Underground rappers are known for making stereotypical “backpacker” music. The type with extra wordy rhymes rapped over one-dimensional basement beats that caters to contrarian fans who feel they represent “real” hip hop. It’s a rarity for such rappers to evolve from gifted wordsmiths into sophisticated artists—unlike Larry June, an MC who’s graduated from backpacker school into promising artist on the rise.
Born For This
Larry Eugene Hendricks was born to teen parents in San Francisco, California. His mother and father later separated, creating for Larry a shared residency between Cali and Atlanta, Georgia, until he was sixteen. Inspired by his father, a former rapper, Larry began to develop freestyles over instrumentals on MySpace in 2006. He used the last name “June” as his father’s namesake.
Now known as Larry June, his online freestyles evolved into mixtapes. First up was Cali Grown in 2010. After that, eight more mixtapes would follow throughout the years with a young Larry June sounding heavily influenced by the late Bay Area legend Mac Dre. Larry’s street buzz gained enough attention to get him a record deal in 2017 with Warner Brothers. But that quickly became more of a burden than a blessing. “I felt like I couldn’t release what I wanted to release,” Larry told Rap Radar. Having had enough of the record label’s limitations, Larry returned to the independent route and seized an opportunity during a worldwide shutdown.
An Unlikely Lay-up
In 2020, the Covid-19 virus shutdown created a singular moment for the rapper. “I work good under pressure,”Larry says.“I felt that the story wasn’t over. It was more I had to tell the people—and talk about.”‘Talk about’ refers to Larry releasing six independent projects during the pandemic. From releases such as Game Related and Cruise USA to Keep Going, each work showcases June’s development as an artist who no longer just rhymes but creates songs. Larry’s growth as a student in the culture put him in position for a worthy teacher who was prepared to elevate the Bay Area MC to higher heights.
Old School New School Team-Up
Alchemist is a legendary producer whose notable works include projects with the late Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Jadakiss, Westside Gunn, and Freddie Gibbs. So, when Alchemist and Larry June released their collaborative album, The Great Escape, it created outer-space expectations. “I was challenged on a lot of the beats,” Larry told Billboard. “It was a different bag when I was working with Al. You’re thinking Mobb Deep. You’re thinking all that. It’s a different bar.” The two artists merge the album, and the results are quite satisfying with standout songs like “89 Earthquake”, “Summer Reign”, and “60 Days.”
The Future Rise
Larry June’s decade-plus of paying dues is to credit for his arrival as a new-era artist/MC. His ability to apply a slow-paced flow without excessive use of metaphor is an example of elite simplicity. His strength is in how he performs each rhyme to an audience as a one-on-one conversation with a complementary background beat. His subject matter is more reflective than worldview, so his songs can grow—as he does—with age. As an emerging talent, he’s worth checking out in real-time right now while understanding his potential for greatness in the future.
For more of Larry June, click HERE for his playlist.