Definition: That art of leading yourself and creating your own things and not being a copyier or jocker or biter

On Getting Into Music:


Iamsu!: "I’ve been making beats since I was 13 or 14. Before I was rapping. And I was always around music. I come from a very musical family. My mom sings, my dad’s into music, my grandpa played the trumpet and piano. So I would always be around it and gravitate towards it.

"I just had an interest for production. First I went to this program called Youth Radio in Oakland. And they showed me how to use Reason and ProTools. So I just went out and bought the shit. I played instruments when I was younger. I played the drums and the piano. I just picked up rapping from hearing beats and wanted to say something to it.

"Hella funny: My auntie was on some Queen Latifah, positive hype, and she actually made her own beats, recorded herself, and put out little CDs every Christmas and Thanksgiving. She would give out CDs with her music. I went over there when I was hella young and made my first beat."

On His Early Days Performing:


Iamsu!: "In high school, we made a little mixtape. I was probably 15. It was me and a bunch of my partners from the basketball team. We were called the Go Getters. We had a little CD called Back to the Future. Shit’s hella funny. We would always perform at random-ass spots. We would perform in Chinese restaurants. Just clear ’em out and have a function in there. We would stand on top of tables and speakers and just perform. That shit was crazy. It always ended with a fight. It always ended with shots going off, we would have to run out of hella shit all the time, but it was hella fun though.

"Outside of all that. My friends would promote parties and stuff. So I would just go up there and hop on the microphone. I knew the DJ, they would play our songs. We would hop on the microphone and just go in for three or four songs. And somebody would scream where they’re from, and you know how that goes. It never ends with just, 'Okay, you’re from there? Cool.' It’s always like ba-ba-ba!"

On His Approach Toward His Projects:


Iamsu!: "I kind of make a time capsule of my feelings. I’ll go through certain things and focus in on the mixtape, and just really report how I’m feeling at that moment. That’s how I focus on it, with all original music. I kind of treat it like an album. I produce my beats for the most part along with The Invasion, a production group."

On His Involvement with "Up!":


Iamsu!: "I made the beat, I wrote the hook, and I did the first verse on there. I just made it in my partner’s bedroom studio. And then it just turned into what it became. It started getting played in the clubs back home, and radio picked it up, and YG did the remix, it went to L.A. And after that it just went through. It took a long time though. The song came out about two years ago. Maybe longer. And everybody hopped on the remix from T.I. to Jeezy. It was crazy. When I came out to New York to do 106 & Park, I heard it on the radio every time I was in the cab. Like, 'Damn, that’s crazy.'

"It was a good check. [Laughs] It was tight. [It wasn’t my own song], and I did that consciously. I knew that wasn’t the direction I wanted to take as an artist, so I just passed it up to Rance, because I knew it was going for him, and what he wanted to do. I’m happy how it went down, I think it went down the right way.

"I felt like that was a niche song. I think if you come out with a song like that, your first impression can kind of get pigeonholed. I want to be known as a dope lyricist, a dope producer, just as a musician as a whole. So with that labeled as just me, I would’ve gotten the wrong rep, you know?"


On Linking with Wiz Khalifa and Drinking Gin:


Iamsu!: "I drink Jameson, so I don’t get too many hangovers. I don’t drink Vodka like that because that shit’ll make me feel all fucked up. Gin would have me fucked up, too. We was with Wiz, and he be having us drinking hella gin. I felt like pure garbage, I threw up it was like oil black. It was bad. When you’re drinking gin, you feel like you’re the nigga, but when you wake up the next day it’s all bad.

"Stretch [Iamsu!’s manager] put me with that one. The day of the VMAs, we went in the studio. Wiz popped in with Amber. I met him there, the next day we recorded, and the next two days after that we were just fucking with him. We went to his birthday party and shit. He was hella cool.

"We played him a bunch of beats. He was working on Cabin Fever 2, and he was fucking with it hella hard."

On His Deal-Breaker for a Potential Hookup:


Iamsu!: "Odor? Attitude? Not just that kind of odor, just general distasteful odor. I like a girl who knows how to dress; if you can’t dress I can’t fucks with you at all. That’s a big deal breaker. No Jordan heels, no shit like that. Uh, yes Jordan’s, if it’s done right. Girls all up on streetwear is kind of funny to me, cuz. I don’t know. It’s kind of weak to me. I like girls that dress like girls, I don’t like girls that are wearing five panels."

On His Most Embarrassing Moment:


Iamsu!: "I don’t really try to remember my embarrassing moments, but I fell hella hard at a show once. And that was hella embarrassing. And there were cholos with tats in their face that were going to fuck me up. So I was already nervous performing, and I was standing on something, I was screaming, and then I fell, and then I fucked up the sound system. It was literally one of those moments in the movie with a turntable scratch, because I hit the chord and the disconnected the speakers and shit.

"So it took 15 to 20 minutes to set everything back up. I busted my ass though. I was standing on a rail. So I’m hella high up. I’m already hella tall. So it was just [imitates sound of him collapsing]. And the [crowd] heard everything because the mic was on. That was probably the most embarrassing moment. They fixed everything, and I kept rocking, and then I played 'Up!' and it went crazy. 'Up!' saved a lot of performances in front of people that didn’t know who the fuck I was. In front of a bunch of scary-looking people. 'Up!' came up, and they were just like, 'We fuck with you, bruh, you hear?' And I’m like, 'Yeah, scary-looking motherfuckers, it’s all-good."

Three Legends He Would Have on a Track:


Iamsu!: "I’ll co-produce the song with Pharrell, he’ll do the hook. It’ll be Snoop, and then it’ll be Jay-Z.

"I didn’t listen to Reasonable Doubt. I was hella young when it came out, I went back and listened to it, but I didn’t connect with it. You know how everybody’s just like Reasonable Doubt! Was I even seven? I was like six. The shits I connected with as far as a Jay-Z album is going to sound hella weird to some New York people, but I liked the Blueprint 2, that’s my shit. That’s probably like people’s least favorite CD.

"I liked Kingdom Come though. That was his comeback album. I’m going to be honest though, everybody’s going to say typical answers. Kingdom Come, it was one of the funnier albums, but it was still tight because I like Jay-Z. But Blueprint 2 just made me want to take out the notepad and start writing raps down."

On His Favorite Bay Rappers:

Mac Dre

Iamsu!: "I like Mac Dre hella much. I like Messy Marv. When I was young, I wasn’t really into too much Bay rap like that. I was into Hot Boy$, I was into Snoop, I was into Jay-Z and stuff. But I always consistently listened to Messy Marv and Mac Dre.

"I like Clyde Carson, too. I’m on the latest mixtape. That’s my bro. We’re always at the same events back home. We would just see each other, and he just hit my phone one day to make some music. I was a fan of him in high school. He’s a little older than me. He had a drink called Hyphy Juice, and that shit was crazy! I would drink two Hyphy Juice. One before school, and one after school. I was going crazy, I was turnt.

"Hyphy Juice is incredible. It has this one grape apple flavor that’s grapple. It just tastes like real good soda. They give me cases of Hyphy Juice now. That shit is so good. They sell it in all the 7 Elevens and liquor stores. People in the Bay don’t just rap; everybody has something else that they do. It’s supposed to be an energy drink, but it’s just real good-tasting soda. You’re definitely turnt up after you drink it."

On the Last Time He Cried:


Iamsu!: "This is going to sound hella funny, but I cried after I performed with Snoop. It was the Power House Jam. Snoop’s like my idol, and I’ve been looking up to Snoop as long as I could remember. He brought me and E-40 out to do 'Function.' I guess that’s his little league football team’s anthem. And he was hella fucking with my verse on stage, he knew my verse and shit. And that shit just hit me like, 'Wow, cuz…' I just dropped a thug’s tear. My eyes are getting dusty now. That was a real nigga moment though, just from my honest part. Just for a human being that shit was hella crazy."

On the Worst Thing He Ever Bought:


Iamsu!: "Damn, everything I say is going to get me in trouble. I bought the Forever album, the Puff Daddy album. [Laughs]"