The San Francisco MC, who is currently celebrating the success of The Orange Print, is quickly becoming the face of the healthy movement in hip-hop.
If you were to judge Larry June by the nature of his sound, you’d think that he was similar to the pimps and hustlers’ sound of his native Bay Area stomping grounds. But for those familiar with his style, June is more likely to rap about turkey bacon, smoothies, driving a Prius, and seven-dollar lemonades over gangland tales.
His star has been consistently on the rise over the past decade, curating a health-centered vibe on- and off-wax. With songs that range from hyphy-tinged slappers to syrupy-slow anthems, June is poised to not only transform Bay Area rap, but how the rap game incorporates health into the culture. In a genre where jewelry, cars, and bragging rights are symbols of excess, June’s stuntastic possessions are more likely to be expensive blenders over TV Johnny Dang bling.
June is hip-hop’s Jack LaLanne—a masterful creative whose consistency resulted in 19 underground projects, a four-album run during a COVID-19-ravaged 2020, and a chart-topping project with Orange Print. As a proud healthy lifestyle advocate, June is a serious workhorse and student of music, whose style reflects more trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s than to the traphouse.
Taking off some time between planning his next road adventure and his DIY release, the Bay area rapper sat down with EBONY and chatted with us about his organic rise in hip-hop and why he is the most health-conscious MC in the game.
EBONY: For those here at EBONY just getting acquainted with your style and music, care to share some intel on who were your initial rap influences before becoming a professional?
Larry June: I’m influenced by life and lifestyle. My music reflects the s--t that I do on a daily basis. For those getting to know me, I have a routine just like you do. I wake up in the morning, drink a smoothie, hop on my bike, and write raps about the things I have gone through in the past. Of course, being from the Bay, there’s E-40, Too $hort, Mac Dre, and others, but my life and the way I live it on the daily informs my style of music.
What are some of your own favorite verses that you felt helped you to break out as a star?
That’s a tough one because I have a large catalog. People who know my work just don’t gravitate to one song, you know what I mean? I don’t have just one hit song, I have a whole catalog; but if I had to pick one, it’d be “Let’s Drive to Vegas”. My first verse on there is fuego.
I feel like what I wrote on there was from the heart at a time when I needed it to be. It is on the album Out the Trunk, which would be my “break out,” for lack of better words. “Very Peaceful” brought a lot of spotlight on my work, but Out the Truck was a project that hit well with a lot of people. Like I said, I don’t have hit songs that you can call out on the radio, but the people do follow what I do because I always come with authentic music.
People haven’t really subscribed to the radio in quite some time. In part because everything revolves around the independent artist and what they do. How has Orange Print, an album that has charted on Billboard, impacted you and your crew now that there is an industry focus on your work?
It’s definitely great! I’m thankful for it and my people that helped me to accomplish such a moment is important. But also, it left me to believe that in doing the same thing that I’ve been doing, those opportunities for success will only get bigger. Billboard was a humbling experience that only made me want to go harder and continue to grow because I and my team didn’t know what was going to happen [when Orange Print] dropped.
I wasn’t following any rules at the time, only dropping mixtapes every other month, and pushing my work along the pavement. There’s no PR, no management, no anything that got in our way—only focusing on putting out this work. I knew that I wanted to get this music out to the people as 100 percent myself, and I was going to go above and beyond to ensure it was authentic. So, when it did drop, it made me feel real good that that plan actually worked.
I got eyes on me now, so we make sure that everything is done correctly. Like, I’m working with Cardo, and I’ll continue to go into the studio with him. Let’s just master the sound, you know? I’m not going to change anything that I’m doing, I’m gonna keep drinking this orange juice, riding my bike, and doing what I do to keep getting better. The Orange Print is an opening for others to enter into my world—I don’t feel any different.
This is true—especially when you’re building a routine. Consistency is key. The Orange Print did place a spotlight on your independent grind, the merch and creative ideas that you have been putting out for a few years now. Does that album’s success impact how you develop these ideas going forward?
Orange Print was not a “breakout album” for me, in my opinion. It was an album that was put out correctly and done as part of a collective. It was an album where I finally said, ‘I’m going to get the music to the people a month before.’ ‘I’m going to hire a publicist.’ ‘We’re going to put money into marketing.’ That was the change-up when it came to The Orange Print. I let people in to what I was doing so they could help me, and it only made what was going on bigger.
Now, I feel like I want to continue this process and elevate it to another level. F--k what other people got to say because if n----s want to f--k with it, they’re going to do exactly that. If they don’t, they don’t. In teaming up with Empire on this project, we had a heart-to-heart conversation about everything, and it all worked out. Everything that I wanted to happen, I told Ghazi Shami, who founded Empire Records, and it happened. I never had that experience in my music career at all, where I had people actually helping me 100 percent.
You kick a lot of game in the form of financial wisdom in your raps, which is in the vein of other Bay Area rappers like E-40 and Too $hort. Were there any lessons that you learned from them that you apply to your own story to help other people with financial literacy?
Man, listen, I grew up in that era, so I saw the light. My father had a record label back in the day called The Road Records and put out an album with a couple of Bay Area rappers. I watched early on how they moved the music and would do so myself when I was seven-years-old, so I understood the grind.
At 15, I dropped my first album and was selling CDs hand-to-hand, passing them out at malls, giving out fliers, and learned early on that gaining support with the people came with being authentic and by building real, genuine relationships with your listeners. I have thousands of people that I physically talk to. I was on tour with Post Malone for two months, and after I got off stage, I’d go to the merch booth to talk to everybody.
They weren’t there for me, you know? They were there for Post Malone. But I sold out my merch booth because I was able to communicate and relate to them on the same level. I did the same in 2019 when I dropped Out the Trunk. I was having people meet me at the beach, anywhere, and pop up the trunk for people to get CDs, orange juice, hoodies, you name it. It got me rich and by traveling everywhere doing that, I’d bust a move and make money off of the music and the hustle.
It’s given me longevity in the music industry, period. It would be hard to get in my way now because I’ve done so much hand-to-hand sales for so many years that if I see a fan right now, I’ll sign it, give it to them, and that keeps our relationship pure. Because at the end of the day, this game is all about who is going to last the longest—and I’m trying to last.
With that said, for the EBONY reader and others getting familiar with you, please share why you’re the healthiest rapper in the game.
Health is deeper than just going vegan or whatever people claim it to be in an advertisement. It starts with the mind first. I’m the healthiest rapper in the game because I got to a place within myself where I am mentally happy and healthy in my body. I would start my day off riding my bike, drinking my juice, and then it all came into place where it led to everything I’m doing now. Mental health, to me, is just as important as keeping your body healthy—meaning what you eat and all that.
I was preaching this healthy s--t from the get-go. I went through a lot of ups and downs in my life, I’ve lost people, and I’ve been in some crazy situations. I’m back healthy primarily because I chose to focus on my mental well-being, and make a serious attempt at being free of fear. Even with being broke hella times or worried about having to go to jail, once I was finally free of fear, I felt like I was mentally in a place of peace. Then I started hitting Whole Foods, working out, and reading books to understand that being healthy was truly a different side of life.
It is bigger than just selling dope, smoking weed, and hanging out with your n----s. I took it to another level, where you’d see the hardest cats out taking walks with their kids, riding bikes, smiling and having picnics. You’d see the peace that those cats found and it was very peaceful, and I wanted that for myself. And when I finally got to it, that’s when I dropped Very Peaceful in 2018, because I had figured it out. It was then when I started calling myself the “healthiest n---- in the game.” Diabetes, high blood pressure, eating fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and all that is huge in my family, so I didn’t grow up around that lifestyle.
When I started to notice how other people were operating and living their lives, it was just inspiring to me and that was what I wanted for myself—and I made it happen.
To that point, there have been a lot of health-related deaths in hip-hop. From Shock G to Prince Markie Dee to DMX, health has been the key issue in their passing. In your opinion, what can the culture do to improve healthcare awareness? What do you think the artists can do themselves to create better access to healthcare?
I feel like we need to normalize not challenging drugs, first of all. A lot of legends in the game promoted doing drugs, and that was the way to go, to do this, smoke that, whatever. I’ve seen what drugs do to those in my family, and in the hip-hop community we should challenge drugs. A lot of our legends that we looked up to were doing that. It’s transformed to the younger generation now, but the fact remains that we only have one body. And while we have rappers naming themselves after drugs, it’s gotten to the point where we’re signing ourselves up for self-destruction, you know what I’m saying?
I feel like if we can normalize making other s--t cool, such as drinking orange juice, going for a bike ride, being outside in a healthy environment—then that’s a start. I don’t drink orange juice all day, but I am giving people something else to talk about other than, ‘Let’s go pop a pill’ or ‘let’s sip this syrup.’ Going hiking, doing something different, to me, is more important than that! It is nice to take a peaceful walk to just clear your mind, you know? Play some good music that will build up your mentality to be able to handle those ill things that life throws at you.
I know everybody goes through their s--t, they have ups and downs. But in the hip-hop community, if we normalize alternatives to handling that, we’re removing the band-aid being placed on those issues and unblocking your mind to then be able to fix what’s really going on. That’s the reason why I talk about drinking smoothies and being mentally healthy because it is a way to deal with what you’re going through without relying on a downer.
What is next for you, Larry?
We plan to hit the road for a bit in October and November. Then I plan on dropping a tape at the end of this month with me and Cardo called Into the Late Night. We’re wrapping that up right now, and I’ll drop an official album sometime in December. I’m just working, man. The people already know what they’re going to get from me: some real player, peaceful, trap-infused, healthy s--t. If they go to MidnightOrganic.com and LarryJune.org, you’ll see all the merch and albums, plus exclusives that will help continue our organic rise.
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersection of music, pop culture and social justice. Follow him @KevitoClark.