Iamsu! Embraces “Healthy Competition” With Sage The Gemini
Iamsu!’s movement only gets bigger. The Bay Area rapper/producer and leader of HBK Gang is gearing up to drop his debut album, Sincerely Yours, this April, a few weeks after HBK cohort and regular collaborator Sage The Gemini is set to drop his major label debut, Remember Me, at the end of March. With a slew of SXSW dates on his schedule, XXL caught up with Su in his truck outside in Austin to ask about his album, reppin’ for the Bay, and whether or not he and Sage are gonna come for each other’s throats with these new releases. —Dan Rys (@danrys)
XXL: How’s SXSW going?
Iamsu: We’re having fun. It’s hella tiring, but we’re having fun.
You got the album coming soon.
It’s called Sincerely Yours, it’s my first major label-distributed album. I got Wiz Khalifa on there, 2 Chainz, the whole Heart Break Gang on there, E-40, Too $hort, Chase-N-Cashe is on there, Jake One did a beat for me that is crazy. Bizness. Man, it’s a cool album. It came together well. I’m excited.
You got any jitters about it?
Oh, I got super jitters, I got that feeling in my chest. But it’s moreso that I just want it to come out now, I want everybody to hear it. I’m just super excited because we worked so hard.
You got E-40, $hort on it. You’re always reppin’ for the Bay.
Yeah, absolutely, and this is the first time I got them featured on one of my songs. So that was super clean, how that came together. Me and Too $hort been gettin’ cooler lately, and me and 40 been cool since “Function.” So they always holla at me. The Bay is doing really well, there’s people like Sage out there, us of course, the list goes on. Of course the OGs who paved the way. I think it’s really taking a turn for the better and starting to open up right now.
Have guys like 40 Water given you advice?
Oh, yeah. He’s always telling me about being careful with making my decisions and what directions I go in my career, my choices as far as where I’m gonna sign. So I finally found a place where I’m really happy and I can put out my vision the way I want to.
You gonna get into the wine business like 40?
Oh, I would love to. [Laughs] My mom actually drinks moscato all the time, and my parents actually make wine, and my grandma makes wine.
Are you producing a lot on the album?
Yeah, I produced four tracks on the album, and of course executive produced it. Just pretty much oversaw the whole thing. I’m super in to being in charge of the sound, the production and the direction of it, so I was really hands-on with every aspect of the album.
Did you have a vision of what you wanted it to be?
Yeah, exactly, exactly. I wanted it to sound like one of those classic Aftermath albums, like the first album on the label that Dr. Dre puts out for an artist. I wanted to have some of those moments where it was like, scary good. And have that definitive moment, where they encapsulate what their movement and their culture is. So that’s what I was trying to do.
Rapping vs. producing, do you attack a track differently?
It kind of goes hand in hand. I cater my rap to how the beat goes, you know what I mean? And I structure my beats around how the rap goes. So when I’m writing the rap, I got thoughts in my mind on where I’m gonna take certain sounds out, where I might drop the beat, where it delays. I’m really mindful of my lyrics as far as placing them and everything, that’s where I come from as a producer.
It must be really helpful to be in the studio all the time instead of just sending tracks back and forth to people.
Oh yeah. I didn’t do anything where I sent a verse back and it is what it is. I was talking to everybody personally and just explaining what my vision was. And as far as beats go, I was in the studio for every session. Me and Tha Bizness sat down and just went through music and talked about parts to change around, the structure of the beats, everything. So we was hands on for everything.
Is there any competition with Sage with your album and his coming a month apart?
We just want to make the best music that we can, it’s a healthy competition to be the best. But it’s not like, “Oh, I wanna be better than Sage,” or he wants to be better than me. I’m just hella happy for my bro, you know what I mean? He’s a superstar. So that’s what I want to do.
You laid the groundwork, production-wise, for everything that you guys have going on.
Yeah, exactly, and just introduced that sound. So now when he came along, people were already familiar with that whole aesthetic of what we were trying to do.
What else do you have coming up this year?
Aside from the album, I got another tour. I’m on a tour right now as we speak. Just filming videos, hopefully put out an HBK Gang album this year. We all stay at the same house, I got a mic in the house, we got the whole studio. We started working already on some new music, so hopefully it’ll come from that. We’re all chillin’ together, eatin’, hanging out, and everybody takes their turn to write their parts and we go back and forth with it.
You working with anyone else?
Yeah, I’ve been working and writing and producing for a bunch of stuff. I don’t wanna say where it’s gonna go, because it’s sessions with producers, and sessions with people, I don’t want to unveil anything just yet because you never know where it’s gonna go, you know how it is.
You and Sage were just on Jimmy Kimmel, right? How was that?
Yeah, and we’re going on David Letterman in two weeks. That shit was crazy. I brought my mom with me to Kimmel, and she was stupid juiced. She’s coming to New York with me for David Letterman. I was on with Kevin Hart and somebody that was hella random, like an athlete or something. I saw [Kevin Hart], and then I was like, “Oh shit,” and just popped back into my dressing room real quick. [Laughs]
You’re up for the Freshmen 10 Spot. Got any message for the fans?
Just keep supporting, keep voting. I appreciate being amongst those names of people. And I just really wanna be on that list.
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