The Bay Area rap scene is going through a resurgence and 24-year-old rapper Iamsu! is at the center of it. The de facto leader of The Heartbreak Gang—a talented crew of misfits that also features hit maker Sage the Gemini—Iamsu! has spent the better part of the last four years establishing himself as the new face of the Bay, while preserving the style legends like Mac Dre and E-40 created. The Richmond, Calif. native has released nine projects in that time span, none more significant than his debut album, Sincerely Yours, which is out today.
Complex caught up with the rapper to discuss the potential impact of his latest album, as well as his experience putting it together. Iamsu! also talked about his recent work with current Complex cover star Young Thug, which has already yielded impressive results.
Interview by Edwin Ortiz (@iTunesEra)
Let's talk about Sincerely Yours. You've been building up to this moment for a while now. How does it feel to have it finally come out?
It’s a relief, to be honest. I've wanted this to come out; it's been done for about a month. So I've just been ready for everybody to hear it. I'm excited.
You've described this project as autobiographical. Tell me about the process of putting it together.
Basically, I worked with a lot of people that I came up with, even before I started thinking about making music. And those people were in the studio with me everyday. My cousin narrated the album; he talked on my first mixtape ever. So this album is like coming full circle.
You make a pretty big statement on the bonus cut, "Plan B," where you rap, "I'm the biggest thing since Mac Dre." How has the response been to that statement?
It's been a lot of love.
Because people understand where you're coming from?
Yeah. I got the same manager as Mac Dre. It's just been all love. It's been no bullshit. ‘Cause I'm not coming from a place of disrespect on his legacy. I just want to do what he did and take it to the next level.
You make another bold statement on "Ascension" by rapping, "Lyrically I could be Talib Kweli/Said fuck following whoever, decided to lead.” I thought it was dope how you brought back that Jay Z line with a new angle.
Yeah. People think that because we make a lot of uptempo party music, that's all we can do. But we got a lot of content and a lot of passion. It's a lot of depth to our story than just turning up, and i wanted to show that aspect.
Is there one record on Sincerely Yours that you're most excited for your fans to hear?
Definitely “Ascension.” Because I touched on a lot of things that I haven't discussed before in my music. Like people's perception of myself and my musicality and people doubting my ability. And just making the transition to doing bigger and better things and leaving some people in the past. I got a lot off my chest and I'm glad I recorded it.
Instead of signing a major label deal outright, you instead did an independent deal and distributed through ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance). What was the decision behind taking that route?
I'm just all about creative control. And that was the place that allowed me to do that. It took a lot more hard work, but it was definitely worth it. I'm really proud of the project that we put together.
In a recent interview, you mentioned having a collaborative project with Sage the Gemini in the works. Is that still going down?
Hopefully man. We’re about to put it out through his label. We got a good chemistry in the studio. I'm looking forward to recording that album.
You've talked about being inspired by Kanye West and 50 Cent’s debut albums. What was it about those projects that you gravitated toward?
Just the impact that they made and the statements they made when dropping those albums. There was nobody like 50 Cent at that time. After he dropped his album, there were a million people trying to emulate what he was doing. The same thing with Kanye.
I definitely feel like [the HBK Gang] has some of those characteristics, and the fact that we're going to make a huge impact on the game. I think we already have. But now it's just trying to claim what our influence really is.
Young Thug recently released a track you guys did together called “OMG” that was on the Gucci Mane-joint mixtape. How did that collaboration come about?
I'm cool with the producer of the record. His name is C4. He hit me one time and was like, “I got a bunch of records with Thug and I wanted you to get on something.” I went and knocked out two records. There's another one that we did. I don't know if it's going to come out. But I knocked both of those songs out and they ended up coming out really good.
So the second song is another track for Young Thug then?
Yeah. It's me, Young Thug, and someone else on it.
You can't reveal the name?
I don't know. I can't say anything before they put it out. I don't want to jinx it.
RELATED: Premiere: Stream IamSu!'s Debut Album "Sincerely Yours"
RELATED: Listen to Iamsu!'s "What You Bout" f/ Wiz Khalifa and Berner
RELATED: Iamsu! Releases "Camo" EP
RELATED: Interview: Iamsu! Talks Sphinx Chains, College, & His Opinion of "Yeezus"