By Dylan Deprey
Before Larry Bull was the outspoken and energetic Milwaukee based Hip-Hop artist blessing the stage he was today, he went by another name. On his first mixtape, he was Bull JR. Even before that, he was JR the Spitter.
Though it seems P. Diddy reigns supreme when it comes to the whole name change game, Bull’s reasoning was all about maturation and growth. Whether it was his time to finally leave his post on the block, to leaving his spot on the Milwaukee music collective, Higher Learning, every name change he grew as an artist and individual.
Larry Bull is an early riser, and if he gets out of bed later than usual, it’s only because he chose to. Only a week after releasing his debut album, “Levels,” he has kept it pretty quiet, waiting to hear the reception from his fans and family.
Bull said listeners would travel through the highs and lows in his life and career as the 16-track project was a literal timestamp from 2014-2017.
“Over the past three years my life has drastically changed,” Bull said. “I had a lot of stuff I wanted to share, and one thing about rap is that you take the things that have affected and impacted your life and you put those into the project.”
The album hosts a Bull in his early twenties still figuring out his new career as a rapper. After meeting mentor and friend Mike Regal, producer/rapper, and Ar Wesley, rapper, the three grew as a trifecta. As Regal and Wesley released their albums, Bull sat on the sidelines taking notes. Once it was time, Bull hopped off the bench with a vengeance and it shows during the bar-heavy intro section to the album.
As the album progresses, the beats become more universal and ultimately lead into vivid storytelling section to finish up the album.
“Once you get towards the end, it’s all wrapped into one, with more realness, more pain, more feeling, more energy, more sharing, more storytelling and I’m really giving myself to people and I’m not trying to take it back whatsoever,” Bull said.
Bull acknowledged that he could have easily talked about his families’ legacy in the streets, or the time he spent protecting his block with his homies, but he did not want to glorify a lifestyle he was not meant to live.
“Anything I say in a rap, I have done it, experienced or know somebody close to me that has,” Bull said. “But, I also don’t parade and talk about it like it’s cool because I’ve been shot at and it’s not cool. I’ve been in beefs where when you don’t have a car, you can’t go anywhere because people are out there looking for you and they have guns and you don’t, and it’s not cool.”
The only feature on the album was former Higher Education member and friend, Sean Smart. Bull goes into his early career during his time the reasons why he left the collective on the song, “Did you see?”
Bull is an open book, and he gives his audience an opportunity to listen in on his personal thoughts and experiences throughout the entire album. He talks about the issues the Black community face daily, in the worst City statistically to be a black person. He said he specifically spoke about people blatantly hating on Milwaukee.
“It hurts me when people say that because my childhood is here, and there’s a lot of memories and emotions that come from just this neighborhood alone,” Bull said. “I will never take away what Milwaukee gave to me because it made me who I am, and unlocked the creative energy in me and introduced me to God.”
He also talks about his spiritual journey and loss of his “mom” who introduced him to the Church. On songs like “Little Brother,” he speaks on family issues like reconciling problems with his older brothers, and taking on more fatherly roles as his own father ages and his younger siblings need him more.
“I physically went through a new lifestyle changes including going to the gym more, experimenting with meditation, changing diet up and learning to eat healthy, learning to forgive and let go of grudges,” Bull said.
Bull said his music is meant to send a message, and for the first-time listener most are clear. But, for those searching for a story or that enjoy deciphering music, there are more layers and levels to his music.
“Levels” is available on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify.