11:05 pm: im in front, they’re trippin on letting dudes in.
3 hours ago I was sitting in my car, trying to coordinate with what felt like an army of people. The photographer who never showed up. The artists, who were already performing. The gracious promoter who brushed me off like a peasant, reminding me my years of networking with the big dogs in the Bay does little for me in Sac.
I’m back in Sacramento. I’ve only been back for a few hours. The sun has set and the last traces of sunlight are fading away, leaving a selvedge denim blue sky above me.
Conveniently, Larry June, Kawasaki Papi and OG Kel – friends from the Bay – are in town. They’re performing at Harlow’s, a venue I always heard about growing up but, having moved away at the tender age of 17, never got around to seeing.
I walk inside and feel old as fuck. It’s an all ages show and that is made perfectly clear right away. There are dad hats and Cookies hoodies and Jordans that Jordan never wore. There are pretty girls going dumb in Chucks. There are old heads in the corner, bobbing their heads – Sacramento industry cats I assume.
I hear a familiar voice on the microphone. It’s Kel (aka DJ Juntao). He’s in a custom Giants jersey, his signature blonde hair even more noticeable under the stage’s spotlight.
In front of him is Kawasaki, wearing a white tee and a Gucci bandana. He’s rapping along to the music, jumping around. He is bringing the energy level up, the crowd is at a fever pitch – it’s only 8:45 PM. I imagine a parallel universe where he chooses to rap instead of DJ.
I stand to their left, my back up against the pillar a few feet away from the stage.
I’m happy for them and I’m happy for Sacramento.
To my right is the artists’ dressing room, where I’m sure a lot of drugs have been consumed over the years and where a lot of impressionable young women have had their fantasies fulfilled.
I see Larry. He’s in a dark blue rain jacket with his hood up. The lights reflect off of his chain, an impressive piece of jewelry that spells out his name in Whole Foods’ trademark font. He’s holding a sack of Cuties clementine oranges. I imagine they’ll be thrown into the crowd soon.
Are y’all ready for Larry?!
Hold up, hold up, hold up. That was kinda weak, Packramento! SAC, ARE Y’ALL READY FOR LARRY?!
Larry June comes out to a chorus of screams. He runs through a set of his most popular songs, even acting out the words to crowd favorite “Fucked Up My Leg,” sprained ankle included.
I watch him and I watch the crowd. I think about when I first met Larry at my job, a boutique in the Haight, where he would drop off mixtapes and cop the dopest jackets and introduce us to his son. I remember him telling me about his show in New Jersey, the one where just a few dozen people showed up and he decided to rock the show anyway, to make sure everyone got their money’s worth, to make sure everyone in attendance would remember “that time when..”
He jumps into the crowd. Sacramento is getting its money worth. Larry and Kawasaki and Kel are too. No booking agents, no public relations people, no corporate machine backing them. This is an independent operation and a self-organized tour with a DIY attitude. It’s an attitude that has always prevailed in the Bay, now amplified by the power of the Internet and the reach it provides the artists of 2016.
The show wraps up and people start to file themselves out of Harlow’s at their own pace.
Meet-and-Greet people! There are only five of you. Line up here!
I figure Larry June and the More Vibes crew will be preoccupied for the next few hours. I head to my car and decide to head off to Dive Bar for FVME Sundays, the only party in Sacramento I remember going to. Kawasaki DMs me.
We’re going to Dive Bar. Meet us up there.
I post up in front because there’s a line and, being the pretentious fuck that I am, I don’t do those.
Kawasaki calls me.
We’re in here. Meet us in here.
I spot the resident DJ and explain my situation. He goes inside, presumably to find Larry and Kawasaki for the okay.
Minutes and minutes pass, dozens and dozens, in fact. Still, I remain patient because this is no longer “my” city and I can’t “cool guy” anybody. Eventually, Kawasaki comes outside and I’m in. He’s smoking a stoge and I find myself craving one.
Yo, you know what this reminds me of? That Free Wi-Fi party in Oakland.
Yeah, yeah, the Internet party.
It’s crazy to see how far you guys have come, man.
We walk in together to a sea of people. Big Tymin’ comes on and I feel at home. I am home.
We find Larry and I congratulate him on his success. He probably thinks I mean the show in Sacramento but I mean the Ham On Everything party and the No Jumper interview and the Chuck Inglish co-sign AND the Sacramento show.
He’s as gracious as ever.
So wassup? You staying independent or what?
Depends, man. It’s all about my percentage, it’s about keeping my masters.
..Owning your music..
..Yeah exactly. If the money’s right, we’ll see, we’ll see.
He sips on his drink through a straw, like he’s imagining what the future has in store for him and his team. His unique flow – mixing the conversational tone of Bay Area game-spitters like E-40 and Mac Dre with the deep, baritone voice synonymous with Atlanta’s trap scene – has set him apart in a crowded field of Internet rappers.
DJ Amen is spinning now and this feels like a Bay Area reunion in my hometown.
Shout out all the birthdays in the building! Happy birthday, Larry June!
Larry June flashes a smile and takes another sip of his drink. It’s the perfect way to celebrate. Content but not yet satisfied. Almost subdued. Like flying cross-country and reaching your layover city. You’re so far from where you came from, somewhere new and exciting, but still nowhere near your final destination.
The team has come a long way but there’s still a long way to go.
(photos courtesy of Jyhanne San Agustin)