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Larry June, Cardo and the Art of Dedication

On the second collab album between the San Francisco rapper and neo-G-funk hitmaker, they play to the strengths they each built across prolific, consistent careers
Larry June into the late night

The chemistry between rapper Larry June and producer Cardo Got Wings feels built-in. The Bay Area MC’s unique style — which blends the laid-back grooves and storytelling of classic West Coast hip-hop with an eye for expensive home decor and Whole Foods smoothies — sounds effortless atop the St. Paul producer’s glossy G-funk inspired beats.

June’s dependable verses preaching the benefits of early morning routines and personal commitment are extra potent in the light of the prolific path both artists took towards stardom. June, who started rapping in high school, signed a deal with Warner Music in 2014, shortly after his mixtape Route 80 with TM88 of 808 Mafia was featured in Complex. However, after a couple of EPs, June’s friend and A&R Quinn Coleman — aka DJ Spicoli, who passed away last August at the age of 31— left Warner, and June was no longer invested in the deal. Warner released him in 2018, and June began releasing mixtapes independently on DistroKid under his own The FreeMinded (TFM) banner, bringing in the streaming numbers and organic following that would come to define his idiosyncratic persona. In June, he released the album Orange Print (his fifth within the span of a year), with Empire Distribution, which topped Billboard’s Heatseekers album chart.

Born in St. Paul but based in Dallas, Cardo’s production breakout came after a meeting with Wiz Khalifa, who then used one of his beats for “Mezmorized,” from his Kush & Orange Juice mixtape. Along with Taylor Gang producers Sledgren and Jern, he developed his DJ Quik-inspired style, laced with warm synths and sprinkled with cowbell. This G-funk-inspired sound would also flourish in a series of collaborations with Detroit artist Payroll Giovanni. In the near-decade since his debut, Cardo has emerged as one of the industry’s premier talents, expanding his sound to work with top artists Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Drake, with whom he won a Grammy for his work on “God’s Plan.”

Into the Late Night is June and Cardo’s second collab album, after last year’s Cruise USA; June, along with Payroll Giovanni and fellow Doughboyz Cashout member Kid HBK, also featured heavily on Cardo’s 2020 album Game Related. A shorter release, only 21 minutes long and with no features, the project moves swiftly through a palette of hypnotic grooves, over which June celebrates the rewards of hard work and waxes about the price of his kitchen appliances.

In the comfort of Cardo’s production, Larry June lets his steady flows spin out on the track, sliding in and out of rhyme schemes like switching lanes on the highway before landing on consistent if somewhat uninspired choruses. Like the gentle melodies of the instrumentals, his stream-of-consciousness storytelling has an enthralling quality, as he leaps between distant punchlines and scenarios seemingly at random. “I was just gon’ do one verse/but fuck it, I hit this weed,” he raps believably on opener “Gas Station Run.”

Despite the brevity of the project, its songs quickly begin to blend together. The single, “Friday Activities,” struggles to stand out from the adjacent “Don’t Try It,” and the more festive “Bigger Risk,” also suffering from a bland chorus. However, the closer and album highlight “Saturday Night Interview” saves it at the buzzer. Like its title and cover suggest, the album seems suited to a late-night car ride, holding the mood together between midnight escapades.