. I never got to see no beaches in Atlanta. I still feel like I’m a tourist. I still try new stuff—I go hiking, ride trains.
So the urban sprawl of Atlanta made you appreciate the beauty of the Bay Area more?
Larry June:I love Atlanta equally, but the Bay Area is where my family’s at, where my heart’s at.
On “Choose Up,” you say, “I’ll probably never sign a record deal.” Now, it appears as though Larry 2 is going to be put out through Warner Bros. How long has this deal been in the works?
Larry June:I said that?
Yes, you did. It’s one of the first lines.
Larry June:Yeah, I guess I said that on a few songs because I didn’t think I could get the deal I wanted. But as I got into the industry I started to learn the business side of things, and every deal ain’t bad. It really depends on what you want—you want the money or do you want the fame? I want money and I want to be happy.
Money and happiness over fame for Larry.
Larry June:Money can’t buy happiness, but you know what I mean.
Do you think fame is a different path than money?
Larry June:No, no, but there can be instant fame, and that won’t last. I want to build something that’s forever. When these kids grow up, they gonna know I had a part of their life with my music and that I changed and I’m letting people be comfortable being themselves. I never really did Lyft before, but there was a situation where I needed money bad. I didn’t want to be forced to do other things that I didn’t need to do, so I thought, I’m going to do Lyft. And I took the test—I was a real Lyft driver. I wanted to encourage the people that when you go broke, you don’t gotta do crime to make some money. You don’t gotta sell dope or have a female do something for you. That’s how were brought up, and I was once that person. But now I say make the right decision with your hours.
“Cali Grown,” which came out in 2011, was really good. I imagine that you’ve been getting bites from labels since then. Why wait so long to sign?
Larry June:I was waiting for the right one.
That takes so much discipline.
Larry June:Yeah, but I had all this already. I had my house and my car. At some point I’d quit doing certain things to focus on making music full time.
You rap about Priuses, you’re an aspiring Lyft driver, you love seven dollar lemonades—is there anyone more Bay Area than Larry June?
Larry June:I appreciate that.
The video takes place, at least in part, in the kitchen. Do you spend a lot of time cooking?
Larry June:I do a little cooking. I must stay healthy on a punk b*tch. Fresh avocados, the cheese on some eggs—I swear to God.
You know, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart have a show together. Would you be open to a cooking show?
Larry June:Yeah, for sure. Snoop a legend.
So is Martha Stewart.
Larry June:True, true.
Who would be your partner?
Larry June:If I had my own show? [He thinks about this for a long moment.] Just a pretty girl with skills. You know, if you got the skills to pay the bills, then what’s the deal? You know?
How often do people tweet photos of groceries to you?
Larry June:It’s crazy. I just started my new service, Larry’s Food Advice, people send me DMs of their food and I send them tips on how to make it more organic and healthy on a punk b*tch. I’ve got thousands of requests right now. Tonight I’m gonna smoke me a Backwoods and sip a mojito and get to work on that. Matter of fact, today I just got my Orange Juice logo.
Speaking of oranges, the beats on the Orange Season EP sound like they could’ve been written for the O’Jays or Al Green or (minus the drum machines, of course). This EP was produced by Cookin’ Soul—legends in their own right. What drew you to these beats?
Larry June:They go crazy. On the real, when I got those beats it was like heaven for me because all I listen to is ’70s soul. I don’t listen to no rap music. If you’re ever in a bad mood or need something to get your mind right, go to YouTube and search for “Seventies Soul Mix” DJ Amuur. I don’t even know who this dude is, but I play it all the time. Play for an hour straight, and you’ll be just [sighs loudly]. I should be playing it right now. I like to smoke me a big bootsy and listen to Bootsy Collins. I like Jimi Hendrix. When I heard the beats, I was like, “I can’t rap on these beats. I gotta just talk to you.” I’m just on the mic talking poetry. That’s that ’70s-type sh*t. You can just ride to this. See [Orange Season], that’s the kind of sh*t I like to listen to. If another artist came out and dropped that tape, I would listen to it.
So these days you’re into more soul than rap. Interesting.
Larry June:It just do something for me. And I ain’t trying to be that cliché rapper who doesn’t listen to rap music, but anyone who knows me knows that it’s the truth. I don’t listen to nothin’ but old music. My ad-libs come from old music. “Sock it to me,” “Yeah, baby,” that’s Bootsy Collins, that’s Jimi Hendrix, you see what I’m sayin’? The “Yehee,” that’s Michael Jackson. I love this kind of music, and I’m looking for ways to add it to my music.
I’m glad you bring up ad-libs because, my friend, you’re a master of the ad-lib. You might be the best one in the game, and there’s some good competition out there. Migos comes to mind. They’re very good at trill noises.
Larry June:Migos legendary. They go crazy. They tight, man. They came up a lot this past year.
I think you might have them beat in the ad-lib game.
Larry June:Oh yeah I’m the ad-lib king, and you can write that up. We can do an ad-lib-off, and I’ll take all contestants. My life’s an ad-lib. That “YeeeeHeeee?” That one? That’s my excited ad-lib. I came up with that when I was leaving Vegas. I’d just hit for like twenty bands, and that’s the first thing that came to mind. When I went back into my studio, I just hit it.
Where is your studio?
Larry June:I have one in San Francisco, but I’m renting it out right now. I don’t need it because this right here is my studio. I’m always working. I might slide over to Whole Foods, maybe get my rims clean, go to Trader Joe’s for some cookie butter, then I come back and get straight to it. I was working on something before you came over. I like to be able to work for a bit, go light a candle, then knock out the whole song. I can’t really record in the studio with a lot people around because my creative process is just different. It’s hard for me to bounce ideas off people. Every collab I ever did was through email. Someone sent me a song and I just recorded my verse.
Having interviewed a number of rappers as of late, I did notice that this interview is the only one where we haven’t been surrounded by a squad.
Larry June:I don’t need that many people around me. I hold my own. I like to drive my own Prius down the street. I don’t want no drama. The only drama I want is a TV show or something. All I need is a Whole Foods down the road. Other than that, I’m Gucci.
You like to work in solitude.
Larry June:Yeah. I don’t need to post up on Instagram holding up my guns and shit. That’s not how you supposed to move. It’s 2017—that’s just asking to go to jail. I don’t got time for that; I’d rather go swimming, you know what I’m sayin’? I ain’t got no time to be sitting up in jail eating dusty a*s sandwiches and sh*t.
Do you have any tours lined up for 2017?
Larry June:Yeah, I’m doing a tour sometime in March, but I’m not sure of the details yet.
Have you seen a significant change in your professional life as a result of the record label yet? How does it differ from being DIY?
Larry June:It’s definitely easier for me now, because now I can take my vision and make it a reality. I’ve got a dope ass team, and they believe in me, and we can make it happen. And that’s just business: you start something, then you get with other people, and you put your minds together to get more money. But just don’t f*ck yourself in the process. I’m learning. I’m seeing a change. I’m starting to understand the game.
In 2015 I dropped like seven tapes, and I made a name for myself, but none of them went platinum, none of them was worldwide. I got a solid buzz through the cool kids, but it never got to the point where everyone knew [about Larry June]. Now what I’m doing is strategizing, promoting, doing more videos, so that when I drop Larry 2, it’s electrifying.
Your “Master Manipulator” video features a John Stockton USA jersey. Were you a big fan of that particular Dream Team?
Larry June:I was a fan of John Stockton.
Just John Stockton?
Larry June:Just him. And it wasn’t because I seen him play. I played him on NBA 2K, and he was raw. This n*gga kept hittin’ every jumper. So from me doggin’ n*ggas on 2K, I looked him and saw that he really was raw. Then I saw the jersey and was like, “John Stockton? He’s my guy!” And Larry Bird. The low-key legends.
On the song “Cali Grown,” you claim that you’d take Lemonade over Cristal. This was six years ago. Do you still stand behind this statement?
Larry June:I just mix it now. You listened to that? That’s hella old.
You spent your high school years in Vallejo. Were you into E-40 and Mac Dre?
Larry June:Oh definitely. Matter of fact, I was on one of E-40’s albums. I was on a track called “My Money’s Straight” with Guce and Black C from RBL Posse. There’s a video on YouTube.
RBL Posse are Wolf Point boys like yourself, right.
Larry June:Yeah, we’re actually from the same neighborhood.
Hunter’s Point is starting to look really different. Gentrification has completely changed the face of San Francisco. What do you think of the changes of San Francisco?
Larry June:It was just something that was bound to happen. It’s prime real estate. In Wolf Point, you got project housing on good real estate, and that’s money. ‘Frisco is a machine. Bigger than what a lot of people think. It’ll turn you out. And I don’t want to get too deep into politics. You just gotta keep being a good person and stay positive. I believe in miracles.
In the beginning of the interview we talked about RBL Posse. I think most people associate the Bay Area rappers with Oakland, but San Francisco’s got some hitters as well. Who are some of your other favorites from the city?
Larry June:Guce, Messy Marv, Fortay, Andre Nickatina. Man, Frisco’s got some of the biggest underground legends. Even the newer dudes comin’ out right now is tight.
Who are some of the newer guys you’re liking?
Larry June:We’ll just keep it at the old dudes. Too much politics.
Atlanta’s been at the top of rap for quite some time, but lately the Bay’s having a rap renaissance. Do you think the Bay could dethrone Atlanta as hip-hop’s premiere region?
Larry June:Yeah, I think so. Definitely. There’s so much creativity coming out of the Bay Area that people don’t know about. But the big people know about it, and they come take these ideas. Then we dance to these ideas that they stole from us, know what I’m sayin’? But the culture is here in California. This is the lifestyle everyone wants. Whole Foods. Bicycles. Great weather. The best weed you can get. It’s all here.