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Rapper Larry June's New EP Reflects His San Francisco Origins 

Wednesday, Jul 13 2016
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Rapper Larry June has a thing for Giants baseball caps. In a recent Instagram photo, he showed off eight of them, only a small fraction of the 65 he owns in total. It's no surprise, then, that he has trouble picking between them.

A couple are different, June says, but "most are the same. I buy [a hat] whenever I see them. I always loved them since I was a kid."

His loyalty to San Francisco is strong. He grew up in the city and in Vallejo before moving to Riverdale, Ga. — a 20-minute drive from Atlanta — when he was 5 years old. June's mom was a singer who encouraged her son's musical abilities by buying him a keyboard at the age of 8 so he could make his own beats. When he received a karaoke machine in the fourth grade, he began rapping, too. Artists like Jeezy, T.I., The Jacka, and Mac Dre greatly influenced him, and by the time he turned 15, he released his first mixtape, Same Book Different Page, through his dad's independent label, The Road Records.

Soon after, he returned to San Francisco's Hunters Point neighborhood and hasn't left the Bay Area since. "I'm from [San Francisco]," he says. "My heart is here."

June has been making music for the past 10 years, but he's only experienced popularity in the last year or so. Thanks in large part to the seven projects he released in 2015 — as well as the two he's already released this year, with a third slated for August — his followers on social media and plays on streaming platforms have increased exponentially. (According to Spotify, he has almost 20,000 monthly listeners.) Outlets like The FADER, HotNewHipHop, and HipHopDX have started covering him as well, and his close affiliation with Atlanta rapper OG Maco, whom he went to high school with, hasn't hurt either. June's latest EP, Larry, released last month through Warner Bros., shows the influence that living on both sides of the country has had on his music. His low-pitched, gravelly voice has a slight Southern drawl that works in tandem with his mellow, easy-going flow. He raps with Bay Area lyrical technicality, weaving in stereotypically Californian tropes, like riding around in hybrid cars and his obsession with oranges. On "007," the first track from Larry, he starts with a very San Franciscan quip: "Sweetheart, can you please go to Whole Foods and get me three farm-raised chickens?"

If you miss these details, then you might think June is just another trap rapper from Atlanta. But, June says, "I [rap about] the realities of the Bay Area." The nuanced juxtaposition is particularly apparent in "Glock 40," the second track from Larry, where eerie and grimy snares are paired with orchestral strings. The track is sonically chilling, and June spits about hustling and grinding, smoking weed, and wearing the quintessential hippie shoe: Birkenstocks. Intermixed with his West Coast-leaning subject matter are also tales of money-making schemes and wooing women. On "007," he compares himself to James Bond, rapping that he has "bad hoes like 007."

June continually observes his surroundings and juxtaposes fleeting moments — like riding a bike on a bridge with his girl — with permanent, sometimes unchangeable situations — like the presence of violence in his childhood.

"[I rap about] what's going on out here — what people need to know," he says. "A lot of gangs came from out here, so I just speak about my life in this place that I've been through. I don't really do topics. I just go off the head. That's why I feel like people relate to my music. I might talk about some player shit, I might talk about going to the movies or eating an organic chicken sandwich."

His blasé attitude is his charm, an outlook that is also upheld by his record label The FreeMinded. Started five years ago by his group of friends, The FreeMinded is now a burgeoning arts and music collective that embraces a no-fucks-given lifestyle, where anything is accepted. At the moment, as a label, its main focus is June, but in the past, the crew has thrown shows, released music, and created music videos.

"People [are] scared to drop music because they feel like it's not on Future level, it's not up there," June says. "Everybody feel they gotta do something because they're too worried about what the next person feels. And that's holding everybody back. But The FreeMinded is a group of individuals who don't mind being themselves."

The fresh fruits and vegetables-eating, Whole Foods-shopping rapper adds, "And tell them to stay healthy on a punk bitch!"

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Tara Mahadevan

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