By Damani McNeil
Tucked away in the sleepy San Francisco hills, Larry June has quietly been putting together one of the most exciting tears the rap industry has seen in recent memory. Fresh off the heels of a year in which he released five full-length projects, Larry has linked back up with his friend and producer extraordinaire Cardo Got Wings, to release a new tape called Game Related. Despite the understandable focus on Larry — he and Cardo are the only artists on every song — the tape should definitely be regarded as a collective project: it also relies heavily on contributions from Payroll Giovanni and Kid HBK, two of Cardo’s long time collaborators.
The tape is imbued with the same energy that makes Larry’s solo projects so appealing. Game Related recalls the days of Too $hort and Mac Dre, speaking about the experiences of pimps and drug dealers as they move through their lives, both business and personal.
Larry, Payroll, and the Kid seem to crip walk over the beats, floating beautifully when appropriate, and adding stomps and punches where necessary. “Foreign Today” confirms that nothing could be more relaxed than Uncle Larry rhyming over a Cardo beat. Larry’s cadence and delivery place his words just behind the funky bass and drums that have become fixtures of Bay Area rap, soothing the listener and ushering them toward picking up what Pimp L is puttin’ down.
On the hook of “Stats”, Larry ruminates,
Gang related, we get hella paper, Hella hoes, but we never save em
Never hatin’, numbers calculatin’, You wanna leave bitch? Be on ya way
Bitch, G A M E, G A M E
The album is somewhat limited in its scope: topically, all of the songs center around pimping, selling weed, and cruising around the Bay. But part of the appeal of the record, and ultimately what makes it stand out in a saturated California rap scene is that the group offers some seriously substantive life advice interspersed among its seedy punch lines. Larry encourages the listener to take the spoils of whatever immoral lifestyle they’re leading and spend it on their personal well-being, promoting eating organic food, and practicing good skincare and responsible spending and saving habits. This is where the two millennials put their own imprint on G-Funk, and more broadly, West Coast Rap. Larry and Cardo have seen what hard living has done to their peers and predecessors, and have decided to make a career out of instructing up-and-coming hustlers on how best to avoid the potholes that accompany success, continue to remain true to themselves in spite of pressure, and maintain their independence across hugely exploitative industries.
Game Related sounds like the Southern Californian gangsta rap of 1990s fused with the oozing rap pioneered by Bay legends like E-40, and reads like something straight out of a memoir by Iceberg Slim or Goldie. Larry and Cardo are pretty consistent and well organized, and it would be the understatement of the century to say I haven’t tired of it yet. While it’s not the most inspired project from Cardo nor Larry to be released in the past twelve months, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the record. It’s plenty good enough to warrant a play or two for the casual listener.