From Pro Football to R&B, Larrenwong Puts His Heart Into It

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LarrenWong (Via LarrenWong)

It seems like LarrenWong can do a little bit of everything.

He's a former linebacker who played football at James Logan High School and Northwestern University, before signing a professional contract with the Seattle Seahawks. He's an avid reader, student of art history and a talented painter. He's a rising R&B star who sings, writes and plays the guitar; earlier this year he dropped a quality album titled, Songs That I Hate To Sing.

R&B singer LarrenWong raises his left hand as he stands on stage singing during a show.
R&B singer LarrenWong raises his left hand as he stands on stage singing during a show. (Via LarrenWong)

Raised in Union City where he was exposed to different cultures, competitive athletes and creative individuals, Larren says his earliest musical influence came from inside of own his home. His grandfather, Mr. B (Butler Wong), was a former member of the New York Philharmonic and one of Larren's first musical instructors.

Larren took those lessons and built on them. He learned to play the guitar and write music. After stepping away from his football career, Larren jumped full-time into music and he's been making waves ever since.

His work is spreading. Earlier this year Larren was invited to perform the song "Mama" off his latest project for the web-based musical performance series, COLORS Studios.

And this week Larren sits down with the Rightnowish team to discuss it all.

Read the transcript


Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Larrenwong

PEN: This year, 2022, you dropped Songs That I Hate to Sing. There's a lot of like almost like baby-making music, a lot of love and things that go along with love. The standout one of the standout tracks is “Mama”,  a track about a significant other, a woman talking to her mother about their significant other or somebody who they've broken up with, is what I gathered from it.

LARREN: Shout out Drew Banga for doing the bass line on “Mama.” Shout out Ramone Criswell and my boy Lyrical Miracle, Camp Kid for helping me write the record and shout out uh, yeah, shout out the inspiration for that song.  

PEN: The inspiration! Come on man. You beating around the bush. That’s what I wanna know. You wrote this song about a real life situation?  

LARREN:  Yes.  

PEN: Okay now we are talking.

LARREN:  It feels dope that people like, resonate with it. You know, it feels dope that every time I challenge myself to just be honest, you know, and candid about how I'm feeling about certain things and to see how people grav- like how it resonates with people. It's been pretty amazing to see, especially when you do it on the road.

PEN: “Only Heaven Knows” , what was the thought process behind that song ?  

LARREN:  Women bro, women [laughs] is usually the inspiration for the music. But me and Solo were both talking to two girls at the time, at the end of college, they were both at pivotal moments, so we kinda wrote the record to that, speaking to them.

Shout out Kristen Holt. She's the female voice on that song. Funny enough, she doesn't record that often as a musical artist and put stuff out. She’s fire.

PEN: Being self-taught, also having the family influence, how have artists in the Bay Area influenced your craft?

LARREN: As I got into high school, I started to do more history and see that it's like, oh, it's not just hip hop. It's actually like a crazy lineage of artistry out here, like Sly And The Family Stone, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Raphael Saadiq. Yeah and I listen, I study, I listen to it religiously. Like the VH1 soul stage where Raphael was wearing the yellow suit, I could  sing that thing verbatim. Being a sponge that I try to be, it bleeds into my music.

PEN: Jay Ant and HBK Gang, what role did they play in developing, in helping you develop your craft?

LARREN:  After I stopped playing football, I started to come out to L.A. more, and I met Jay.  I literally came up as a fan like “Wass up bro.” Like, he called me the next day, apparently he had listened to, like, you know, the music I sent him and stuff I had out, he was like, “Bro, you need to come out to L.A. immediately.” He had a situation where he was writing music for other people, so he would bring me to all the sessions. Yeah, kind of just gave me my footing. He allowed me to get my footing in the industry out here.  

PEN: So thinking of your legacy and taking influence from the Bay and also your family, what is your legacy?  

LARREN:  I just want people to trust themselves. I just want to be an inspiration to people. Just show, like, if I could do that, I'm from Union City. There's no big music artists, you know? It was really kind of all cultivated by the community that I was in.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.