On an August afternoon in San Francisco, Larry June is backstage at Outside Lands Festival, biding his time before putting on a show for a hometown crowd. He’s in the midst of a year filled with sold-out tour dates and his latest album, Spaceships On The Blade, is set to drop ten days after the performance — he even has a natural wine on deck that’ll debut at his album release show later that month in San Francisco. If there was a lot on his mind, you wouldn’t know it. June, cloaked in a navy blue sweater from his Midnight Organic clothing line, is the embodiment of the Bay Area chill. He leans back in his trailer and reflects for a moment on the year.
“I traveled to the UK for the first time this year. Sold out all the shows,” he says while pressing his hands together. “I did a lot of recording. A lot of bike riding and going to the grocery store.”
Spaceships On The Blade marks June’s second release of the year (along with the 2 P’z In A Pod collaboration album with Compton rapper Jay Worthy.) And in a way, Spaceships is a documentation of a hard-earned trip around the sun for June. One that culminated with a Lamborghini ride through London for the “Private Valet” video and rapping in front of the Eiffel Tower in the clip for “In My Pockets.” Guest appearances on the album from Syd, 2Chainz, and the Alchemist are a testament to his rise. But none of it has gone to his head.
“I just take the beat and talk about what I did the last couple of months of my life,” he says without a hint of pomp.
June was born in the rough and tumble Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco. He moved to Atlanta for a decade when he was five until he was fifteen years old before moving back home to SF for good. He says he claims both, but his calm demeanor is undeniably from San Francisco. As is his entrepreneurial drive.
In a city dominated by the tech industry and start-up types with lofty goals of building companies while increasing their influence, June has his own entrepreneurial journey too, but with an undeniable independent lean. And just like how the new breed of San Franciscans unapologetically enjoy the finer things in life, June is no different. Last year, he opened Honeybear Boba, a boba tea shop in the Dogpatch district just down 3rd St from where he grew up. His natural wine, Uncle Larry’s Natural Orange, is a collaboration with Bay Area winemaker Purity Wine, and then there’s his Midnight Organic clothing line, which gets snatched up so quickly that he can’t seem to keep it in stock. The moment he stepped on stage at the festival and the crowd roars, he thanked them for buying his merch online.
“I show a different side of the city,” he says. “I’m from Hunter’s Point. I didn’t see too much of the Pier, or the nice avenues. I’ve never been to Alcatraz. I was just biking and sh*t. Now I’m just showing that a person of my color can do different sh*t. And I definitely belong.”
There’s a theme in June’s music that offers a flip on the lifestyle that is familiar in Bay Area hip-hop. His street rap come-up is everywhere in his flow, but he’s also ventured outside of his bubble to live the high life in an almost mockery of the techies in San Francisco who chase Instagram clout with their every move. For June, it’s just who he is. He transcends any and all norms and there’s nobody like him.
On “6am In Sausalito,” fron his 2021 album Orange Print, he raps about taking his lady to the bougie Marin County marina town of Sausalito to eat calamari; a scene typically devoid of anyone from Hunter’s Point. There’s an effortless cool about his deep-toned delivery on the hook — “Livin’ life fast, that’s the game we play” — and it just screams with his sentiment that he “definitely” belongs.
Later on “Organic Respect,” he touts a city-dweller healthy lifestyle and early-riser status, spitting, ”Yeah, I rap now, but don’t try it. You from the internet. I’m from that life.” Because it’s not just the startup crowd that shops at Whole Foods and wakes up early to grind. June flips the dichotomy on his head because after all, this was his city first. He grew up watching both of his parents hustle in the music industry and took notes from their drive and that of other artists in his orbit.
“I watched them do it independently and I just kinda took that and ran with it,” he says. “It inspires me a lot because I came up in the community when people were pushing music out the trunk. I saw the grind and it gave me the idea of how I wanted to do it.”
June dropped his first mixtape when he was fifteen and just kept putting out projects since. The mixtapes and EPs gave way to albums and collaborations and since 2018, he’s been non-stop, dropping close to fifteen new releases. Each album has seen June level up, with the fruits of his labor on full display across his sold-out tour in the US and the UK, as he’s become the most recognizable rapper from San Francisco.
But he rejects the notion that he’s an anomaly, and that San Francisco rap isn’t what it used to be. “There’s a lot of independent artists out here making a lot of money,” he asserts, before explaining that his rise is because “I just do numbers and sh*t. I just do me.”
If there’s anything that defines Bay Area culture, it’s how natives of San Francisco, Oakland, etc… have never been afraid to be themselves. It’s what has yielded a culture and style that while not as celebrated as other pockets, is just as influential. For June, who frequently ventures into LA and Detroit hip-hop circles with that Bay Area chill vibe and unquestioned aura that he belongs there too, it has defined his identity and his ascent.
His rise was none more evident than on that Saturday afternoon at Outside Lands. And shades of his San Francisco bred come-up was everywhere around him. He closed his set with “Smoothies In 1991” to an enormous crowd on the rolling green fields of Golden Gate Park. Weed smoke happily filled the air and it felt like everybody there was celebrating the life, drive, and success that Larry June embodies. They sang along with him, “Bitch I feel like I’m dreaminnnn…!” until the music cut off. But everyone just kept going, holding the hook again and again towards June on stage, until they were all finally out of breath.