Iamsu! Breathes New Life Into The Bay With ‘Sincerely Yours’
Bay Area rapper/producer Iamsu! has made himself easy to respect as we’ve watched him follow the come-up blueprint faithfully; floods of solid mixtapes, a grip of national performances, and eventually, co-signs and features with some of the industry’s big names. Consequently, The 24-year-old MC’s debut album is preceded by so much buzz (the Kilt series in particular) that those same big names are scattered generously throughout his project’s liner notes. Sincerely Yours is a highly listenable sampling of throwback Bay undertones, overlaid with a more modern sound and structure.
Iamsu! himself crafted this sound meticulously, producing six of the album’s beats. The rest were chosen with obvious care from the likes of Jake One, Tha Bizness, Blood Diamonds, and of course, The Invasion crew. The collective, which is a production team of Iamsu!, P-Lo, Kuya Beats, and Jay Ant, has garnered increasing success in recent years with seemingly non-stop output for The HBK Gang. These producers and more have created a summer album built for daily consumption. There are varying degrees of quality, but it’s straight up likeable from start to finish. That accessibility is delivered through some tried and true methods like sing-songy hooks (“Girls”), effective Auto-Tune (“Stop Signs”), and bouncy snaps (“No Secret”).The Bay's trademark sound is easily listenable using tactics like stretching out BPMs and layering the classic driving snares with languid synths. Su also possesses an ambient R&B quality that merges impeccably with The Bay's signature foundation. With his hybrid sound on full display throughout the whole album, he blends those national trends in with his regional heritage to make easily digestible bangers.
The already released first single, “Only That Real,” was a smart choice; smooth and danceable with a relaxed flow from the HBK Gang leader. “I Love My Squad” is likely the follow-up single, another Bay beast with fragmented soul claps, echoing instrumentals, and a chantable hook. But of course, if you’re a real hyphy fiend, you skip straight to “T.W.D.Y.” The keyboard twinkles menacingly over an easy bassline as E-40 lends his unmistakable flavor, Too $hort spits a 16-bar heater, and Su sounds comfortable with the home state legends.
The album’s title track is the most poignant moment on the project, and Suzy’s best lyrical showing. His rhyme scheme gets acrobatic as he flips it to fit an ad-lib, and the punchlines pair with introspective content to hit like boxing combos. Trackademicks lets symphonic strings carry the production, and by the end you could almost call it an instant hit.
The deluxe version of the album tacks on four songs, clocking in at 19 tracks total. While that’s admittedly excessive by any standards, those deluxe edition tracks pack some heat. “The Weather,” for example, is a Sage the Gemini-assisted single that could really break Su to an infinitely larger audience. And truly, that could be argued for a few tracks on this album. Su’s buzz is irrepressible, and his catalogue reflects dues paid. He inches closer to stardom with each project, and Sincerely Yours, perhaps more than anything, cements his uncanny ability to ride for the Bay without being pigeonholed by it in the same way his predecessors were. The regional sound may be ingrained in him, but it doesn’t define him.
The same can be said for The HBK Gang at large, the group-turned-movement that continues to build steam. P-Lo has seen increasing exposure, and Sage’s “Gas Pedal” featuring Iamsu! is still dominating airwaves. This crew keeps it in the family, whether you’re talking features, production, or media; when one gets on, they all do. Out of all of them, Iamsu! seems to be leading the pack with an album that is an overall fresh blend of old sonic thematics and new innovations. He proves easy to listen to both as a capable MC with some shining moments, and as a young producer who remains loyal to his city.—Rachel Chesbrough