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Meet the MC: Larry June

Thirteen years after his debut album, California-born rapper Larry June is confident that this is still just the beginning. Following the release of his most recent project, ‘The Great Escape’, with legendary producer The Alchemist, DJ Mag speaks with Larry — and grabs a few words from Alch — about family motivation, staying fresh and focused, and believing in miracles 

Larry June speaks in ad libs. Just like his music, his vernacular is filled with them — sitting on Zoom with DJ Mag, the Bay Area rapper can’t help but throw in a few “sock it to ‘em” and “good job”s — proving his self-assured and optimistic outlook on life isn’t just a shtick.

Born in San Francisco, Larry June, real name Larry Eugene Hendricks III, moved to Atlanta with his mom when he was five years old. There, he was inspired to start rapping, locking in his first rap name, Larry McLarry, at six years old. “My name is Larry McLarry, your mama’s balls is hairy,” he rhymed while drumming on his grandmother’s washing machine. She was his first supporter too, telling him, “Keep going, Larry.” 

Although the rapper spent his formative years in the South, he moved back to San Francisco when he was 15. His sunny California disposition is apparent, down to the bright yellow, lavender, and aquamarine tie-dye hoodie he’s wearing on the video call. The relaxed cadence in his music exactly matches his laidback attitude, and he indulges in a blunt as he breezes through the conversation. Sipping a fresh cup of orange juice from a wine glass, he verifies that his health obsession isn’t just a front for his bars, his Whole Foods-inspired chain, or his Midnight Organic clothing line. Larry June seems at ease, which isn’t surprising for him, but it might be for any other artist nine days away from a 56-date tour across the United States.

“The best way to get through tour is to focus on one thing, and that’s putting on a good show,” he says. “I work out. I eat healthy. I make sure my room is nice. I stay fresh, keep my hair cut, make sure my shoes is clean, and get to the next location.” He might be on the road for the next three months, but he does have a part of home to keep him grounded. His son will be coming along and being put to work, selling merch at each stop. 

He gets it from his father, who always encouraged Larry to provide for himself. The discipline the rapper preaches, he also teaches to son. “I think it first starts in the house, like giving them chores, showing how to stay organised, doing things for yourself,” he explains. “It’s almost a collaborative thing. Everything else comes natural from them seeing you all the time. Me, for instance, I do music, so it kind of shows my son that it’s possible to be successful.” 

Success and collaboration go hand-in-hand for Larry June. He keeps a tight-knit team of engineers, designers, and business partners. “Collaborating with the right people and building makes everything bigger,” he says. In music, his penchant for partnership is even more prolific. The rapper has a collaborative mixtape, two collaborative EPs, and eight collaborative albums — his most recent landing in April with The Alchemist, titled ‘The Great Escape’.

The Alchemist and Larry June are sat next to eachother in a convertible black vintage car

“The Alchemist taught me anything’s possible. He made me believe in miracles even more.”

“[Larry’s] definitely a star,” the Grammy-nominated record producer says, matter-of-factly. “Everybody shows love to Larry. Especially when we got off the plane in San Francisco, it was like he was the mayor! But that also comes from the years of work that he put in. This is years of steadily dropping quality music and building a brand to where once we connected, it was like the dots were already in place to align. It didn’t take much.” 

‘The Great Escape’ is an ode to opulence that solidifies how far Larry June has come since releasing his 2010 debut album ‘Cali Grown’, which was equally braggadocious, albeit plenty more ostentatious. The rapper’s luxurious streams of consciousness float atop The Alchemist’s jazzy sample-driven beats. The production process for the new record was equally as lush, with the two artists traversing the West Coast — from Malibu to Palm Springs to Mexico — to put it together. 

Attention began to shift towards the rapper in 2014. Complex covered his ‘Route 80’ mixtape with Atlanta producer TM88 (now famously known for producing Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘XO Tour Llif3’), which helped lead to a major record label deal with Warner. People were drawn to Larry’s in-your-face style of NorCal gangsta rap, bursting with bombastic hi-hats and aggressive adlibs. But it wasn’t until he started self-releasing on DistroKid in 2018 that he began to truly gain traction. A more subdued, or in his words “very peaceful”, version of Larry June appeared; his bars now filled with suave rhymes and references to health and wellness. He was now inspired to share more music, too. In 2019, he dropped five studio albums. In 2020, he followed up with four. By 2021, all eyes were on Larry June.

Two years ago, he didn’t care for the celebrity status other rappers yearned for. He was happy to go grocery shopping unnoticed. With sold-out tour dates across the globe and a new record with a legendary producer under his belt, he is much more open now to seeing how things progress. “Now that I’m older, I don’t care what comes. Get it done. I’m staying focused,” he says. “I think back then it was more of a fear.” 

Larry’s life of lavishness wasn’t something he was born into — his hometown of Bayview–Hunters Point is one of San Francisco’s most poverty-stricken areas — but with his never-ending persistence and additional motivation from The Alchemist, he continues to flourish. “[He taught me] anything’s possible. He made me believe in miracles even more,” the rapper says of his collaborator. 13 years after his first album release, Larry June knows there’s much more to come: “I believe this is just the beginning.”

Want more? Read our recent feature with Birmingham rapper M1llionz

Arielle Lana LeJarde is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @ariellenyc