It turns out 2019 wasn’t the Year of the Pig: 2019 was actually the Year of the Orange. Yeah, that’s right. But what does that mean, you might find yourself asking. I’ll tell you. 2019 was the Year of the Orange because San Francisco, CA’s finest, Larry June, dropped not one, not two, but five albums. In one year! That’s crazy. It’s like that time in 2017 when King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released four solo albums and one collaborative album (with the Mild High Club). Each of those albums had their own sound and vibe, which was a hell of a lot of fun to listen to throughout the year. The same goes for Larry June’s string of releases over the past twelve months. 

Two things make Larry’s historic run different from that of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, though. First, he’s a rapper. Second, his five albums were a  lot more fun to listen to throughout the year. 

Larry June is such a developed and fully-realized character that it’s hard to take him seriously as an artist. For his entire career, he has worked to maintain a certain persona, one that’s carefree, loose, candid and in love with Whole Foods. He loves his city, oranges (so much that they’re featured prominently on a couple of his album covers), riding his bike and looking after his son. On the microphone, he’s a goofy character. There’s no debating that. He’s prone to erratically hopping on and off the beat, often just to talk shit and stunt. He adlibs things like “good job, Larry” and “yeehee!” at the end of damn near every line he raps. He often relies more on his charisma than his rapping ability to entertain listeners. He releases a lot of music, at least a couple of times per year. Some of it good, some of it bad, very little of it great. But he took December of 2018 and most of the new year’s first two months off to collect himself. t’s a good thing he did. Starting with the release of his first project of 2019, February’s Early Bird, there was a new Larry in town.

Early Bird is the perfect execution of the things everyone loves about Larry June: the ad-libs, the rants, the health food talk, the shit talk and the bizarre flexes. He raps about the things that normal people talk about with their friends. However, unlike past releases, the flows are tighter, bars more descriptive and the sound more cohesive. The beat selection is impeccable, bouncy and never boring. At one point on album opener “Lets Go Eat,” he raps, assisted by a bombastic take on the classic Bay Area sound, “This not a date baby girl, this just how I play / A little 65 dollars ain’t nothing to me.” That’s the Larry everyone loves, flexing the same way an average person would when talking about a night out.

However, Larry introduces a new side of himself in this new project. He was seldom ever sentimental or introspective on his previous releases, but on Early Bird, he shows that he’s more than just a braggadocious goofball. On the chorus of the title track, he delves into his personal life a bit, rapping, “To live like this, you gon have to take Ls / You gon have to fall off, you gon have to bounce back / Have you ever lost it all, hundred thou to a rat / God, I’d trade everything to have my grandma back.” Moments like these show just how much Larry June has grown as an artist. You can’t help but be proud of him.

His next project, April’s The Port of San Francisco, keeps the ball rolling. This time around, though, Larry shows off some of his versatility. The album is slower, groovier and more intimate, thanks to its soul-inspired sound. It’s like a loved-up version of Early Bird, and it’s so fun to listen to. The album reaches its climax on the Polyester the Saint-assisted song, “Let’s Get Smoothies.” He talks about all the things he loves about his girl, and it’s not just the obvious things that rappers often say when they praise their girls. He points to her aversion to posting too much on Instagram, and he suggests taking her biking around the city — something that he typically only does by himself. This album proved that Early Bird wasn’t just a fluke and that 2019 really has been Larry’s year.

What’s impressive is that each release brings something different to the table. June’s CardoGotWings-produced Mr. Midnight brought the extra-boastful bangers, September’s Out the Trunk brought the chillers and October’s Product of the Dope Game brought a street-oriented mix of them all, like a victory lap of sorts. Each release reveals a new dimension of Larry. The widely-mocked rapper has transformed himself into someone respectable. 

What’s great about it all, though, is that Larry never forgets who he is. He’s still the same Larry on each album. He still flexes about pedestrian things, like how much his Hydroflask cost, while spouting motivational speeches, often on the same song. He’s still hilarious and unleashes the best ad-libs in the game, even if he does go a little overboard at times (he really goes off on “Baggage Claim”). He’s still addicted to oranges. With these five albums, he finished carving out his own lane, something he’s been trying to do for his entire career. Larry is finally starting to get the love he deserves, and rightfully so. 2019 was his year, the Year of the Orange.

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